When the first X-Men movie opened in July 2000, the film featured a mix of founding X-Men team members like Cyclops (James Marsden) and Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) plus later recruits like Storm (Halle Berry), Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), and Rogue (Anna Paquin).
But fans of the original Stan Lee/Jack Kirby comics knew that several members of the original team lineup, namely Beast and Angel, were nowhere to be found in the movie, while Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) was portrayed as a student at the Xavier School and did not join the team officially until the third film, X-Men: The Last Stand (where Angel also made his debut).
It turns out, however, that Beast, a.k.a. Dr. Hank McCoy — whose brilliant intellect is matched only by his superhuman strength and blue-furred appearance — was in several drafts of the first X-Men movie, along with the similarly blue-skinned, teleporting Nightcrawler (who ended up being heavily featured in X2, where he was played by Alan Cumming).
Screenwriter David Hayter recently told us that while Nightcrawler was not in any drafts of the script he worked on, Beast was very much in the mix.
“Most of the drafts I worked on had Beast in the film, and we were actually going to creature effects houses, like Jim Henson and Rick Baker and all those, and seeing their Beast tests,” Hayter recalled.
But even though Beast was part of the story and the production had advanced as far as seeing tests of the character, Hayter explained why the erudite Hank was eventually cut from the movie.
“The problem with Beast was budgetary,” he admitted. “We had $75 million, and we could do Beast for that. But when they went to the Statue of Liberty, I wrote a huge sequence where he’s swinging around the interior of the statue and jumping from girder to girder and all this stuff. And they were like, ‘We can’t afford that.’”
With his big action sequence excised, Beast eventually became less central to the story itself. “In every draft, it became, ‘Magneto attacks the mansion, Beast gets his leg broken.’ So he can’t go with them for the third act action. It was just so lame that we were like, ‘Well, if we can’t properly use the character, we might as well just cut him.’”
Hayter added that he regretted losing the character at the time. “It was a shame,” he said. “I love Beast, and he’s such a nice counterpoint to Wolverine and Cyclops and Xavier. But there was this whole thing where the team would say goodbye to him, and his leg is broken. It was just stupid, so it had to go.”
Although Beast in his human form makes a brief appearance on a TV newscast in X2 (played by Steve Bacic), the character in all his furry glory would have his first major role in the franchise in X-Men: The Last Stand, where he was portrayed by Kelsey Grammer of Cheers and Frasier fame as the highly intelligent, cultivated Renaissance mutant known and loved in the comics.
Although Grammer briefly reprised the role in 2014’s time-bending X-Men: Days of Future Past, Nicholas Hoult took over as a younger version of the character starting with 2011’s X-Men: First Class, continuing in the part in Days of Future Past, X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) and Dark Phoenix (2019).
As for other mutants who didn’t make the cut for the original X-Men, it’s been reported over the years that versions of Jubilee, the Blob, and Juggernaut found their way into the Xavier School and the Brotherhood of Mutants respectively in early drafts, although they were not around by the time Hayter got involved.
“When we made the film, there was always sort of a heavier kid who was supposed to indicate Blob, and there’s one who became Jubilee,” he says now. “We tried to sort of give nods to those characters even if they weren’t major roles in the film.”
With the X-Men film rights now back with Marvel and the characters certain to be rebooted into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the question will arise at some point: will Beast be featured as part of the original team, as in the comics, and who will play him next?
Watch for more from David Hayter on X-Men later this week.