X-Men Cast Threatened to Quit Over Bryan Singer’s Botched Stunt That Injured Hugh Jackman

A story about Bryan Singer’s drug-induced negligence on the set of 2003’s X2 involves a stunt injury to Hugh Jackman and a cast ready to walk out.

X2: X-Men United cast
Photo: Twentieth Century Fox/Disney

Bryan Singer may already be widely associated with controversy regarding his on-set behavior and extracurricular “activities,” but a lengthy exposé published today by THR has shed more unseemly light on the array of accusations about him and the culture of abuse and negligence that the director purportedly perpetuated. One such detail centers on a breaking point reached by the X-Men cast.

According to the report, the cast of 2003’s X2: X-Men United had a consequential confrontation with Singer centered on his erratic, frequently-absent and narcotics-addled tenure over the sequel’s Vancouver production, which apparently resulted in the franchise’s breakout star, Wolverine actor Hugh Jackman, being injured in a stunt that should not have been shot that day. It seems as if the groundbreaking, $269 million global success of 2000’s original X-Men magnified Singer’s proclivities, which resulted in an unfortunate osmosis to members of the crew during the X2 shoot, leading to what was reportedly serious negligence.

Sources recount of the incident in question that Singer was “incapacitated after taking a narcotic” that day, and that some crew members were similarly sauced up by the same narcotic;  a scenario that was already a recipe for disaster, worsened by Singer’s decision to shoot a rather dangerous stunt one day earlier than scheduled, which meant that no stunt coordinator was on-set to oversee safety measures. The scene—located near the end of the movie—took place inside the X-Jet, and featured all of the main cast members, sans Magneto actor Ian McKellen. While producer Tom DeSanto (who wrote one of the key treatments for the original film), recognized the danger from Singer’s behavior and attempted to halt shooting for that day, it only resulted in a fight, one that—due to the obvious power dynamic—was won by the director. Thus, shooting continued, resulting in the botched stunt in question, which is said to have left star Jackman bleeding on camera.

While producer Ralph Winter, who did have proper authority, ultimately stopped the shoot that day, the Singer-related drama—at least, regarding this specific incident—didn’t stop there. Indeed, the following day saw studio Fox seemingly side with Singer, who attempted to make a scapegoat of DeSanto by sending him back to Los Angeles; a move that’s presumably a form of suspension or de facto firing. That, however, was the straw that broke the camel’s back for the main cast, who decided to stand united (per the film’s title,) in defense of DeSanto. Consequently, in a move that ironically echos a post-climax scene from the movie itself, the main cast—fully dressed in their X-Men costumes—converged in Singer’s trailer (minus Ian McKellen and Rebecca Romijn,) for an intervention of sorts, in which they threatened to quit if DeSanto was fired.

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Additionally, the described confrontation with Singer provides the first key context to a behind-the-scenes legend, in which Storm actress Halle Berry allegedly told Singer, “You can kiss my Black ass.” However, a representative for Singer has denied that any such incident took place, stating, “nothing like that ever happened.” DeSanto is also choosing to remain mum on the alleged incident.

On-set tumult notwithstanding, X2: X-Men United ultimately hit theaters on May 3, 2003, and became a phenomenon that dwarfed its successful predecessor, going on to gross $407.7 million worldwide. Moreover, even in a 2020 hindsight that’s been treated to the emergence of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and a culmination with Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame that would have been unfathomable in 2003, the film—which Singer directed off a script by Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris and David Hayter—still holds up as a powerful comic book movie entry, and a crucial step in the genre’s evolution. It’s a shame that such a film has to be tainted by this, along with the array of other—frankly sickening—alleged incidents connected to Singer and his circle of friends.