Deadpool 2 is the 11th movie starring Marvel's merry mutants. But not every X-Men movie has made it to the screen…

Feature Mike Cecchini

May 16, 2018

The X-Men franchise is alive, well, and living large in Hollywood. The latest X-Men movie, Deadpool 2, is receiving great reviews, and once again shows what this franchise is capable of. It’s amazing that we ever even got this far.

After almost 20 years and eleven installments, it’s becoming hard to envision a world before X-Men movies. But getting the X-Men from the page to the screen for the first time took years, and there were a number of potential X-Men films from notable Hollywood talent that stalled before making it to production. Then there are projects like X-Men Origins: Magneto (which became something else entirely), Deadpool (which was long dead before we finally got it), and Gambit (which is starting to look like it might never get made).

This isn’t intended to be a comprehensive or exhaustive listing of every unproduced X-Men screenplay. Instead, I’ve focused on a series of drafts that had the best chance of getting made. Not included are re-writes of existing X-Men films (like Joss Whedon’s discarded overhaul of the first X-Men movie and other early drafts that essentially just became the first film) and only slightly different drafts of movies that got made with some changes (David Benioff and Skip Woods’ Deadpool-less X-Men Origins: Wolverine for example). 

Mostly, though, I only thought it fair to write about ones I’ve actually read. If you have others, please get in touch…

Wolverine and the X-Men (1991)

Who wrote it?

Gary Goldman, who you may remember from his work on films like Total Recall, Big Trouble in Little China, and Navy Seals. Somewhere in the mix of those three films, if you squint hard enough, you could possibly see the DNA of an X-Men movie.

Who’s in it?

Wolverine, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Nightcrawler, Kitty Pryde, Professor Xavier, Magneto (who goes by the name of Thomas Prince), Jason Wyngarde/Mastermind, Angel (as Warren Worthington).

What’s it about?

In the days before the world knows that mutants exist, Wolverine and Professor Xavier recruit Kitty Pryde, and learn of a man named Thomas Prince. Prince is an industrialist with political ambitions who is effectively stirring up anti-mutant hysteria, which he whips into a frenzy when he recruits Jason Wyngarde (Mastermind) from the X-Men’s roster to help use his mental powers to frame them.

The frame-up is so successful that almost immediately, the mutant witch hunts begin, and Prince (along with his superhumanly strong associate, Atalanta) hit the presidential campaign trail while the X-Men face the death penalty for murder. Prince turns out to be a “master of magnetism” and his plan is to incite a race war that, naturally, mutants will win. (He loses.)

Is it any good?

Not really. Even by superhero movie standards, Gary Goldman’s draft of Wolverine and the X-Men is overly simplistic, full of stilted dialogue and exposition, and lacks the life we see in other genre films he worked on. There could be something to this story, if only the pacing weren’t so bizarre. Humanity goes from not knowing of the existence of the X-Men or mutants to mounting a televised execution of the team in a matter of pages. Not even James Cameron could have saved this one.

Why didn’t it happen?

The title page of this draft (dated June 18th, 1991) says it’s for James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment and Carolco pictures. That lines up with Chris Claremont’s recollection of pitching an X-Men movie to Cameron around that time.

Stan Lee also brought up a character named Spider-Man at that meeting, and we all know where that went…but that’s another article.

X-Men (1994)

Who wrote it?

Andrew Kevin Walker, right before he went on to fame as the writer of Se7en the following year. Walker also wrote a Batman vs. Superman screenplay, which I wrote about in more detail right here.

Who’s in it?

The original X-Men team of Professor Xavier, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Iceman, Beast, and Angel…plus Wolverine. And then there’s the baddies: Magneto, Toad, Sabretooth, Blob, Juggernaut, Henry Peter Gyrich, Bolivar Trask. It’s quite a lot.

What’s it about?

This film opens with a world that is already on its way to the anti-mutant dystopia of Days of Future Past, with the Mutant Registration Act passed and in the midst of implementation. The government is even building Sentinels. Magneto decides that the best way to handle this is to isolate Manhattan and declare it a haven for mutants. (Sensible enough.)

The X-Men, of course, have other ideas. The original team from 1963’s X-Men #1 recruits shady Canadian operative Wolverine, and they go head to head with Magneto and his Brotherhood with the fate of New York City at stake, while also dealing with the US Government’s Sentinels. 

Is it any good?

Yes!!!

From the earliest pages, this is a much more lively read than Gary Goldman’s story. It’s also impossibly action-packed, with Magneto and the Brotherhood destroying a number of New York City landmarks in order to cut Manhattan off from the rest of the world. 

This would have been one of the more comic book faithful X-Men films, though. From the adherence to the original team, to appearances from X-Men supporting players like Canada’s Department H (who Wolverine still works for), Henry Peter Gyrich, a non-Peter Dinklage Bolivar Trask, and even NYC’s supervillain prison, The Vault…this would have made fans quite happy.

Why didn’t it happen?

This draft is dated June 7th, 1994, and at this point, the X-Men rights had migrated from Carolco to 20th Century Fox (where they remain to this day). According to Geeks of Doom (who have a great article about this version), “Walker’s drafts received good notices from the studio, but they were not enough to move the development of an X-Men feature forward.”

The problem may also reside in the scale of the film itself, which contains scenes of the destruction of plenty of New York City landmarks. This may seem like nothing these days, but in 1995, well…this could have been an expensive one to film.

Wolverine and the X-Men (1995)

Who wrote it?

Laeta Kalogridis, who you may recognize as executive producer and writer of Terminator: Genesis. She also has writing credits on films like Shutter Island (on which she also served as executive producer), Shutter Island, and Night Watch. Ms. Kalogridis also wrote an unproduced Wonder Woman screenplay, which we’ll get around to at some point.

Who’s in it?

Professor Xavier, Cyclops, Wolverine, Jubilee, Storm, Jean Grey, Beast, Gambit, Magneto, Pyro, Sabretooth, Blob, Mystique, Scarlet Witch

What’s it about?

The usual. Wolverine is fresh from his adamantium treatment and memory wipe when he is found by the X-Men, roughly at the same time as a young girl named Jubilation Lee is manifesting her first mutant abilities. The two end up with the team, who end up in battle with Magneto and his Brotherhood, who (of course) wish to wipe out humanity with the Legacy virus.

Is it any good?

Yes. It’s a punchy, tight read, although somewhat compressed. It’s thoroughly action-packed, and the team on display mirrors that of the wildly popular X-Men: The Animated Series of the ‘90s.

Less ambitious than Andrew Kevin Walker’s draft, this one would have been a little easier to film. The plot is a bit simplistic, but there’s rarely a few pages without some kind of massive action sequence, and there’s a dynamite one-on-one with Wolverine and Sabertooth (and another with Wolverine and Magneto) in the climax.

Why didn’t it happen?

No clue. This draft is dated August 18th, 1995, less than a year after Walker’s second draft from October of ’94. I presume this one falls under the “good notices from the studio, but…” that befell Andrew Kevin Walker’s version, although it wouldn’t have required the insane budget that film might have.

X-Men (1996)

Who wrote it?

Michael Chabon. We love him for brilliant comic book literary faux-history like The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay and his story credit on Spider-Man 2. Recently, you’ve seen his name on John Carter, but the screenplay wasn’t necessarily the problem on that one, and besides, that movie isn’t nearly as bad as it gets made out to be. ANYWAY…

Who’s in it?

Professor Xavier, Wolverine, Jubilee, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Iceman, Nightcrawler, Beast, Storm, The Hellfire Club (sorta…not really).

What’s it about?

The X-Men welcome both Jubilee and Wolverine into their ranks in a world where mutations are already carefully monitored by the government. The Legacy virus is already spreading, and Wolverine is a carrier (albeit immune) and he inadvertently infects several of his new teammates.

Is it any good?

It’s difficult to tell from this 18 page treatment (dated July 17th, 1996). This certainly would have been a far more cerebral X-Men film than we’ve been accustomed to, with a faintly dystopian vibe, no obvious villains, and a Wolverine who is tame for much of the first half of the film. Unless this was expanded by other writers (missing from our archives are drafts by John Logan and James Schamus, but I’m not sure where they fall in the chronology).

Why didn’t it happen?

No clue. Considering that this never made it past the treatment stage, though, we can guess. This is, far and away, the brainiest, most inward-looking film on this list. The thing is, when you’re trying to make a blockbuster with a nine figure budget, that isn’t always a good thing.

X-Men Origins: Magneto (roughly 2008)

Who wrote it?

Sheldon Turner of The Longest Yard and Up in the Air fame. He also got a story credit on X-Men: First Class, potentially because of some similarities in Magneto’s journey in that film.

Who’s in it?

Magneto and Charles Xavier. There are hints of Sabertooth, Beast, Mystique, and some others hidden throughout, as well.

What’s it about?

The story of Erik Lehnserr’s life after Auschwitz, his struggles to accept himself, and his journey as a Nazi hunter seeking revenge on the men who tormented him. Eventually, he meets up with a man named Charles Xavier, who harbors a secret of his own. Sound a little familiar? It is, but don’t be fooled. This is much less flashy than ANY X-Men movie, produced or unproduced.

Is it any good?

Yes. It’s low key and even introspective, but never boring. It’s easy to imagine Michael Fassbender handling this one (although this was long before he was a possibility). The “older” Magneto appears at the beginning and the end to kind of keep things consistent. It definitely would have caused some continuity problems, but as we’ve seen recently, that really isn’t all that important.

Why didn’t it happen?

David Goyer was set to direct this one, but, of course, it eventually morphed into X-Men: First Class, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Goyer commented on it in 2013. “They definitely took some elements from our script.” Which is true, but they did at least give Sheldon Turner a story credit on X-Men: First Class.

Deadpool 

Wait a minute…they actually made this movie?!? And it was amazing? 

When this article first ran a few years ago (and before Deadpool finally got the green light), I noted that while the script was hilarious, it was “unfilmable by conventional superhero movie standards.” Hahahaha…holy moley, I was wrong.

If you want a more detailed look at the 2010 script and how it differed from the movie, I give you Gavin Jasper’s brilliant article on the subject right here.

BONUS ENTRY!

X-Men (1984)

Who wrote it?

Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas, two noted comic book writers who also wrote Fire & Ice and Conan the Destroyer. Yeah.

Who’s in it?

Professor X, Kitty Pryde, Cyclops, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Storm, and Circe.

What’s it about?

A not wheelchair-bound Charles Xavier gathers his first team of X-Men in order to defeat an organization known as Proteus and a giant mutant island that wants to become a new continent (kinda like Krakoa from Giant-Size X-Men #1).

Is it any good?

I can’t say in good conscience, as I haven’t read the actual screenplay, only a synopsis courtesy of Back Issue magazine. It’s definitely weirder than most of the other entries on here, though. It’s tough to tell how it would play as a movie from a detailed synopsis.

Why didn’t it happen?

At this stage of the game, Orion Pictures were developing X-Men, but it’s unclear when things ended up at Carolco, or where it went in between. We’ll keep looking for more info, though.

Thanks to Nick Harley for helping me out with the research for this one!

Got any unproduced superhero screenplays you think I haven’t read? Let’s talk on Twitter!