By this point, the idea of anyone other than Hugh Jackman as Wolverine seems like box office suicide, but he wasn't the first choice to play X-Men's breakout star. Learn about the also-rans and almost-weres.
Unsurprisingly, casting Wolverine in the original X-Men movie wasn't a smooth process; the character's unusual attributes in the comics - short, hairy and not particularly physically attractive, yet charming nonetheless, and capable of stunts and animal temper - aren't exactly the kind of thing that would make most actors want to sign on for the role, after all. That didn't stop X-Men writer Chris Claremont from thinking big, however, as he admitted in a recent interview:
Back in the day when we first started kicking around idea, my choice for Wolverine was Bob Hoskins. That was totally late 20th century, and it's not relevant to today's market.
By the time that Bryan Singer was attached to the project, more "relevant" thinking had prevailed, and taller, more attractive actors were being considered; both Mel Gibson and Russell Crowe were offered the role, but both declined (Crowe was apparently interested, but wanted more money to sign on). Soon afterwards, Singer found his perfect leading man: Mission: Impossible II's Dougray Scott.
Sadly, in what was to become a bit of a running theme in his career, Scott became a footnote as opposed to a star when he had to drop out of the production due to M:I2 going over schedule by two months, meaning that he'd be unavailable for the start of the X-Men shoot (Scott was also rumored to be taking over the role of James Bond, following the departure of Pierce Brosnan. You have to wonder if he dreams of terrible accidents befalling both Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig, sometimes). With filming already having been underway for three weeks, Jackman - then an unknown - was hurredly cast in the role, and the rest was franchise history.
(Wolverine wasn't the only character quickly recast in X-Men; James Marsden only became Cyclops when James Caviezel's shooting schedule for Frequency caused him to back out of the movie. Ugly Betty's Eric Mabius was also in the running.)
Oddly enough, casting an Australian as the Canadian superhero was following a precedent set by Wolverine's first non-comic book appearance, in a 1982 episode of Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends:
His altered citizenship continued through 1989's failed X-Men pilot, "Pryde of the X-Men":
Apparently, American casting directors have no idea where Canada is, much to Hugh Jackman's benefit. But at least you now know why Gibson and Crowe were offered the gig.