Casting Marvel’s X-Men for the MCU

Last Updated on February 19, 2024

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The introduction of mutants to the Marvel Cinematic Universe is just around the corner, so it’s time to start casting the X-Men for the MCU. Now that Disney firmly owns 20th Century Fox – including their longstanding stranglehold over the cinematic rights to the X-Men – fans are avidly awaiting the rebooted debut of the X-Men into their beloved Marvel Cinematic Universe, to stand alongside cherished heroes like Thor, the Hulk and Spider-Man.

Marvel Studios overlord Kevin Feige himself has hinted at their upcoming appearance, stating that the “discussions have been long and ongoing internally“, and it’s only a matter of time before we see the Merry Mutants realized anew on the big screen. How exactly they’ll fit into the existing, over-arching Marvel Cinematic Universe story is anyone’s guess; the reason behind those internal discussions taking so darn long is likely because Marvel Studios are likely trying to figure out how to suddenly introduce dozens, hundreds or thousands of mutants into the MCU seemingly overnight.

For those not in the know, the X-Men in their Marvel Comics’ source material have been around for a long time. Mutants started popping up in the 60s (or roughly 15-20 years ago, if that’s how you’re measuring continuity in Marvel Comics), meaning that characters like Professor X served in the Korean War and Magneto grew up suffering the horrors of the Holocaust. Over time, mutants proliferated, at one stage getting to a point where there were millions of them. What started as whispers about a minority of people born with strange and oftentimes deadly, natural superpowers became a cause for equal rights, the most common parable for which was the ideologies of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X during the Civil Rights Movement.

Being that the X-Men are being introduced into the MCU in the 2020s, much of the backstory from the comics will have to be omitted; Ian McKellen was age-appropriate for a 1940s Holocaust survivor, but if Magneto is cast young for the 21st Century, a link stemming that far back will have to be amended. Beyond this, will Marvel introduce many mutants at once? Start with a few? Transport them all over from a parallel universe in this year’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness? Who’s to say?

What’s likely is a hard reboot of the entire X-Men diaspora; don’t expect any holdovers from the previous X-Men franchise, which ended with a sputter in Dark Phoenix in 2019. However Marvel decide to induct the X-Men into the MCU, here’s JoBlo’s picks for casting the X-Men when they finally make their appearance, as well as a few story ideas they could incorporate.

Ralph Fiennes as Professor X

When casting the X-Men for the MCU, you have to start at the top; and leading the X-Men is the man they’re named after – Professor Charles Xavier. No doubt about it, Patrick Stewart was a pitch-perfect Professor X, but the man himself has stated that he won’t be returning when the X-Men enter the MCU. James McAvoy, who played the younger version of Stewart’s Professor X across four movies, has said that he’s “cool” with returning if asked, but understands that Feige and Marvel Studios may be looking to start from scratch.

In that case, it’s time for a recast. The first name that came to mind was Ralph Fiennes; he has the gravitas, the accent and the acting chops to give MCU’s X-Men a bona fide Charles Xavier. He also looks great bald, and let’s be real, that’s important for Professor X. Fiennes is no stranger to genre fare, having walked the dark side as Voldemort in the Harry Potter franchise and more recently as a mentor figure in The King’s Man. Any detractors for this casting choice are going to have to work hard to argue against the casting.

Henry Golding as Cyclops

Cyclops has been done dirty by all the previous X-Men films under 20th Century Fox. Both James Marsden (the “present-day” Cyclops) and Tye Sheridan (prequel Cyclops) both suffered from either second shrift or poor characterization. As many X-Men comic book fans will attest, Cyclops is a born leader, master tactician and even a controversial figure at times – at one point leading mutants in a violent revolution and basically being responsible for Charles Xavier’s death. He deserves better on screen.

With Kevin Feige being such a faithful adherer to the Marvel Comics and an advocate for accurate translation to the big screen, expect Cyclops to get paid his due when introduced as the leader of the X-Men in the MCU. He needs to be played by someone with a burgeoning profile, a strong sense of charisma and the ability to anchor a franchise. While Henry Golding didn’t fare too well with the G.I. Joe reboot Snake Eyes – again, the victim of a poor script (and so-so action fare), he has proven himself a couple times over as an engaging lead actor. It’s easy to imagine him donning the ruby red visor and commanding the MCU’s X-Men with a sense of presence.

As for his race, Cyclops has already been played by two white people, and there is nothing about the character’s backstory that dictates he needs to be white. If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that representation matters – and you can bet your bottom dollar that a lot of young Asian children will be inspired by seeing a Malaysian actor lead the X-Men into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Madelaine Petsch as Jean Grey

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If we’re casting Cyclops, you better believe we’re casting Jean Grey too. A mainstay of the X-Men since day one, encompassing some of its greatest storylines (the Dark Phoenix Saga, anyone?), and getting not one but two adaptations of said storyline on the big screen, it’s dollars to donuts that we see Jean Grey on screen in the MCU.

There are too many capable, powerful, strong young actresses floating around in Hollywood (and beyond) to count, so casting Jean Grey is a tricky preposition. Famke Janssen and Sophie Turner both turned in iconic performances in different ways (say what you will about Dark Phoenix, but Turner didn’t phone in for a single minute), and the next actress has some shoes to fill.

When casting the X-Men for the MCU, my vote is Riverdale‘s Madelaine Petsch for Jean Grey. Fans of the show will agree she can play both a tough and soft outer shell, and it’s a lateral step for the 27 year-old Washington native into similar teenaged genre fare – this time with superpowers. Just don’t expect them to attempt the Dark Phoenix storyline for a third time anytime soon.

Cole Hauser as Wolverine

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Anybody who watches Cole Hauser play Rip Wheeler on Yellowstone should be standing and applauding at this suggestion right now. Rip exemplifies many of the attributes that define Logan/Wolverine as a character; loyalty, a code of conduct, a violent streak, a soft spot for redheads (or rather, one in particular), a penchat for cowboy hats. He’s gruff, he’s mean, but he cares about his family. When casting the X-Men for the MCU, he’s a prime choice for Wolverine.

Transplant Rip Wheeler into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, give him a healing factor and some retractable claws, and you have the pitch-perfect Wolverine; a man who’s been around the block for a hundred years or so, who wears his experience in the wrinkles and sideburns on his face. Of course, considering the fact that Hauser is 46 years old, this ages him out of the usual love triangle between him, Cyclops (Golding is 34) and Jean Grey (Petsch is 27). Perhaps, though, we don’t need it – we’ve seen that play out before.

Kevin Feige is all about reinventing classic characters when they are reintroduced into the MCU; for example, Tom Holland’s Peter Parker shares little in common with previous Spider-Man portrayals, as fans and general audiences alike have been there, seen that already. Heck, Holland’s Spidey didn’t even have a visible Uncle Ben. A new version of Wolverine can eschew some of what has come before, including a love triangle.

No, give me an older, tired Wolverine, who’s been used and abused by various governments around the world and is this close to giving up on the world, when Professor X rolls in and gives him a second chance at something to believe in. There’s no one better suited to playing a Wolverine like that than Cole Hauser.

Hugh Jackman left behind some pretty big size 11s, and no matter who Marvel Studios cast to play Wolverine in the MCU, people are going to be upset, outraged or flat-out disappointed. I expect Kevin Feige will chase casting that makes sense for the character and for the story they’re looking to tell. In any event, Cole Hauser is as random a guess or wish as anyone else. Please, anybody but Taron Egerton. Kid’s a great actor, but he’s no Wolverine.

Dev Patel as Iceman

Dev Patel has enjoyed a lot of critical acclaim for amazing performances in Lion and most recently, The Green Knight. Especially in the latter, he embodied a character who struggles to back up his loud mouth with actual courage, while possessing a biting wit. This has been true of Bobby Drake aka Iceman of the X-Men. The team comedian, Bobby hasn’t necessarily been portrayed as such on screen (with Shawn Ashmore delivering more of a “mini-Cyclops” performance in the core X-Men franchise), but the X-Men coming to the MCU is an opportunity to change that.

Patel might be hesitant to rejoin any more franchises after receiving a drubbing with the rest of the cast of The Last Airbender, but a fun supporting role as Iceman could be a fun outing for the Brit. He’s showed comedy chops since his debut in Skins and possesses the required dramatic ability to give the MCU’s Iceman a little pathos; after all, we’re talking about a character who posed as a ladies man for years because he was too scared to come out of the closet and suffer the prejudice of being both gay, and a mutant. It’s a meaty role if the MCU stay true to the recent source material, and Patel is a great fit. He’s done ‘fire’ with The Last Airbender. Now let’s see him do ice.

Luke Grimes as Angel

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Casting the X-Men for the MCU, you might as well do all five original X-Men. We haven’t had a big-screen X-Men outing that explicitly started with the same original X-Men as the comic books; Cyclops, Jean Grey/Marvel Girl, Angel, Beast and Iceman. Thanks to the convoluted hodge-podge of characters that kick-started the 20th Century Fox X-Men movies, Angel didn’t appear until the third chapter, X-Men: The Last Stand, and then was nonsensically rebooted as an even younger man in X-Men: Apocalypse – a movie set some thirty years before the events of X-Men: The Last Stand.

Both prior performances by Ben Foster (capable) and Ben Hardy (forgettable) again were given the short straw with scripts that barely had time for them. In both appearances, Angel never actually became an X-Man at any point. Seems a shame for one of the more interesting characters from the original line-up to get short-changed in this way, and here’s hoping that Kevin Feige and co. rectify this moving forward.

Not to continue pinching actors from Yellowstone (except that’s exactly what we’re doing), but Luke Grimes – who plays youngest scion Kayce Dutton – completely fits the bill as Warren Worthington III. The brooding temperament, a vulnerable soft side, the ability to careen off into sheer violence, Grimes possesses all the necessary talents to bring Angel to the big screen anew – and maybe finally get the winged wonder his due.

Haley Joel Osment as Beast

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Stay with me, here. If we’re casting the X-Men for the MCU, you gotta have the bouncing, bubbling, blue Beast. Kelsey Grammer did great things with a small amount of screentime, and Nicholas Hoult brought admirable brains and ferocity to the role when he played the younger version in the prequel films, but it’s time for something new.

If anyone’s been through more iterations or versions than Hank McCoy aka the Beast in Marvel Comics, remind me in the comments. He’s gone from being an X-Man to an Avenger, from a hero to a pariah among his people, hetero to gay and back again, but through it all he’s mostly been an effervescent, bubbly personality among his peers.

Haley Joel Osment has grown into a great comedic actor (check out the Entourage movie for an example of this, if you can stomach it), and his bulky physique and winning smile could easily transform the actor into the Beast with the right amount of blue make-up. He can play smart, he can play funny, and Beast should be both. The team will need some comedy relief in the ever-charming and quippy Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Osment can fill that role.

Yetide Badaki as Storm

You may recognize Yetide Badaki as Bilquis, the Goddess of Love, in American Gods. A captivating performer in American Gods, as well as a regal presence in general, Badaki already exemplifies Ororo Munroe. Although it’s yet to be depicted on screen, Storm was worshipped as a goddess in Kenya long before she was found by Professor Xavier and recruited to join his X-Men.

Going into the MCU, it’s likely the writers will touch on this backstory – it serves two purposes, as being a fresh take on the character for the big screen, as well as faithful to the source material. Yetide Badaki has already aptly played an African goddess on the small screen; it’d be a small leap to do something similar on the big screen… only with white hair, this time. It also helps that Badaki herself has said she would “absolutely” want to play Storm on the big screen. Hopefully, Marvel Studios are listening already.

Robert Sheehan as Nightcrawler

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Robert Sheehan has been charming his fans since his debut in the underrated British dramedy Misfits, and more recently has been stealing the show as ghost-whispering glam king Klaus on The Umbrella Academy. The cheeky Irish chappie has made a career out of quick-witted big-mouths, and has every likable quality needed for fan-favorite Nightcrawler.

The fuzzy elf has enjoyed two quality adaptations on the big screen, first by Alan Cumming and then by Kodi Smith-McPhee in the last two prequel films. There’s still room for a new interpretation of the character, as we’ve yet to see the swashbuckling Errol Flynn-take on the character, per the character’s time on the British X-team, Excalibur. Sheehan has the comedy stylings to take on the role of Kurt Wagner, as well as his deeper moments of gravitas – especially when reconciling his demonic appearance with his intense faith. Here’s hoping Sheehan is the choice when Nightcrawler is cast in the MCU.

Alexander Skarsgård as Colossus

The soulful, brooding, 6″4 Swedish actor could play the soulful, brooding 6″7 metal-skinned Russian in his sleep. Sure, if you really care that much about Colossus needing that extra 3 inches, a little CGI can be employed, but otherwise – Skarsgård makes a lot of sense.

Colossus hasn’t had much to do on the big screen apart from be tall and strong (the original X-Men movies) or have his butt squeezed by Deadpool (Deadpool 2). He did have a pretty rock-ass fight with Juggernaut, to be fair, and actually had his Russian accent for those movies. But perhaps it’s time for an actor with a little more stature and screen presence to take on the metal man.

Casting the X-Men in the MCU may not include Colossus initially, but when they finally get round to including him, Alexander Skarsgård is a fine choice. Check out his recent appearance on Succession for a sneak-peek at what a cool, icy performance of indeterminate European origin looks like.

Kate Beckinsale as Moira MacTaggert

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Moira MacTaggert is exactly where the storyline can kick in for mutants in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As recently retconned in the ‘House of X/Powers of X’ storyline in Marvel Comics, Moira MacTaggert is actually a mutant with the power of reincarnation. The Moira MacTaggert we knew in the comics as a scientist/former love interest of Xavier’s was actually on her tenth life. In all previous nine lives, she had continuously seen the genocide of mutants over and over and over again.

Predicted as only having ten or eleven lives total, Moira ends up planning with Xavier, Magneto and Apocalypse to relocate all mutants to Krakoa and establish their own nation – as well as putting into motion the events that lead to immortality for the X-Men (these days, when an X-Man dies, they are resurrected by the combined powers of five mutants known reverently as “The Five”).

While we saw a CIA version of Moira in the prequel films (no science skills), and a scientist version of Moira in a cameo in the original films (no CIA skills), a new version of Moira in the MCU could exemplify who she is in the Marvel Comics today. An arch-instigator who has seen countless futures, where mutants die out in every single one. A woman who takes it upon herself to unite all mutants under one banner, with the help of some of the most powerful mutants in existence.

It would be a great start for mutants in the MCU to already exist en masse; what if, thanks to Moira’s machinations, the X-Men already live on Krakoa (like they do now in the comics), all knowledge of their existence wiped from the world – like a backwards ‘House of M’ situation? With Moira as the architect, having warned Professor X of the need to do this? It would be a pretty awesome way to get going with the X-Men in the MCU immediately at full rank and file.

Kate Beckinsale hasn’t done much of late, but she’d be great in embodying the fierce intelligence and tenacity of Moira MacTaggert. At Beckinsale’s age, she can carry a kind of maternal grace that would fit the character well. At this point, the MCU can go anywhere with its mutants, so this is just random spit-balling at this stage. But, you never know…

Alisha Boe as Kitty Pryde

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X-Men stories, either on the page or on the screen, thrive off of the entry-level viewpoint of inexperienced young mutants. See also; Rogue in X-Men, Mystique in X-Men: First Class, Jubilee in X-Men: The Animated Series; the list goes on. Wolverine is usually paired with some young female sidekick (Kitty Pryde, Rogue and Jubilee have all had their fair share of hijinx fighting alongside the hirsute Canuck) in the comics.

By this logic, it makes sense for audiences to have a similar surrogate when entering the world of the X-Men in the MCU. Kitty Pryde is a natural choice, as she’s an innocent yet bratty kid who suddenly has to learn how to be a hero – and goes on to become one of the biggest heroes the planet has ever seen (remember the giant bullet headed to Earth that she phased through the planet and rode through space on, phasing through everything else it passed, therefore saving countless worlds?).

Young, talented actors are thankfully a dime a dozen these days, but Alisha Boe of 13 Reasons Why fame is really one to watch. She’s able to pull off strong and vulnerable, quiet and rageful, strong and insecure at the same time. When wrapping up this casting call for the MCU X-Men, she immediately came to mind for the role of Kitty Pryde, and given the opportunity, she could do great things in the role. Might be a little young to have a relationship with Colossus, but not everything has to be verbatim from the comics, y’know?

Who would you like to see in the casting for the X-Men in the MCU? Let us know in the comments!

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