The Hollywood Reporter’s new piece about Bryan Singer’s toxic X-Men sets begins with a weird anecdote: Michael Jackson, who wanted to play Professor X, auditioned by showing the producers his short film, Ghosts, in which he played a 60-year old white politician. “You know, I can wear makeup,” he reportedly told producers, acknowledging that Professor X is typically depicted as an older white man.
The report clarifies that Jackson, who was then “in the thick of all his allegations,” was never seriously considered for the role. It also makes clear that Singer’s negligent behavior (and consistent legal trouble) was also not well-considered, at least by 20th Century Fox. “His behavior was poor on the movie,” one anonymous executive admitted. “We accommodated him on the first movie, and therefore we can accommodate him on the second movie. And on and on. And it created a monster.”
Singer’s been accused of sexually abusing minors since the late ‘90s, but didn’t face any repercussions until last year, when The Atlantic published a detailed exposé that told the stories of four additional men who claim Singer molested them when they underage and passed them around like “party favors” to the adult men in Singer’s circle (Singer denies the allegations). X-Men producers tell THR that Singer always had an “entourage” of men with him, some of whom he would bring to meetings despite them having no official involvement in the films. According to sources, executives continued to turn a blind eye due to Singer’s proven bankability.
The closest the director came to some kind of blowback occurred on the X2 set, when Singer was reportedly “incapacitated after taking a narcotic” and pushed ahead on a stunt despite there being no stunt coordinator on set at the time. Producer Tom DeSanto tried to halt production, but failed, resulting in a botched stunt that left star Hugh Jackman “bleeding on camera.” The set was eventually shut down by producer Ralph Winter, though 20th Century Fox executives took Singer’s side the following day and ordered DeSanto leave the set. This prompted the majority of the main cast—all in full costume—to confront Singer in his trailer and threaten to quit if DeSanto left the set.
“That’s when Berry famously said to Singer, ‘You can kiss my Black ass,’ a line that has been oft-reported in the years since but never with the correct backstory,” THR reports. A representative for Singer says that “nothing like that ever happened.”
Despite this (and, you know, *gestures broadly*), Singer would return to direct two more X-Men films, 2014's Days Of Future Past and 2016's Apocalypse. It’s no secret that he was a nightmare on those sets, too.
THR’s report also touches on the screenplay drama underpinning the franchise, the legal troubles faced by a number of Singer’s associates, and Singer’s penchant for filling out small roles with young, attractive men, some of whom had no experience in the industry. Read it in full here.