X-Men movie set

The year is 1999. Shakespeare in Love wins Best Picture at the Oscars, Bill Gates becomes the richest man in the world, Napster makes its debut online. And Bryan Singer‘s X-Men movie begins filming – the first film in a franchise that now includes 11 movies with at least three more on the way.

But while contemporary comic book movies are often expected to at least pretend to show reverence for their source material, back then, Singer took a different approach: he banned X-Men comics from the set of his movie altogether.

In an interview with MTV News, Logan/Wolverine actor Hugh Jackman revealed the somewhat surprising piece of trivia about Singer’s insistence on keeping the X-Men movie set free of comics:

“By the way, comic books were banned on the set. Because Bryan Singer had this thing that people would think – he really wanted to take comic book characters seriously as real, three-dimensional characters. And he’d go, ‘People who don’t understand these comics might think they’re two-dimensional.’ So no one was allowed. It was like contraband. I’d never read X-Men, so people were [slipping] them under my door, I’m having a look, I’m reading these things. I’m looking and going, ‘These are brilliant, look at the physicality!'”

That first X-Men movie clearly didn’t have a huge budget, so it makes sense that Singer would try to strip things down and concentrate on the characters and the drama rather than huge VFX-heavy set pieces. But banning comics on the set? That seems like the type of bullshit Hollywood power move designed to serve someone’s ego instead of to actually improve the movie everyone was making. It’s also incredibly elitist: in Singer’s mind, he and maybe a select few others on the filmmaking team were the only ones who truly understood the comics, and instead of answering questions people may have had about the characterizations, he decided to play gatekeeper.

It also sounds like those who risked Singer’s wrath to break the rules and pass Jackman a few comics weren’t able to give him enough, so he went to a different source to get his fix: a man who was then just an associate producer at Marvel Entertainment:

“I would go into [eventual Marvel Studios president] Kevin Feige‘s office, and it was wall-to-wall – not only comics all over the wall, like posters, but about 600 figurines of different characters. And I’d be like, ‘What should I read?’ And he’d say, ‘You’ve gotta read this one. And you’ve gotta read the Japan. And you’ve gotta read the origins.’ So he was slipping me stuff, and we’ve stayed friends ever since.”

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