Today marks the 20th anniversary of Fox’s first X-Men movie, but many people might not know that Marvel Studios’ Kevin Feige played a small role in the movie…and helped to keep the comic book origins of the characters in the spirit of the film.
Back then Kevin Feige wasn’t yet the Uatu of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he was just a production assistant, but he fought to keep the characters true to their comic book originals. Of course, everyone knows that’s one reason why the MCU works as well as it does.
For the 20th anniversary, the Observer ran a history piece on the movie and the producer Ralph Winter remembers Feige’s involvement:
“The studio wanted the widest possible audience, the biggest bang for their buck, as they deserve and require,” Winter said. “There was pushback to being faithful to the comic. Kevin Feige [Donner’s production assistant on the film] was right there in the midst of all of that. He didn’t have as big of a voice back then, but he was careful and faithful about the characters and reminding us, ‘Hey, you can do that, but here’s where the character came from. Here’s where their powers started. So keep that in mind as you go do that.’”
But that’s not all Feige did on the movie. He was also responsible for Wolverine’s hair. He told Vanity Fair back in 2017 when remembering the trouble they had getting it right:
The stylist “eventually went ‘Fine!’ and did a ridiculous version,” Feige recalls. “If you go back and look at it,” he admits, “he’s got big-ass hair in that first movie. But that’s Wolverine!” The experience stuck with Feige. “I never liked the idea that people weren’t attempting things because of the potential for them to look silly,” he says. “Anything in a comic book has the potential to look silly. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to make it look cool.”
Also in that interview he explains why some comic book movies bomb and others (like the MCU) are huge successes:
“The answers,” Feige still says, explaining why comic-book adaptations go wrong, “are always in the books.”
Perhaps the biggest contribution Feige made was behind the backs of those making the film. In 2018 Hugh Jackman explained to MTV News how Bryan Singer didn’t want comic books on the set:
“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, everyone, it was a contraband. And people were, I’d never read X-Men, so people slipped 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!’”
It was Kevin Feige who was Jackman’s comic book pusher:
“I would go into 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 flipping me stuff, and we’ve stayed friends ever since.”
Twenty years later, X-Men is a little dated as a product of its time. Back when comic book movies had to be gritty, serious, grounded in reality, and absolutely no yellow spandex. Things have changed since then, but we can thank Kevin Feige for fighting to keep the movie as true to the comics as he could back in 2000.