Whatever Happened to X-Men Origins: Magneto?

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Summary

  • X-Men Origins: Magneto was set to explore the villain’s life pre-MCU era.
  • Bad timing and disappointing X-Men movies led to the project’s cancellation.
  • There are similarities between Magneto’s origins in the script and X-Men: First Class.



In 2006, 20th Century Fox and Marvel Entertainment released X-Men: The Last Stand. Despite receiving negative reviews compared to the two previous movies and fans being disappointed with how the film handled the iconic Dark Phoenix storyline, the film was a massive hit and was the most successful X-Men movie at the box office until the release of Deadpool. Due to conventional wisdom at the time being that film franchises ended after a trilogy, 20th Century Fox looked to expand the X-Men franchise with a series of movies focusing on the origins of specific characters in a line called X-Men Origins.


The first of the films was 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, focusing on the franchise’s most popular character. The studio was reportedly developing films based around Storm and Cyclops, but the one that was supposed to immediately follow X-Men Origins: Wolverine was X-Men Origins: Magneto. Following Ian McKellen’s incredible performance in the films, as well as the first X-Men opening with his tragic Holocaust origin story, it certainly made sense for the studio to develop the movie. However, due to a number of circumstances, it never happened. Here is the story of X-Men Origins: Magneto, the X-Men movie that never happened and what it paved the way for.


The Origins of Magneto

20th Century Fox clearly was looking to the future of the X-Men film franchise long before X-Men: The Last Stand as X-Men Origins: Magneto began development in 2004, one year after the release of X2: X-Men United. They hired Sheldon Turner, who is now best known for writing the script for 2009’s Up in the Air, but at the time, he was a relatively new writer with his remake of The Longest Yard not yet having hit theaters. Turner went through many Marvel Comics to develop an X-Men film, and he gravitated towards Magneto.


Turner’s pitch for X-Men Origins: Magneto was The Pianist meets X-Men. It would have shown Magneto’s life after the opening of X-Men and shown him using his newfound powers to seek revenge but torturing his enemies with his abilities. The movie also would have shown the first meeting between Magneto and Charles Xavier, the future Professor X. Xavier would been an ally soldier in World War II who helped liberate Magneto from a concentration camp. This certainly builds off the line in 2000’s X-Men, where Xavier reveals he met Magneto when he was 17, and Xavier would have been a soldier who lied about his age to serve. The film’s timeline would have spanned from 1939 (before the events seen in X-Men) to 1955 and would have concluded with the moment that Xavier and Magneto had their falling out.


In April 2007, shortly before the release of his film The Invisible, David S. Goyer signed on to direct the movie. Goyer was no stranger to comic book movies as he had written all three Blade films, directed Blade: Trinity, and was also a co-writer on Batman Begins. Ian McKellen would reprise his role as Magneto in a framing device at the beginning and end of the story, with a younger actor set to be cast to play Magneto for the rest of the film. Production was set to start in 2009 in Australia, around the time X-Men Origins: Wolverine was set to hit theaters. The film later was reworked to be set in 1961 and have Professor X and Magneto battling a villain, and the filmmakers were awaiting approval to shoot in Washington D.C. By 2008, it was decided the movie would be put on hold, depending on the success of X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

The Movie Was a Victim of Bad Timing


Despite a plan being in place, a perfect storm of events would lead to the film’s cancellation. First was the 2007-2008 Writer’s Strike, which stalled the development of the film. Second, around this time, Australia changed its tax laws for film production, which might have made 20th Century Fox rethink the film location. This would be a major factor in canceling Warner Bros. Justice League Mortal, which also was set for release in 2009 before being canceled.

The release of X-Men Origins: Wolverine is ultimately what killed the project. Despite the movie opening at number 1 at the box office in its opening weekend with an impressive $85 million, the movie received even worse reviews than X-Men: The Last Stand and word of mouth quickly sank the movie. It was a hit, but not as big of a hit as 20th Century Fox wanted it to be. With two back-to-back disappointing X-Men movies and now the emergence of a new player in town, the MCU in 2008, the superhero movie landscape was changing, and the X-Men movies seemed like yesterday’s news.


In October 2009, five months after the release of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, franchise producer Lauren Shuler Donner said in an interview with Empire Magazine, “I’m not sure that film is going to be made. The studio has a wealth of potential stories, and they have to stand back and decide which ones to make. And Magneto, I think, is at the back of the queue. Maybe it’ll get made in five years – who knows?”

By that point, McKellen seemed to no longer be reprising the role, and the creatives thought the task of recasting Magneto was daunting. Funny enough, though, the actor who would eventually play the young Magneto, Michael Fassbender’s big breakout movieInglorious Basterds, had opened in theaters two months before that interview.

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X-Men: First Class Takes X-Men Origins Place, Which Becomes a Problem

All while this was happening, 20th Century Fox was also developing an X-Men prequel. The film became X-Men: First Class and development began in 2008 with a script by John Schwartz, famous for his work on The O.C., but when Bryan Singer was brought onto the film in October 2009, he tossed Schwartz’s script out, reportedly due to it being more of a teen film and Singer brought in writer Jamie Moss. X-Men: First Class was originally intended to follow X-Men Origins: Magneto, but following the disappointment of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, 20th Century Fox fast-tracked the movie and announced a June 2011 release date in May 2010, giving the movie thirteen months to cast, film, and edit before its release.


By this point, it was clear that X-Men Origins: Magneto was no longer on the table, and conflicts brewed behind the scenes. When Singer came on board X-Men: First Class as a producer, he chose to set the movie in the 1960s because he wanted it to detail a time in Xavier and Magneto’s life while they were in their twenties, but this was one year after X-Men Origins: Magneto shifted its script to also being set in the 1960s in Washington D.C.

As one was reading this, one might have noticed a few similarities between X-Men Origins: Magneto script and X-Men: First Class, which include:

  • Both movies are set in the 1960s and feature the beginning of the friendship of Professor X and Magneto
  • Magneto uses his powers as a young man to hunt down, torture, and kill many former Nazis.
  • Professor X and Magneto’s friendship falls apart, which leads to the beginning of the X-Men and the Brotherhood.
  • Both films feature a Nazi doctor as the villain.


Bryan Singer claims he never read Sheldon’s Turner X-Men: Origins: Magneto script. He denied ever using it as the basis of his script, but the Writers Guild of America arbitration ruled in Turner’s favor and credited him for the film’s story alongside Singer despite Turner never actually working on X-Men: First Class. Jamie Moss and Josh Schwartz’s collaborations ended up uncredited. This also wouldn’t be the only writing issue on X-Men: First Class, as Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz rewrote the script for X-Men: First Class, but the film director Matthew Vaughn and writer Jane Goldman reportedly rewrote much of the script (all four are credited on the film).

In April 2011, just two months before the opening of X-Men: First Class, Singer responded to the WGA’s ruling to give Turner a story by credit. He told The Hollywood Reporter “I know where my ideas came from and none of them came from that script. I never read it. The story I created came from myself and the [X-Men] comic books.”


Yet this does conflict with a prior statement from Singer. In a December 2009 interview with Heat Vision, Singer said regarding X-Men: First Class, “This story would probably utilize some of the Magneto stories because it deals with a young Magneto, so it might supersede that because this would explore that relationship between a young, energetic professor and a disenfranchised victim of the Holocaust.” While there is a chance that Singer might not have read Turner’s script, there is a chance that he was at least aware of the story by X-Men producer Lauren Shuler Donner, who was working on both movies, and those elements did end up in X-Men: First Class.

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Magneto’s Origin Does Make It to the Big Screen

Michael Fassbender was cast as Magneto in X-Men: First Class, which opened on June 3, 2011. The movie was a critical hit, winning over fans and critics who were left disappointed by X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Fassbender himself likely could have carried X-Men Origins: Magneto if the stars had aligned properly, but it just shifted into a different set of films.


Fassbender’s depiction of Magneto received a majority of the praise, and he would reprise his role in 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse, and 2019’s Dark Phoenix. Ian McKellen would return as Magneto in 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, and while the two Magnetos never got to share the screen together, they did get to do the press tour, and fans saw the two Magnetos together. X-Men Origins: Magneto joined a long list of canceled X-Men movies that also includes Channing Tatum’s Gambit, X-Force, New Mutants sequels, a Multiple Man movie with James Franco, and a crossover with The Fantastic Four.

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