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The X-Men 2 Stunt That Almost Made The Cast Quit

Director Bryan Singer's X-Men and X2: X-Men United helped to create the superhero genre as we know it, but the latter film almost crashed and burned due to one botched stunt.

A recent retrospective by The Hollywood Reporter on the first two films in the Fox-produced X-Men series shone a harsh light on the director's on-set practices, which allegedly ranged from annoyingly inconsistent to downright dangerous.

According to THR, it was during the production of 2000's X-Men that Singer cemented his reputation for often being absent from the set, and for keeping a revolving group of buddies close by when he did show up. The director also engaged in several other questionable practices during the film's production, like flying a handsome young extra up to the film's Toronto set to play a dialogue-free bit part and engaging a young production assistant named David Hayter — whose job when production began was to answer phones — to rewrite the script by Ed Solomon (Bill and Ted's  Excellent Adventure) and Christopher McQuarrie (who wrote Singer's breakthrough film The Usual Suspects).

A young executive by the name of Kevin Feige (who at the time was employed by X-Men producer Lauren Shuler Donner) was even sent in to help keep Singer's partying in line, all of which might have been slightly more problematic had X-Men not finished production on time and gone on to become a major critical and commercial hit. When it came time to crank up the sequel machine, Fox (now the Disney-owned 20th Century Studios) didn't bat an eye at hiring Singer back on for another go-'round, which proved to be a choice that almost brought the entire nascent franchise crashing down.

The X2 cast confronted Bryan Singer after Hugh Jackman was injured on set

THR reports that during the production of X-Men, Singer had publicly acknowledged that he was taking pain medication for a bad back. During the production of X2: X-Men United, however, it's alleged that there were harder, unspecified, illegal narcotics going around, and that it wasn't just Singer, but other unidentified crew members partaking. Singer got it into his head to shoot a scene — one that takes place near the end of the film aboard the X-Jet — that wasn't supposed to be shot until the next day. Producer Tom DeSanto, who was present on set, aired his concerns, but Singer insisted.

Every main cast member except Magneto actor Ian McKellen was present in the shot, and star Hugh Jackman — who, of course, portrayed Wolverine — was asked to perform a stunt despite the fact that no stunt coordinator was on set that day. Predictably, the stunt went wrong, Jackman was left bleeding on camera, and the cast was incensed. They all felt that DeSanto had simply been keeping their best interests in mind, and the following day, when Fox execs told the producer to return to L.A, an incredible scene took place.

The entire cast, except for McKellen and Mystique actor Rebecca Romijn — that is to say, all of the X-Men — confronted Singer, in costume, to demand that he shape up and that DeSanto remain on the set. The director eventually conceded, but if he hadn't, he may have found himself without a cast in very short order.

Questions about Singer's professionalism have dogged him for his entire career, although it's worth mentioning that after stepping away for a decade, he returned to the X-Men franchise to direct 2014's X-Men: Days of Future Past and 2016's X-Men: ApocalypseShuler Donner, who would go on to serve as a producer on every last X-Men film, wrapped up the retrospective by offering a rather backhanded defense of Singer.

"He was very nervous and he would act out when he was insecure, as many people do," she explained. "But his way of acting out would be to yell and scream at everybody on the set. Or walk off the set or shut down production. You have to understand, the guy was brilliant, and that was why we all tolerated him and cajoled him. And if he wasn't so f****d up, he would be a really great director."