Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class gave cinematic audiences an idea of what the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters might have been like in the 1960s. It’s a really fun movie to be sure, but what if comic book movies had been a thing back in the actual 1960s, when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby first came up with the idea for the X-Men. Let’s say they made a movie in 1967, four years after they premiered and right after Lee and Kirby stepped down? Who would they have gotten to play the various good and evil mutants?
Also, I’m going way authentic here, meaning if a character hadn’t been introduced into the comics by 1967, they ain’t going to be included in the movie. That includes Wolverine, Banshee, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Storm, Havoc, and Polaris, all of whom were introduced in 1969 or later. So, we’re going as old school as can be. Let’s hit it!
The movie, first of all, would be directed by Terence Young, the suave British director who made three of the first four James Bond movies, Dr. No (1962), From Russia with Love (1963), and Thunderball (1965). He could have made X-Men right before Wait Until Dark which came out in 1967 as well. He’d bring the proper amount of classiness and action know-how to the proceedings, and if he brought along Bond production designer Ken Adam to give it that extra air of grandeur, all the better.
For the team, Young would need a cast that could play the parts without too much aid from props or effects. There wouldn’t be a whole lot of movie magic available at the time, so the characters need to believably come across from just the actors. The bulk of the team would need to be younger yet still strong and confident and Beast and Professor X would need the right amount of erudition and caring. How’s THIS for the X-Men of the 1960s?
Professor Charles Xavier played by Yul Brynner
Might seem an uninspired choice seeing how famously bald he is, but not only does he look the part, he’s got the intelligence, warmth, sternness, and regal air that the character needs. He’s also no stranger to being the leader, as he skillfully commanded The Magnificent Seven in 1960. Can’t you just see him putting his hand to his temple and seeing into somebody’s mind?
Cyclops a/k/a Scott Summers played by George Peppard
Peppard is the kind of handsome leading man needed to play the character who would likely be the focal point of the movie, but also has the ability to lead away missions and ground assaults, as he would later do on The A-Team. He also looks damn cool in shades, which he’d have to get used to for the part. Peppard’s Cyclops may actually be a version of the character who isn’t a complete wuss.
Marvel Girl a/k/a Jean Grey played by Ann-Margret
This might actually have been a part the Swedish-American starlet would have longed to play. She rarely got the chance to show any kind of depth in movies in the ’60s, almost always relegated to sexpot roles where she wore sweaters with no pants. But, she has the vulnerability and the strength “Marvel Girl” would need. (Man, they couldn’t call her “Phoenix” fast enough, if you ask me.)
Beast a/k/a Dr. Hank McCoy played by Clint Walker
Originally, Beast had no fur or outwardly animalistic features aside from being a big guy who walked like an ape and could. As such, there’s no better choice to play the gentle and clever yet mighty and formidable Dr. Hank McCoy than the statuesque 6’6″ Clint Walker. Also, very little special effects would be needed for him, as he probably could have broken through a wall or tore a tree out by the roots himself. And if you’ve seen The Dirty Dozen, you know he can grow a mean beard.
Angel a/k/a Warren Worthington III played by Robert Redford
Warren Worthington III was the son of a very wealthy businessman, and was himself quite the dapper New York playboy. Redford’s all-American good looks and snappy dress sense make him the ideal choice to play such a character, plus his quiet contemplation is perfect to mask his distress at being a man with giant, feathery wings.
Iceman a/k/a Bobby Drake played by Frankie Avalon
Something for the teeny boppers. Iceman always had a sense of fun and essentially surfed his way through skirmishes using his ice powers, so why not turn to a fun-loving partier who was always in surf movies? Avalon could bring some levity to the proceedings.
Brotherhood of Mutants
The baddies would need to have the same attributes as their heroic counterparts; however, they’d have to be a little bit bigger or more caricatured to begin with, as is the fate of most bad guys anyway. You’ll probably notice right away that all but one of these actors are British. Yes, I know, but it seems that, in the 1960s as it is now, the Brits were the better baddies.
Magneto a/k/a Eric Lehnsherr played by Christopher Lee
Just look at Lee in any of the many Hammer Dracula movies he did and you know how awesome and menacing he looked in a cape. However, he brings a kind of steadiness to his villainous roles that make him all the more dangerous. Plus, he’s a great enough actor to hold his own opposite Yul Brynner and the former friendship between the two, as well as Magneto’s learned hatred of humanity, would make those two-hander scenes easily the most compelling in the film.
Quicksilver a/k/a Pietro Maximoff played by David McCallum
In the mid-’60s, McCallum, now known for playing medical examiner Ducky on N.C.I.S., played the dangerous Eastern-European agent Illya Kuryakin on the action spy-thriller The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and often stole the show from star Robert Vaughn. He could be quiet and deadly but also chime in with a pointed barb. Quicksilver’s twin sister is Scarlet Witch, so the actor would also have to perform well with a female costar, which he did in the later sci-fi series Sapphire & Steel.
Scarlet Witch a/k/a Wanda Maximoff played by Diana Rigg
Rigg, like McCallum, portrayed a secret agent on TV in the mid-’60s, and as Emma Peel on The Avengers (nothing to do with Marvel), she broke hearts as well as bones. She also, as we saw in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, has the ability to play real emotion and tenderness, which would make the conflicted Wanda much more complex. Both sexy and dangerous, which is what you want from the bad gal.
Mastermind a/k/a Jason Wyngarde played by Peter Wyngarde
Now, you might ask yourself, who is Peter Wyngarde? He’s certainly not a household name in the United States, but if you do any cursory digging about the character of Mastermind, the illusion-creating member of Magneto’s Brotherhood, you’ll find that his look and surname were based on the British actor. Suave, sinister, slightly effete, and a bit camp. This would be the Sam-Jackson-as-Nick-Fury of its day.
Toad a/k/a Mortimer Toynbee played by Michael J. Pollard
You want somebody short, weird, kind of annoying, and a lot squirrelly, and it’s the mid-1960s, then you want counterculture figure Michael J. Pollard, who appeared in 1967’s Bonnie & Clyde, among many other things. Toad is the most physically strange and kicked-about member of the Brotherhood, and Pollard could easily have done that. Plus, I bet he wouldn’t have a problem with the renaissance jester outfit the character wore. He probably wouldn’t even notice.
Juggernaut a/k/a Cain Marko played by Oliver Reed
Not a member of the Brotherhood, Juggernaut is the step-brother of Charles Xavier, and if any actor could portray a resentful and angry sibling, it would be English actor Oliver Reed. Reed was known for getting into bar fights like it was his job, and his on-screen intensity plus stocky frame would be perfect for a bad guy who was all action and little forethought.
This is my cast for The X-Men in 1967. What would yours be? Leave us a note in the comments below, and enjoy Marvel Week here on Nerdist.com!