James Marsden recalled being impressed by the ensemble cast of X-Men, which included classically trained actors like Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan as well as dazzling movie stars like Halle Berry and Anna Paquin. The conceit of the “X-Men” movies is that certain citizens are born with random mutant superpowers that manifest when they hit puberty. Mutants, however, are shunned from society and suffer prejudice every day from the world’s non-superpowered people. A kind, mutant psychic named Professor X feels that humans and mutants can live together as equals, while a wicked magnetic mutant named Magneto would rather kill all the humans.
Cyclops and Wolverine were part of Professor X’s retinue and were inducted into a superhero team that fought Magneto’s “bad guys.” That required a superhero uniform. A superhero uniform that Marsden hated. He recalled the first time he and his co-star Hugh Jackman slipped into the black leather outfits:
“Hugh and I, we put our suits on for the very first time and they were these one-piece, leather suits that had no side-to-side movement at the waist because it was all just one piece, and we had to vault over this wall and none of us could get over the wall because our suits were so stiff. Add to that, that I couldn’t see out of these glasses or the visor that I was wearing. I’ve never felt less like a superhero. I think, at some point, we all were scared that we might lose our jobs on the first one.”
There were eventually 10 or 13 sequels to “X-Men” (if you count the “Deadpool” movies) with Marsden appearing in two of them. He didn’t lose his job. At the time, however, nothing felt like a sure thing.