“I’d made a mistake”: ‘She’s All That’ Star Rachael Leigh Cook on the ‘X-Men’ Role She Turned Down

Netflix / 20th Century Fox

It’s interesting to find out which screen stars turned down what roles in the past. It’s also interesting to hear what they think about that choice now.

In the late ’90s and early ’00s, Rachael Leigh Cook was a young star seemingly on the up and up. In just a small window of a few years, Cook had major roles in a number of mainstream studio flicks, such as Antitrust, Get Carter, Josie and the Pussycats, and, of course, teen rom-com She’s All That. The critics didn’t quite warm to those movies, but they were nevertheless known enough to make her a name during that period. While Cook has had a more or less steady flow of work over the years, that sizeable limelight has arguably lessened. But, what if she had starred in the X-Men franchise? Of course, it’s easy to speculate.

As it turns out, Cook turned down the role of Rogue in the 2000 Bryan Singer-directed Marvel comic book adaptation, X-Men. The film was quite the hit, topping $US296 million worldwide, and is commonly among the titles brought up when looking at what comic book movies paved the way for the overall presence they hold in pop culture today.

As to why she turned down X-Men, Cook explained to The New York Times that the reason was associated with Josie and the Pussycats bombing at the box office. While that Archie Comics-inspired musical comedy has gathered an appreciation and cult following over the years, it was a disaster when it was released, making just $US14 million worldwide from a budget of around $US39 million.

Going off advice from others, Cook thought it may be best to get into the more serious indie circuit instead of big studio fare. “I really thought what everyone told me was correct when they said, ‘What we need to do now is make sure you’re taken seriously,’” Cook said. “I definitely did things for the wrong reasons.”

So, when the offer for X-Men came along, Cook opted to work on a number of smaller films instead and avoid green screen work altogether. The part ended up going to Oscar winner Anna Paquin, who had coincidentally worked opposite Cook in She’s All That. Paquin would go on to play Rogue in another three films in the X-Men franchise.

“As soon as I saw the posters for it, I knew that I’d made a mistake,” Cook said, describing the decision to pass on the role as a “huge misstep.”

Interestingly, the part of Rogue isn’t the only X-Men character that was close to going to someone else. Singer wanted Russell Crowe to take the part of Wolverine, but he turned it down. It then went to actor Dougray Scott, who was unable to take the role due to scheduling issues with Mission: Impossible II, where he played the villain. Finally, with the help of Crowe’s suggestion, a rising star named Hugh Jackman came in to audition.

Cook can be seen in Netflix’s gender-flipped She’s All That redo, He’s All That.

20th Century Fox

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About Guillermo Troncoso

Guillermo is the Manager and Chief Editor of Screen Realm. He has years of experience in the media space - from network television to radio. When not at a local Sydney cinema, you can bet he's working hard on Screen Realm and attempting to catch up on a never-ending list of movies and shows.

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