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David Hayter boasts a screenwriting origin story worthy of a superhero.

In the late ’90s, he was making ends meet as a struggling actor by answering phones for friend Bryan Singer, who was deep in pre-production on Fox’s X-Men movie. But Hayter was not just any other artist struggling to make it in Hollywood — he also happened to be a die-hard X-Men fan, and as pre-production ramped up, Singer leaned on him more and more for his comic book expertise and story ideas. A few short months later, he found himself on the film’s Toronto set as its sole screenwriter.

The film would go on to become a hit. It’s credited with launching the modern age of superhero movies as well as making Hugh Jackman a star. With Jackman’s 17-year tenure as the character coming to an end with Logan, Hayter spoke with Heat Vision about the actor’s unlikely casting (which involved Tom Cruise and a secret mission to Australia), his lost pitch for 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand, and all those stars (Michael Jackson! Shaq!) who wanted to join the X-Men universe.

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