Patrick Stewart recalls his “X-Men” experience well, as he was walking out of his work on “Conspiracy Theory” when an aide handed him an envelope with producer Lauren Donner’s name on it. He was to visit her in her office for a tantalizing new offer. Donner, it seems, had a portrait of Professor X, drawn to look like Stewart, mocked up in her office. Stewart asked Donner what it was, and she announced proudly — seemingly trying to get Stewart excited — that it was Stewart in six months, as he would be playing the powerful psychic mutant, Charles Xavier. Stewart’s reaction was unexpected, as he said “Who on earth is that, Lauren?”
She explained that he was the leader of the X-Men. Stewart was still lost. He wrote:
“This conversation made about as much sense to me as the one I’d had with Steve Dontanville all those years ago in which he asked me why Gene Roddenberry wanted to meet me. Charles Xavier? The X-Men? I hadn’t a bloody clue what was going on.
Eventually, it all came out:
“Lauren patiently explained that ‘X-Men’ was to be a big-budget film based on a Marvel Comics superhero team. Charles Xavier was the creation of comic book legends Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. He is a telepath and paraplegic who exists in a world where mutants represent the next phase in human evolution, but face discrimination and bigotry because of their superhuman powers. He oversees an academy called the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters and a strike force of do-gooder fellow mutants called the X-Men. He is the guy who puts the X in X-Men.”
Any young comic book fan likely recognizes this scenario of having to explain superheroes to their parents.