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X-Men producer Lauren Shuler Donner campaigned for an 'X-Women' movie that never happened

By Matthew Jackson
Kitty Pryde and Illyana Rasputin

This year, Twentieth Century Fox's entertainment assets will be absorbed by the Walt Disney Company, creating a seismic shift in Hollywood's studio system and the media landscape as a whole. Among the many, many things that will be affected is Fox's long-running X-Men film franchise, which currently sits at 11 films with two more still to be released. If producer Lauren Shuler Donner had gotten her way, though, another film would've been part of that massive string of blockbusters.

Donner has been a producer on the X-Men films since the very first one back in 2000, the same film where now-president of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige got his start in superhero cinema. Now, Donner is handing her X-Men over to Feige for what she imagines will be some form of fresh start, but her own time with the Marvel Comics mutants is packed with accomplishments.

She oversaw the successful launch of the franchise, the launch of hit-and-miss spinoffs centered on Wolverine, the long-awaited arrival of Deadpool (which became a megahit for the franchise) and a changing of the guard to a group of younger X-Men that began with First Class in 2011 and will perhaps conclude with Dark Phoenix later this year. 

At one time, though, Donner wanted something else for the franchise that the studio never gave her: A female-led X-movie.

“I frankly wanted to see an X-Women movie,” Donner told Decider at the Television Critics Association’s 2019 winter tour. “I didn’t get it through. But I think that would be cool. I think — not to have no guys in it, you have to have guys in it — but to make instead of Charles and Magneto at the helm it’ll be whomever. Kitty Pryde and Illyana [Rasputin]. Something like that.”

So, why didn't Donner get to make that film? Predictably, the idea came at a time when studios were still skeptical about women leading superhero films, and was subsequently shot down.

“Years ago the thought at the studio was ‘You can’t have a female superhero,'” she said. “‘What about Tomb Raider?’ ‘Well that was different, that was Angelina Jolie.’ That’s what you’d get every single time.

“It’s time [for female superhero movies] now, absolutely,” Donner added.

Indeed it is time for female superhero movies, as Wonder Woman and the buzz surrounding the upcoming Captain Marvel film shows. Plus, there is renewed interest in a Kitty Pryde-led X-Men film thanks to Brian Michael Bendis' rather secretive X-movie project "143," which is rumored to be centered on Kitty. Bendis confirmed earlier this month that he's still working on the film, which means there's a chance it could still arrive in the Disney era in some form. Beyond that, Marvel Studios is clearly interested in bringing its female superheroes to the forefront, so their era with the X-Men could include something very similar to what Donner imagined all those years ago.