The Greatest Showman star had been in the running to play Bullock’s love interest, FBI agent Eric Matthews, in the 2000 comedy Miss Congeniality.
According to Jackman, he did not want to get cast in the project, but his agent wanted him to audition with the hope of gaining leverage in a separate casting negotiation.
“No one knew X-Men yet,” Jackman said, in an interview with Variety. “I was a nobody.”
The actor recalled thinking, as he was reading lines with Bullock in the audition: “Holy s***! She’s amazing! And so quick and fast. I’m not even vaguely up to speed here.”
“I was pedaling as fast as I could, but I didn’t know the script well enough,” he said.
“It was the first time I’d tested [with another actor],” the Wolverine star continued. “I was impressed that she was in there. I didn’t expect her to be in there. I’m guessing eight people she tested with.”
Benjamin Bratt was ultimately cast in the role, with Jackman missing out. Just months later, however, he got his mainstream breakthrough with the release of the superhero blockbuster X-Men.
Nonetheless, Jackman described the experience of being rejected for a role he didn’t even want as being humbling.
“That’s humiliating, when your agent says, ‘I don’t want you to get this job, but just go get it.’ And then you don’t get it,” he recalled.