When it comes to ‘The Wolverine’, X-Men movie fans first question is where does this take place in the cinematic timeline, especially since most of us like to pretend ‘X-men Origins: Wolverine’ didn’t happen. During an on-set interview in Sydney last summer Hugh Jackman participated in a group interview where he explained changes to the storyline from the original Chris Claremont and Frank Miller Wolverine story in the comics. When asked about changes to the story Jackman says, “There’s definitely a lot of similarities. More similarities than differences. The fans will definitely be excited by it.”
During the interview, Jackman also shared the challenges it took to get this all new installment into the Wolverine saga to the sliver screen.
Question: This is a project that has gone through a little bit of development hell. You had multiple directors, a lot of people working on the script.
HUGH JACKMAN: Does two make multiple?
Yes. What’s it like for you finally being on set filming this thing?
JACKMAN: Fantastic. It’s weird. Maybe on paper it would look like as you described it, but in reality, apart from the long gestation, it has felt in a way the most secure because the Chris McQuarrie script that was first delivered was so fantastic, which was why Darren Aronofsky came on board. For some reasons, he couldn’t continue, and then obviously there were delays, there were some delays in my schedule, there were delays here and there. There was never a doubt that the movie was going to be made, so I never had that worry. Fox was committed to it. For me the whole thing was worth the wait. I waited in a way 12 years for this chapter in this saga, for this samurai story, from the very first week I had on X-Men 1. I was reading this comic and Lauren Shuler Donner and I were saying, one day hopefully we get to do this story. So I think maybe in the past we’ve had times where we’ve had late changes in director or whatever, but we’ve been backed into a release date, so we’ve had to push. It was nice to know that we started with something really solid.
When asked about bringing the real Wolverine to fans this go around, Jackman had this to say:
JACKMAN: In the X-Men movies, the movie’s called X-Men, so there are many characters and many character arcs, and actually the real difficulty with that is serving up as many different story lines in one and keeping the overall world of mutants and the world of X-Men in play. So, very difficult task. Bryan Singer did a brilliant job. We were also setting a tone that didn’t exist back then. There was no Chris Nolan. The idea that you could have a movie where you cared about the characters didn’t exist. So give him a lot of credit for what he created there. I think for whatever reason, there were a number of things working against us at the time in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. We all put our heart and soul into it, I just honestly when I watched it I went, I still don’t feel like we’ve really delivered who my vision of who this character is. I think we’ve got another shot at it.
Talking about who he is, on one level, the claws are very literal, but on another they express an idea. What are they? What’s the metaphor?
JACKMAN: There’s a number of things in play here. One of them is the human-animal tussle that’s going on in him. Which, on a far smaller scale, we all have, even on a day-to-day basis. It’s the chaos-control theory. The claws are an embodiment of the animalistic side. They come out generally with rage, that internal rage. Wolverine’s a character who’s at war with himself, as much as anything. In a way you could say his greatest enemy is himself. In this movie, you definitely see him at his lowest point. He’s without purpose. He’s without a reason in the beginning. Through the samurai story and through being in this foreign land, he’s fired to embrace who he is — or not. I don’t want to give that away. But you’re right, Wolverine hasn’t got the most spectacular of all the X-Men. He can’t fly, he can’t jump, he can’t shoot laser beams. He’s got a healing ability, which is fantastic, and he has these claws. I think his greatest weapon is who he is inside regardless of… If you took away all their powers, I’m pretty sure of all the X-Men, Wolverine is the one you don’t want to piss off. He’s the one you want on your side and definitely not against you because he won’t stop until he’s dead — or you’re dead.
Jackman was then asked about his reputation as a Hollywood nice guy and where he finds the motivation to play such a dark and conflicted character as the Wolverine:
JACKMAN: I’m an actor, man. Never trust an actor, whatever their energy is. I suppose you guys see that side of me, but I’m sure there’s plenty of people close to me who’ve seen the other one. I think if we’re all honest with ourselves, we all know that internal rage. I think one of the things I always loved about the comics was this idea that this character, when he goes berserk, that white, blind rage makes him incredibly powerful, but it’s also a great flaw. It’s almost like he loses consciousness of what he’s doing. During that he can do great damage. I can remember that vividly at times. Usually, luckily for me, that took place on a rugby field, where it’s somehow sanctioned, all this violence. On some level, it has to exist. On many levels, you have to imagine it. That’s why I got in this business. There’s many, many things that could get me to that kind of rage.
Wolverine is actually quite funny. Is this irreverent side going to be a part of this film?
JACKMAN: Yeah, I would say the film’s got a generally darker overtone to it. Also, as I said, you see him at a much lower eb. Jim and I were very adamant that any one-liners overcome the expense of what is really going for him in a realistic sense, usually that’s what happens a lot. The ones who are more deeply, internally in pain, can on the surface be more sardonic, can quip and make one-liners. The trick is really getting that line right, where all of a sudden it doesn’t become just hammy. So we constantly ad lib. I find myself ad-libbing a lot and probably 90% of them end up on the cutting room floor. I remember X-Men 1 most of the funny lines were ad-libbed. Sometimes they work.
The Wolverine script and story has been in development for almost 2 years and Jackman was asked about refinement, what’s changed from the original vision, how it differs from Claremont’s story and how happy he is ‘The Wolverine’ is being looked at as a stand alone film and not as a ‘Wolverine 2’ (after the debacle that was ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’):
JACKMAN: I don’t know if all you guys know the original comic book series. It’s not just one. There are reasons we’ve had to change it, which I don’t want to give away. There’s definitely a lot of similarities. More similarities than differences. But for the purpose of story in the film and not a more rambling arc that goes on, it has been changed. The fans will definitely be excited by it. They will definitely see more similarities than not. In terms of refining the script, I think one of the keys to me in signing on to this movie was that we had a very strong idea and we had a strong approach to the story. That we really went from something new and different, and the moment the studio agreed to call it The Wolverine, I was just thrilled, rather than saying Wolverine 2. This is a standalone movie. This is set in a different time. It’s fairly after X-Men Origins, we’re in a different location with Jim Mangold, who’s a terrific director, we have a visual style that is different from all the other X-Men movies. I think it’s going to feel very fresh. What Chris McQuarrie did with it, which I don’t know if many of you know, was also involved with X-Men 1, not credited in the end, he had very strong ideas and a lot of that is there. Things were refined, but that’s because of time. It’s so hard. I want to give you more details. I’m sure you’d let me give you more details, but I see five people hovering, pretending it’s lunch, but it’s not really. [Laughs].
You can read the full interview over at Collider and if you’re excited to see this latest installment to the X-Men franchise, ‘The Wolverine’ opens July 26th.