Interviews

Way Of The Wolverine

Writer: Chin Vin Sen

Interview conducted on 8 April 2009 on Cockatoo Island in Sydney, Australia.

That was a spectacular entrance this morning. How much of the idea of coming in by helicopter and swinging down on the flying-fox came from you?
None (laughs). Someone just brought up the idea and I thought it could be fun... a little theatrical... I believe in a bit of an entrance occasionally. 

Talking about theatrics, you're a superhero on screen - are you also a hero to your wife and kids?
I think I'm just a dad and a husband, but I do my best. I'd like to think I'm super at it but no. My son sometimes calls me Mr. Annoying, because I'm the one who always goes "no, you can't do that Oscar", so no, I don't think he'll be calling me a superhero.

Have your children and wife suddenly become interested in Marvel comics or X-Men?
My son is getting into comics, he's really into Tintin and Asterix, and he's got some of the X-Men comics but I can see he doesn't want to relate with me about X-Men. He'll talk to his friends about it but with me he doesn't. It's almost like he knows that's part of my life that is very public, and it's almost like he just wants to keep our relationship very private. To him, I'm not Wolverine. He just kind of ignores it. My daughter however sees the posters but I wouldn't let her watch the movie. She sees the posters and says "Daddy, you look very, very angry". If she saw the film, she'd probably be worried for me! Oscar's seen a little bit of the first X-Men movie on TV. It came on TV when I was there and I knew the scenes that were coming so I turned it off. I thought it was inappropriate for him and that's about it. It's a weird thing. To watch your dad slicing and dicing, killing, and then having me say, "please don't hit your sister"... (laughs) you know what I mean.

How has Wolverine changed your life?
Many ways. I've played it for 10 years so it's been an important part of my life, and I'm very thrilled. I love the character. It's the first thing I did in America and it's such a success. Wolverine kind of reminds me of the characters I've loved growing up, Mad Max, Dirty Harry, Han Solo... the reluctant hero, and he was the first kind of anti-hero that was out there, so he's pretty bad, and there's something we love about that. Somehow that transfers well into film because there's a lot of mystery to him. Don't know about you but when I see him, I think "Hey, this guy is kind of cool". There's something about him that I think a lot of guys would like to be like.


So, have you got spaghetti meatball in Asia, guys?

What sort of research went into the story?
Wolverine for many years had an unknown past - unknown to him, unknown to everybody else - then they commissioned different writers to do the different versions of his origins. So at that point, Marvel left it open to interpretation. David Benioff, the writer who came through with the first script, who also did "The 25th Hour", "Troy", "The Kite Runner", and is a very highly regarded A-list writer, and also happens to be the biggest comic book fan in the world. To have someone who not only can write and understands characters, but to have someone who already knows these things, knows what the fans want, knows how to cleverly use what is there, takes it to the next level.

Tell us a bit about the emotions and feelings in Wolverine's life that you wanted to show in this film.
In "X-men Origins: Wolverine", Wolverine is a fairly closed-off tough character who keeps his feelings inside. There's been a lot of pain and trauma in his life. There's the first time those bone claws come out and there's his father who he didn't think was his father. It's pretty traumatic. From there, there's a love story that is quite tragic as well, so he's someone who's known pain from the beginning. He's a warrior, he's fought his whole life, that's all he's known. There's a certain point in his life where he's had enough of it, and tries to get away, and like all good stories, it just keeps pulling him back in. But really, this story is about a man who is fighting with who he is. Is he an animal or is he human? That's the thing all of us can connect to, maybe not all to the extent of Wolverine but that's what Gavin Hood loved about it.

How much harder it was after 10 years since the first X-Men movie. Was it more difficult?
It was harder. I find it hard to take on a role unless I can visualise it. In my head I always see me in the character and always have this image of this character a bit like Robert Deniro in "Cape Fear". I didn't want him to just look pretty, muscle-y, bodybuilder-y... I wanted him to look a little freaky and for people to be uncomfortable with him. I wanted him to be animalistic and in all the X-Men movies, I never felt I got what I wanted. So I spent a lot more time this time, probably about a year preparing for it, and it definitely was harder particularly getting up at 4am every morning, eating egg whites!

So, tell us about workout routines. How hard did you have to work to get ready?
Training's about an hour and a half every day but it was the eating that was the killer. I worked out with a professional body builder. He made me get up at 4am everyday to eat, and then go back to bed, but he says don't worry you're going to love that meal, because you get your egg whites and a dry piece of brown toast. I said "which is the bit I'm going to love", and he says "the toast", which is the only carbohydrate I'll be eating the whole day.

What's your typical diet during the shoot?
For breakfast, egg whites and toast, then a protein shake and vegetables. Steamed chicken, steamed vegetables, and a little bit of brown rice in the morning, and I had that for about a year... so I've been having quite a bit of pizzas since then (laughs)... it's sooo good, seriously. Next time, I just might get a full time body double (laughs).

The many faces of Hugh Jackman

What did you crave for the most during that period?
Spaghetti Bolognese, with Parmesan cheese. Or Spaghetti meatballs.

What is your favourite action scene?
It's one we didn't show you today. It's a scene between me and Liev Schreiber who plays Victor Creed my brother - it's very visceral and kind of uncomfortable to watch, and that's one of the things I wanted for the film. Even though they've got special powers, they feel like how anybody feels, so when they get punched by someone stronger, they'll feel it just like how you and I would. They may be able to heal, like Wolverine, but he feels it, and I think you'll get that. I also love the Ryan Reynolds bit that he did, the action with the swords. Most people who look at that will think it's all CGI but it absolutely wasn't. He had some really near misses the poor guy, on his old fella (laughs). He worked like a dog - Christmas day, New Year's - he was there working. I'm really proud of what he did.

Did you enjoy the scenes you did nude?
Enjoy it? I should be careful to say if I enjoyed it (laughs) ... maybe a bit embarrassing. It actually comes from the comic books... the very famous comic book called 'Weapon X' which is a big part of this story, of how Wolverine came to be what he is, and how he volunteered to have the adamantium skeleton put on him. The imagery from that is that he's naked... and that's very important imagery. There are shots of him running out into the woods, and one of the main things is the conflict of man and animal in him. To see this naked, animalistic human running through the woods, jumping around, visually really supports it all. Also, if you're being operated on, it makes sense you don't have clothes on. I was captivated by the visuals in that comic book.

What was the hardest part producing and acting, and how nervous were you as a producer on how audiences will respond to it?
I can't say I'm any more nervous on this as compared to any other movie. I find I get completely involved. Obviously I have more responsibilities and there's more on the line. I know I'm credited as producer but regardless of what's written up there, I always feel the same - very attached to it... being at least two years of my life, I've been very involved with it and I love the character.

Could you comment on the online leak that's been making headlines?
95% of websites refused to get into it... it's very unfair and if you know anything about the business, it's like taking a picture of a bride before she has her hair done or make-up on. I personally find movies a little difficult to watch until they're finished, particularly these. The movie was very unfinished. I'm totally fine with people's opinions, whether they like it or not, I'll take it on the chin, and I think it's only fair for everybody to ask that they see the movie when it's finished, and everyone can then make their comments.

What do you think is the most awesome compliment you ever got as the actor who plays Wolverine?
Having gone to Comic-Con and having met a fan in New York with a full-colour tattoo of Wolverine on his back. He made it through to the restaurant just to take his shirt off and show me. The passion is just way beyond what many of us can imagine. I always feel the connection to them because for their whole lives many of them have been collecting the magazines. They feel passionate about it... they have the movie version in their head and the comic book version in their head but they don't really have much of a say in it, so I always listen to them. They're very vocal, very upfront to me, about what they want, and while they loved all three previous "X-Men" movies, many of them said to me "I wanna see the berserker rage" or "I wanna see Wolverine be a little more bad-ass" and I'll always remember that. When we were developing this film, I said the word 'bad-ass' 'cause it seems like such a great short description. Hopefully that's what the film delivers. One of the reasons I wanted to be there as a producer is that I wanted to protect and deliver Wolverine as the character the fans wanted.

Between the two images of you, being the sexiest man, and the half-human-half-animal, do you feel they contrast or complement your overall character?
For me, when I see Wolverine, I think the character is quite sexy. What is sexy? Someone who has confidence in what they are, who doesn't listen to anyone else, always going his own path... and he's tough, can hold his own, and you'll want him on your side, not as your enemy. These things make him sexy.

If you are Wolverine, what would you do with his claws?
I'd learn how to be a sushi chef. It's got to be handy 'cause I love sashimi. It must be very convenient you know... six blades, cut all at one once.

Which X-Men movie did you find most challenging?
The very first was very challenging for me, because it was my first film in Hollywood and I was a bit over-awed by it in the beginning. I was fairly new, and I've only done two films up to that point. For this one, as a producer obviously I was more involved, being there for every scene in the movie.

In superhero tradition, when you play a character, you can no longer play another. Who do you think you'll never be able to play?
Why do I want to play others? I'm playing the coolest character! (laughs) Come on, Wolverine is one of the coolest characters. I know I'm biased but I think he is. He gets the girls, the action... it's superhero stuff.

Would you be bothered being particularly remembered as Wolverine?
No, I'm proud of the movie, the character, I'm very happy to be.

Which actor do you think is a good replacement for you as Wolverine?
Hmmm, very good question.... I don't know.


... and this is the machine where I got nuded up to do the adamantium thing...

Other than Wolverine's, what superpower would you personally like to have?
I'd love to be able to teleport. Teleporting would be great!

Is there something that Hugh Jackman cannot do?
My wife says the only thing handy about me is that I live close by. I could probably manage the odd light bulb but anything else... (laughs)

So, what's next for you?
I'm a bit of an open book, not sure what's next yet. There have been many things coming in, especially after the Oscars, but I haven't signed on for anything yet.

Will there be a Wolverine sequel or will there be a "Storm Origins" or "Rogue Origins"?
We'll probably know around May if there's ever going to be another "Wolverine" but for the other characters, there are things being planned and I'm not involved - but I know that they do have ideas to use other characters in other films. That's the good thing about the X-Men characters; they are really good screen characters, that's why the series has been so successful.

Thank you, Hugh.
Sure, no problem.

Cinema Online, 16 April 2009


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