In the highly anticipated film, LOGAN, from 20th Century Fox, Hugh Jackman reprises his iconic role as James ‘Logan’ Howlett, best known to movie fans worldwide as Wolverine. Directed by acclaimed and award-winning director James Mangold, this latest installment in the phenomenally popular X-Men series sees an aging and embittered Wolverine – whose healing abilities are beginning to weaken – and Charles Xavier, protect a young girl named Laura who is very similar to Logan, and is being hunted by sinister forces.
HUGH JACKMAN ON THE UNIQUE CHALLENGES AND FIERCE AMBITIONSOF HIS FINAL PERFORMANCE AS WOLVERINE
Australian-born actor Hugh Jackman first came to international prominence in 1998 when he played the lead role of Curly in the Royal National Theatre’s acclaimed stage production of Oklahoma! in London’s West End. The performance earned him an Olivier Award nomination for Best Actor in a Musical.
The following year he was cast as Wolverine in Bryan Singer’s X-Men and both the film, and Jackman’s performance were warmly received by movie fans and critics worldwide. He returned to the role in 2003’s X2: X-Men United, 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand, and the 2009 prequel X-Men Origins: Wolverine. He also cameoed as Wolverine in 2011’s X-Men: First Class. He returned for the role of Wolverine again in 2013’s The Wolverine, a stand-alone sequel taking place after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand, and in the 2014 sequel X-Men: Days of Future Past and the 2016 follow-up X-Men: Apocalypse.
Jackman has confirmed that the forthcoming Logan will be the final time he plays the role of Wolverine.
Among Jackman’s other screen work is the romantic comedy Kate & Leopold for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actor. The film was directed by Logan director James Mangold. Jackman was also nominated for a Golden Globe, and an Academy Award, for his role as Jean Valjean in Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables.
Some of the other acclaimed directors Jackman has worked with include Christopher Nolan (The Prestige), Woody Allen (Scoop), Darren Aranofsky (The Fountain), Baz Luhrmann (Australia), Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners) and Joe Wright (Pan).
Jackman’s stage work includes productions of Beauty And The Beast, Sunset Boulevard and Carousel as well as several solo shows. He has also hosted both the Academy Awards and the Tony Awards (four times), garnering four primetime Emmy nominations including one win.
Hugh Jackman recently sat down for the following interview:
Q: When you began talking about this project with James Mangold [Logan’s director and co-writer] what was the first thing you discussed?
A: Well, the first discussion was just, ‘Will you do another one?’ And he immediately said ‘Yes’, which I was thrilled about. Because of all Jim’s talents – and he might be one of the most successful directors in Hollywood, he’s tackled so many different genres so brilliantly – he’s really an amazing writer and developer of scripts. When we worked on the last Wolverine and on Kate and Leopold, the first movie I did with him, they were scripts that had been written that he directed. So I was really excited about the possibility of what would come if Jim had a clean slate, a blank canvas and that’s what we had. So that was the first conversation: Are you in? Will you do it? And, will you write it? And, as I say, he immediately said yes. I guess I’d left enough time from the last one! [Laughs]
Q: Did you already have an idea of what you wanted to do with this film?
A: I had a pretty clear vision. Actually, I had a very clear vision of what I wanted this film to be. I was with a friend and we were having a couple of drinks and he was like, ‘If you could do whatever you wanted with the character, what would it be?’ And I just started talking and talking… the next morning I was with Michele [Schweitzer], my partner in crime, and I began telling her and she suggested writing it down so I immediately recorded it, she still has it. One day I’ll let someone have it! Anyway – and this feels a little bit like I’m missing 29 chapters in the middle – but what I said in that recording and what we shot in New Mexico is pretty damn close.
Q: So you and Jim were on the same page pretty quickly?
A: I didn’t want to impose on Jim from the start too much because he’s a writer, director, an artist and I wanted to see where he was coming from. But we were definitely in the same ballpark. There were some differences, naturally, but we both wanted a movie that was a standalone film, that wasn’t necessarily intermingled with the history or the timeline of previous X-Men films. We wanted something that felt very different, very fresh and ultimately something very human because it seems to me that the strength of X-Men and the strength of Wolverine is more the humanity than his superpower. For me, exploring this character for the last time, it was important to get to the heart of who that human was. You know, more than what his claws can do.
Q: Is it an original story?
A: One of the first things I said to Jim was I had a vision of something closer to Unforgiven. Not necessarily the story but what Unforgiven did back in the day. There’s so much fan following and history to a western with Clint Eastwood in the lead but he kind of subverted that a little bit. It’s still a western. It’s still Clint. He still kicked ass at the end but it’s definitely turned it on its head so that was the starting point.
Q: So the Old Man Logan comic book series wasn’t the starting point?
A: Old Man Logan, having spoken to the writers, is absolutely inspired by Unforgiven so I’d like to see the connection more in that way. Obviously, I’ve read Old Man Logan but there’s more differences than similarities and that wasn’t what we were using as a template. I made a reference to Old Man Logan at Comic Con. I was half teasing but I was more talking about the fact that I’m getting old so it’s maybe time to move on. But people took it as verbatim that we were therefore doing the story of Old Man Logan. There are elements of that but the truth is I haven’t read the whole Old Man Logan comic in probably four years so I certainly wasn’t going back and saying, ‘Oh, what did they do here? We gotta do it this way…’ It really existed in a different plane.
Q: Is it important to you that the film has an R rating?
A: I have to say everyone from Jim, me, the studio, we were all in agreement that ‘We should make this R rated’. Even at the time when these discussions where happening I said, ‘This will not be a movie driven by a rating’. This will not be a movie where we go ‘Oh, it’s cool. It’s R rated. It’s not R rated because of the violence, even though there is some R-rated violence in it. That’s not what defines it as an R rated film. That R rating is more about the subject matter, the way the characters are treated as well as the way violence is depicted. I think this is far more realistic than anything we’ve done before in the X-Men franchise and maybe many other comic book movies, far more human. It seems to me that Wolverine may be one of the darkest, most complex characters in the comic book universe and every time for the last 17 years I’ve seen PG13, a little part of me has winced going, ‘Wolverine would never be in a PG13 movie’. All Jim and I were apprehensive about was just basically taking off the seatbelt, taking off any kind of restriction and just diving into this character.
Q: Where do we find Wolverine at the beginning of this story?
A: He’s very lost. He’s despondent. He’s older. There’s quite a few more grey hairs and he’s not well. He’s physically sick and I would say spiritually, emotionally, he’s not in a great place. He finds out that there is a very high levels of mercury in his body. Apparently from eating tins of tuna but I thought well, what happens when a guy walks around for 130 years filled with metal? Even though he has an immune system and can heal, at some point everyone on this planet starts to slow down. The body’s ability to fight gets less and less. And it’s the same for Wolverine. He’s sick. We don’t know how sick but he’s also very isolated. He feels alone and despondent. He really doesn’t have much to live for.
Q: What is his living situation?
A: The way it’s set up, just before our movie opens – maybe six months or a year before – there was some event involving Charles Xavier, played brilliantly by Patrick Stewart because he’s older too and one thing we explore with his character is what happens when the most powerful brain on the planet falls victim to dementia of some kind. We don’t get into specifics. Is it Alzheimer’s? Is it dementia? But we know that he’s now dangerous because when his brain doesn’t work things happen. He has these seizures and people around him fall into comas. Cars crash, things happen, so some event like that has happened and because he’s pretty much like a father figure to Wolverine in the movies, Wolverine takes him in.
Q: So they’re fugitives?
Yes. Wolverine hides Xavier down in Mexico, just off the border in this place where they’ve been hiding out for pretty much a year with Caliban who is played by Steven Merchant who is, again brilliant and hilariously funny. Caliban is there to help. He’s a tracker. He has the ability to find people and help spot when people are coming, so it’s the three of us. We are hiding out in this disused smelting plant by some offshore company on the border o the U.S. and Mexico and have been living there for quite a long time alone, potentially just living out the rest of our days, whoever sort of goes first, you know.
Q: Can you explain a bit more about Charles Xavier’s mental state?
Charles is not in a good place. His mind is going. He doesn’t remember things. He doesn’t understand why he’s there at times. At times he’s very cognizant and at other times he’s very confused. What I loved about what Jim wrote is that you see and truly feel the frustration of caring for someone like that. Particularly when you’re fugitives and you’re hiding out and that person has no understanding of the situation. Their relationship goes through a transformation as the way they relate to one another changes, where they stand off against one another – they have arguments and it’s very sort of real life in a way.