Ready for "X-Men Origins: Wolverine?" Well, before you head out to your favorite theater today, we here at Marvel.com wanted to get you close enough to the film to feel the berserker rage! Our "'X-Men Origins: Wolverine' Up Close" series of articles lets you hear from the film's top stars—today it's Wolverine himself, Hugh Jackman! Don't miss our "Up Close" interviews with Gambit/Taylor Kitsch and Sabretooth/Liev Shreiber! Enjoy!
By John Cerilli
He acts. He sings. He dances. He hosts the Oscars. And, as all Marvel fans know, Hugh Jackman's also the best he is at what he does, and what he does is personify Wolverine.
With today's opening of "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," Jackman displays his prowess at portraying Marvel's mysterious mutant for the fourth time in nearly a decade of X-Men films.
What's it like getting into that berserker rage all over again? From taking tips gleaned from early Mike Tyson fights to performing ferocious fight scenes with Liev Schreiber, Jackman's jacked up for the role like never before.
Marvel.com: Anyone who's seen you in "Australia" and the "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" trailers knows you're just ripped as all heck—
[Laughs] Not quite as ripped now.
Marvel.com: What was a typical training session like for you?
Typical training session would start with a little warm-up, I'd run to the gym. It's about 10 or 12 minutes just to get warmed up. Then I'd hit pretty heavy, intense weights for about 50 minutes, and then I would do 20 minutes of some kind of cardio—but pretty hard as well. It sort of had two phases, I was building up, where I kind of put on muscle and a bit of fat and then stripping back.
Marvel.com: "Entertainment Weekly" said that you were eating some fairly bland foods during that time. What did you miss the most?
I missed cereal and I missed spaghetti Bolognese. And the glass of wine.
Marvel.com: There was none of that?
Yeah, there was none of that. Well, I broke out occasionally, but it was very occasionally.
Marvel.com: Understood. So, Wolverine is a unique role and, as an actor, when you're in pre-production, and also in production, is it any different from anything like "Kate and Leopold" or "Australia" or even "The Boy from Oz?"
They're all very different. I think what's amazing about this part is, no matter how long, or how many times I've played [Wolverine], I still find him unbelievably fascinating and interesting and challenging to play. There's something about his, sort of, prolonged torment going on within him. There's an element of self-loathing, there's a real battle going on…he's very rarely at rest. As an actor, that's really challenging to play over a long period of time and have him bring that subtly to screen. Look, I treat him pretty much like a human I imagine, as in he's having a very human experience—emotionally and mentally. Of course, not every human has claws coming out of their hands, or can heal themselves...[but] I wanted to make him as relatable as possible.
Marvel.com: Marvel fans would agree—it's the humanity that kind of makes the character. Did you see any of the films from last year, the great super hero films, "Iron Man," "The Incredible Hulk," and "The Dark Knight?" Did you see anything in those that, maybe, changed the way you thought about doing Wolverine this time?
When those movies came out, we were already shooting, so we pretty much cast our die—so to speak. But I loved both "Iron Man" and "Dark Knight" and I think I was very particularly buoyed up by "Dark Knight" because our movie is a little edgier, darker than the X-Men [films] have become, so that's the direction I thought was absolutely vital for this character. Of course I want to make it fun and entertaining. I wanted some fun scenes and I wanted some substance there. This guy's past is not all roses, and he's got some edge to it. I was trying to get as much of that in as possible. When "Dark Knight" came out, I was like, well, this just goes to show…any fears that going a little more intricate and dark or deeper is going to affect you commercially—it was all gone!
Marvel.com: Let's switch gears a second; we'll get back to Wolverine. You hosted the 2009 Oscars, what was your personal favorite moment there?
Wow, it's hard to decide between dancing and singing with Beyoncé, or dancing and singing with Anne Hathaway. Can I tie? But in terms of watching the show, I loved Steve Martin and Tina Fey. That was awesome. Also, I thought [to myself about] bringing out the past five winners—because I heard that from the original production meeting, "Well, this sounds good, but, I don't know, maybe it will come off a little cheesy." [However,] there were some great, great movie moments…very, very iconic moments. [Also] as a performer—this is probably just my vanity or maybe my relief—but I remembered the end of that opening number. I had no idea how that was going to go down. But when I saw that it had gone down—at least in the room, I'm not sure about TV—alright, I thought, "Okay, this is gonna be alright tonight."
Marvel.com: Yeah, you felt a little bit more comfortable. [Motion Picture Academy President] Sid Ganis talked to Marvel.com about you giving out cookies during one of the breaks…
Yeah, I was going out there during commercial breaks. My wife sent me a message saying "You're doing great, but I'm starving here. Could you hurry it up?" So I went out in the next commercial break with some cookies for her and I got absolutely descended upon.
Marvel.com: Other than the TV audience size, any difference between hosting the Oscars and the Tonys?
Yeah, there is. Both are very celebratory nights. But there is just no doubt that what you're doing with the Oscars goes way beyond even the room or the TV, the entire town is kind of lifted by the feeling. It's unbelievable the effect it has. The rooms are roughly the same size. It's a similar kind of atmosphere. But I'm looking down there and there's Meryl Streep and Sean Penn and all these actors I grew up watching on the big screen. I felt very, very blessed to be there, very lucky in a way and kind of humbled by the whole experience. And I must admit, I had those moments too at the Tonys. I think without having done the Tonys, I would have been absolutely crapping it, you know what I mean?
Marvel.com: If they ask you back next year, what are you going to say?
Good question. I'm not sure. I mean, now I know how much work goes into it. It was lucky I wasn't actually shooting at the time. Although, funny enough, I was doing some work on "Wolverine" in January in Canada. It was kind of stressful because—I had no idea yet what I was going to do [at the Oscars]. Doing [the] two at once was tough. So, I'd have to see if [my schedule] was clear. But I think I'd very seriously consider it.
Marvel.com: Cool. Let's go back to Wolverine. It's your fourth time playing the character. Not a lot of actors really get a chance to do something like that. If you were going to say the one thing that brings people to see Wolverine on screen, what is it?
He's badass. Maybe there are some more characters like that now, but I think there's something about him that you want to be like him. You wish you had him on your side. And there's something about him you relate to and you feel for him. It reminds me of Mad Max when I was growing up. In fact, I went back and watched Mad Max—particularly number one—before I did this. Mel [Gibson] has got, hardly any lines, hardly any dialogue. There's sort of a revenge story there which is at the center of this movie as well. And yet you feel you understand everything about him. You feel for him. You have a very clear picture. It's a great, great, very disciplined performance—very affecting in that way. I was talking to Gavin Hood ["X-Men Origins: Wolverine" director] about it when we first started. Heroes in the past, these kind of outsiders, these lone wolves so to speak…They used to be a little more emotionally detached, the power rider coming into town, doing their thing, then going off again. Wolverine—he's emotionally, very attached. He's very involved. He does have vulnerabilities. There is a certain amount of self-loathing. There is a constant war going on within him. Part of him desperately would like to be at peace and connect and part of him is just anarchic and wants to be on his own. It's a fascinating case study in a way.
Marvel.com: Over the years, have you read the comics and was there anything in particular you were reading this time?
Obviously, I was reading WEAPON X
. I was reading ORIGIN
. We used that quite heavily in the movie so I was reading those. I get sent them all the time. I was reading the whole thing with Deadpool and Wolverine which was great. There's really a lot to be gained from both the dialogue and also the visuals, I draw on them a lot, but there's no doubt that my favorite saga is the Japanese saga. I was making a case early on that we should do that for this first Wolverine movie. I thought it was so strong and because we hinted at Weapon X in "X-Men II", I was sort of like "Well, maybe we should go in this direction." Quite rightly, David Benioff ["X-Men Origins: Wolverine" screenwriter] argued to me, "If you don't deal with the origins of this character, which you've been kind of teasing for three movies…If you don't formally deal with it and set up who he is, then you're going to have to get back to it at some point. You can't." And he's right. Here's a character who sort of didn't know where he came from and audiences weren't 100 percent sure who he was and we had to fill in all those blanks. And, actually, it was a lot of fun, because there's a lot of history there. I think Benioff came up with really, really smart choices.
Marvel.com: Do you ever just read a Wolverine comic when you're not in Wolverine mode?
Yeah, yeah I do. I told you I get sent them and sometimes I read them with my son as well. I try to look through them, some of the tamer ones, but even he kind of really digs it. I can tell.
Marvel.com: Do you think you're going to do the Japanese storyline, should there be a sequel to this movie?
If you had to ask me right now where I'd go, that's where I'd tell you where we'd be going. That's my pick. But I have to see where everything goes in May, you know what I mean? Let's just take care of that first. [Laughs]
Marvel.com: What qualities of Wolverine do you mostly closely identify with yourself?
I think he's got a real sense of injustice. He hates people who have power bullying others. You see that all through the comics. You've seen it in the X-Men movies. I kind of hate that as well—people who abuse their power. He's innately, I think, distrustful of people with power or believe they're in the right or leaders. He doesn't believe in that and he really doesn't like that. He's very anti-authoritarian, so he's already cynical about them...I hope I have part of his guts and determination because what I love about this character so much is he's unstoppable. On paper, I don't think he's the strongest mutant out there. You can make a case of many others being able to beat him in a fight. Yet I tell you, I don't think anyone of the fans would ever want to bet against Wolverine because, in his heart and in his head, he's unstoppable. He's just got a fury. It reminds me of Mike Tyson when he first began. In fact, I watch videos of early Mike Tyson fights before doing fight scenes, because when I work with particularly fight instructors, we'll get in there and sometimes they'll have this very elaborate fight and fight choreography sorted out and I'm like "Forget all that." This guy doesn't want to muck around, he's going to take your head off. He's not trying to soften you up a little bit, a little punch to the ribs here, one here, maybe one to the jaw. He's coming to take your head off! He's not mucking about and I said that's where you got to begin from.
Marvel.com: That's probably the best real-life description of Wolverine's approach to fighting because Tyson in those early years was all fury.
Yeah, and you know [in] boxing—the reach is so important. A boxer's reach—a bigger guy can be untouchable. Well, [with Tyson]—every opponent was bigger than him, had much longer reach, and he did the opposite! He didn't stay back, he just walked straight up to them, smacking them! And you can see in their face they were frightened. I remember watching a couple of them thinking they're kinda happy to have copped one to the chin and they went down and pretended that it was harder than it was. Because he was a guy who was gonna kill them, and more importantly—I don't say I have this—but this is something I love about [Wolverine]—he's fearless. It doesn't matter if he's up against someone more powerful. It doesn't matter if it's 15 people that he's up against. There's nothing that's gonna stop this guy because he's absolutely fearless and that's what makes him so formidable. I mean, you've got to kill him. There's no way you can kind of just smack him around and hope he calms down. You've got to kill this guy. He's just gonna keep coming. It's sort of the quality we wish we all had more of.
When I was talking with fight choreographers I said "I don't want to look pretty. I don't want him to look pretty now." I mean I understand there are some other versions where he gets some other skills, but for now, I want him to look like Tyson did. Like a street fighter. That he's in there and he's not looking to do nine rounds, he wants to finish it in 10 seconds.
Marvel.com: No question. What's it like going claw-to-claw with Liev Schreiber?
Oh yeah. [Laughs] We had a great time. And, by the way, Liev's a really, really great buddy of mine. He put on about 40 pounds for the role. Man, you watch him in this movie—people are going to go mental for him. I'm so proud of his performance in it and the relationship we have, the brothers, the brotherhood of these two and how connected they are, I think is really the center of the movie. I don't know, it's going to be a little controversial for some fans, but I really think when they see it, they're going to understand what we were going for. But what Liev brings to that part is just so amazing. He was the first actor I wanted cast. He's the first one that came into my head and he was the first person we cast. When you fight with him, he likes to go for it. He can pack a punch, that guy. You've seen in the trailer him leaping out on his hands, cat-like—that's all him. It's unbelievable what he did! I remember when we first came together for that hit, when we ran into each other, I thought he dislocated his shoulder. He was coming in so hard and at such a weird angle—I had to have a kind of pad underneath my chest, right, because he's coming at me so fast! I thought I was going to break some ribs. I tell you, it winded me. But I thought he dislocated his shoulder. I mean, we were really hitting each other hard.
Marvel.com: An actor of his caliber, that's got to up your game, right?
Completely, completely. I'll be very honest, he's one of the great actors of my generation. I look up to him as an actor, both on stage and on film. It sort of brought out a really interesting quality in the two of us, going up against each other in a way. He's playing my older brother, and slightly bullying older brother, and you really feel that relationship strongly. It's the backbone of the movie.
Marvel.com: So you're the reigning People Sexiest Man Alive—
[Laughs] For six months.
Marvel.com: Yes. For six months, exactly. Let's look back on the different Sexiest Men Alive since 2000. They are:
o 2000 Brad Pitt (Achilles in "Troy")
o 2001 Pierce Brosnan (James Bond)
o 2002 Ben Affleck (Daredevil AND Superman)
o 2003 Johnny Depp (Edward Scissorhands AND Capt. Jack Sparrow)
o 2004 Jude Law (Sky Captain)
o 2005 Matthew McConaughey (The Dragon slayer in Reign of Fire)
o 2006 George Clooney (Batman)
o 2007 Matt Damon (Jason Bourne)
So we take all of you guys, throw you in a room. Only one of you is walking out. Who is it?
[Ponders the names for a moment.] Okay, so I'm seeing in this cage fight, I'm seeing Matt Damon there. Probably Brad's going to be there near the end— and I hope I'd be in there somewhere. That's what I'm seeing in my final three.
Marvel.com: Fair enough! One final thing, you've done so much already in your career, is there anything left? Are there any goals you still have?
Oh man. There's kind of so many. I'd love to do a little more comedy, I'd love to get back on the stage again. I'd love to do a movie musical. And run for President of the United States. Well, I can't do that. [Laughs] Don't worry. Politics is out for me. But no, there's a lot. There's a lot left to do.
For more Wolverine, check out Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited and our "Wolverine: Required Reading" list. Like gaming? The official "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" video game hits stores May 1! And remember: "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" comes to a theater near you on May 1 visit the official "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" movie site!Check out the official Marvel Shop for everything X-Men!Download episodes of X-Men: Evolution now on iTunes!