Sick of superhero movies yet? Well, I hope not, because on July 26th, Marvel is attempting another solo X-Men movie for everyone’s favorite badass mutant. Once again played by Hugh Jackman, director James Mangold will attempt to dive deep into the character of Wolverine, exploring a comic arc that sets Logan in Japan without the help of any other mutants. Titled The Wolverine, audiences will finally get a chance to focus only on the man Logan is, as he tries to live with his past while staring into his eternal future.
I was recently lucky enough to attend a press conference with many members of the cast, who were promoting The Wolverine in New York City, which led to some very interesting insight, explanation, and anecdotes from the set. In attendance were Hugh Jackman, director James Mangold, Famke Janssen, Rila Fukushima, Hiro Sanada, and Tao Okamoto. Hope you enjoy our behind-the-scenes coverage!
Starting the day off, we asked Hugh what it’s been like playing Wolverine all these years.
Hugh Jackman: Well, in 1953 I got the part [Laughs]. While it sometimes feels like that, it was in the past century, back in 1999. It’s weird, because I’m actually enjoying playing him more than ever, and I was reflecting on that when somebody said “Well why would that be?” I don’t know, Wolverine is somewhere between the ages of 150 and 300, and on some of the 4:00AM mornings I felt about 300 years old, but I think generally, maybe even being a little older, I think the script, particularly in the title, we’re focusing on this character. We’re focusing on his journey. It’s a more intimate and more interior story. It’s not wall-to-wall mutants and people flying around with lasers coming out of their eyes or anything. This is a real, true character story. Having someone like James Mangold on board not only gives the action unbelievable creativity and makes it original, but it also makes it a true drama, and we see the human vulnerabilities of Wolverine. This made him more challenging, more satisfying, and in a way, more fun to play. I’m really thrilled, from the writers to the studio, that everyone got on board with that idea. The movie we wanted to make, we made.
Hugh Jackman has been saying for a while now that he’s wanted to do the Japan storyline that is utilized in The Wolverine, so someone asked how he feels now that he’s gotten that desire out of his system:
Hugh Jackman: Famke can remember this. Bryan Singer had this mandate that no one could read comic books on the set because when he was creating the first X-Men, he wanted it to be very human and three dimensional. He was worried that actors would come on set with an over-the-top performance, and that their perception of comic books was two dimensional – even though X-Men is not. But we were handing them around, and I remember being handed this comic book like it was contraband. Those people who know the actual series know that it involves the X-Men, so I said to the producer, “This would be a great X-Men movie!” Actually, as it progressed, the idea for making it the ultimate movie for Wolverine grew in my mind, and James Mangold agreed with me. This great fish out of water story, the idea of taking him to this place that’s completely foreign and making him completely unhinged, not knowing who anyone is, is a great way to do it. He’s a natural outsider, and I think the customs, atmosphere, history, all the samurai codes of honor – it’s the opposite of Wolverine. It’s just the perfect place to put that character.
Opening questioning to the entire cast, we asked about the whole Western structure of the film, the strong presence of The Wolverine’s female characters, and their vulnerability as well:
James Mangold: I’m the guy who likes record shops where the records are in one stack, I never ask “Why is Ray Charles in Country/Western, and why is this album Rock N’ Roll?” It’s almost like you guys need to put things in boxes so it’s easier to talk about them, and we all follow it. The reality is, the Western and the samurai film are incredibly similar. Obviously there’s been a huge dialogue between those two forms over the years. That was really something we focused on. For me, and what Hugh was touching on, is trying to get inside all of the characters in a movie means you need space. You need space from other mutants. You can’t make a movie that gets inside characters when you have 12 mutants and two hours, with each character getting 8 minutes, if that. You need a story that somehow has openings for people to expose what’s inside them. The western is a beautiful example of a format with both action and character, it always has been. It isn’t really about horses and guns, it’s got an architecture underneath. But I’d love for the women to talk about their own journey. Rila? How about you?
Rila Fukushima: Shooting was just an amazing time for me. This is my first time acting in a film, so I just was trying my best to enjoy myself.
Famke Janssen: I just want to say X-Men: The Last Stand ended on a very high emotional note, but the audience didn’t have the time to process what happened, which was Wolverine killing Jean Grey, and it was something people were left with. The fact that both James and Hugh took on this part, and even though it’s a very small through-line in the film, it’s such an important part in the series and what happens on the journey Logan goes through after that. The guilt that he lives with, the reconciliation with his past, and the fact that somehow this Jean Grey character comes in to either guide him or challenge him and find a way through this part of his past. I think that’s a really beautiful way that [James and Hugh] incorporated that into the story because it gives the room for the audience and Hugh’s character to really have some kind of reconciliation with that big moment that happens.
Women are going to respond to this film more than any other X-Men and Wolverine film so far, because it has a love story, real emotional depth, and the journey of this Wolverine character – that’s really this team’s doing.