Director James Mangold and Hugh Jackman's first collaboration was 12 years ago, on the romantic comedy "Kate & Leopold." Jackman starred as a time traveler from 19th century England who falls in love with a businesswoman, played by Meg Ryan. Their latest is "The Wolverine," which takes its cues from samurai movies and "Black Narcissus," for starters.
Then again, it stands to reason that a director like Mangold, whose credits include "Girl, Interrupted," "Walk the Line," and "3:10 to Yuma," would not make a run-of-the-mill comic-book movie. It has as many subtitles as it does action sequences, and Wolverine's closest ally is a young woman with cherry Kool-Aid colored hair named Yukio (Rila Fukushima), who, thankfully, never strips down to a school girl's uniform. In short, this is an unexpected superhero movie.
Mangold met with Moviefone in New York City during an exhausting press tour seemingly fueled by the flat whites at Jackman's Laughing Man Coffee. Teeth chattering with caffeine, we talked to the director about his first summer blockbuster, Twitter, and more.
So, this seems like a really high-pressure property to take on. Is it hard to make a movie on your terms while still keeping in mind the expectations of fans and the studio?
It's a good question, and I think that it's one of the reasons I took on the movie, was that this particular project, set in Japan, this particular project with its unique circumstances -- I think the studio knew that they were going to get something different. I think they had tried it the other way, with the previous "Wolverine" movie, so because of the feeling that they had not hit the mark the previous time they had made a Wolverine film, and because of the fact that the prevailing feeling that X-Men had come to an end, with everyone dead, there was effectively nowhere else to go except someplace new.
And lastly, the friendship and support of Hugh Jackman, who I've known for well over a decade, was a huge asset to me, in terms of guaranteeing that I'd have the space -- as long as we were in agreement about what we were making, that we could push it through... We have no idea how the movie's going to go over to the public, but one thing we both feel really good about is it the movie we made is the movie we set out to make.
Were you concerned signing on after it had been through sort of development ups and downs, directors, writers, you know?
Well, it wasn't really through so much. I mean, there had been one writer, Chris McQuarrie, and Darren [Aronofsky] had come on and gone off in about three months, so that there was very little that even happened... Basically, a deal hadn't even been finished, as I understand it, and then it kind of evaporated with the disaster in Japan. And so it wasn't really such a mire. It was actually just a terrific project, which I had a lot of skepticism about, for the very reasons in your first question. I really knew -- this isn't my first film, and I like doing my work, and I like my work, and I'm happy to work at a smaller scale, if it means I have more control.
I love the experience of working with the kind of assets I had on this film, but I'm not particularly interested in just making a two-hour ad for Happy Meals and action figures. And so that was the unique opportunity this project offered, was that from the moment they committed [to] the idea of adapting a Claremont/Miller saga, I think they committed to something really special and slightly more adult and thematic than what had been done before.
What sort of techniques did you use on "The Wolverine" that maybe you had honed on your other films, or vice versa?
I love, no matter what film it is, to capture intimate moments between characters. Quiet moments, almost unspoken moments, exchanges, glances, touches between characters, and so for me, between the scenes with Hugh and Tao Okamoto, and Hugh and Rila Fukushima, and others, I wanted this -- I thought the action would have all the more intensity if there were quiet moments, if there were moments of intimacy where we put our faith that the audience can ride through -- they're not hyperactive children. They might actually make it through to the other side if you give them grown human beings to track, and that the action might get all the more exhilarating if you actually are invested in these characters.
You joined Twitter during production. There are also -- and you weren't involved with the marketing, necessarily -- but little sizzlers put out on Vine. What's your take on the use of social media, and is Twitter something you'd normally be interested in?
I actually had joined before I made the film, but I really didn't have any -- in a way, I didn't have any cocktail conversation to start with, so making the movie kind of put me in the position to start having a dialogue with people, and offering things that people might want to see and having a dialogue, but I've really enjoyed -- most of all, I've enjoyed the dialogue not about the movie I'm working on right now, but just other things. I think it's amazing. When Fox marketing cut this six-second trailer, I was the one who tweeted it and launched it, and it ended up being, about a month later, it had been watched 250 million times, and that's a little awe-inspiring. It's a little crazy, even.
Have you been bitten by the superhero tentpole bug? Is there a secret handshake once you do a Marvel movie; you're in for life? Are you interested?
I have no idea. I would never say no to anything, but I would say, as our conversation began, that I'd always be looking for the opportunity to do something unique and add something to the conversation. I've never really been interested in just doing a genre to do it. I feel like you have to have something to say.
Even when I made "3:10 to Yuma," it was a remake, but I felt like there was something to say about the world we were living in at that time, and about our own culture and about heroism and what it is to be a hero and what it is to be a villain. I think there were modern questions that the original didn't answer, that we could go after, and some things that they could go after that we didn't. But for me, I always want to know what I'm saying, what I'm talking about, because it's too much time to spend working on a project to have it be empty.
Yeah, you're committing several years of your life.
Yeah, in this case, it's over two years, and a lot of the projects I've worked on -- "Walk the Line," you bring up, it took over five years to get that made from when I first started working on it, so it's huge sections of your life.
For us, it's like, OK, it's coming out.
At this point, it's a product. It comes out. It's along the pipeline. Talk about it. Shoot it around the world. Boom. It lives or dies in a second. It's kind of terrifying. It's kind of like walking up a staircase for two years and then jumping off of a cliff. It's a lot of preparation for a single moment.
"The Wolverine" hits theaters Friday, July 26.