Wolverine has always been the glue that has held the franchise together; not only has he starred in every movie and two spin-offs, but he also served as the novice mutant and audience surrogate as we entered this world of super-powered freaks, both good and bad. When "X-Men" opened way back in 2000, it was unlike anything anybody had seen. And Wolverine was a damn good wingman.
When we finally got to sit down and talk with Jackman, we were blown away by his candor, his humility, and the obvious care he gives this character. Sure, he can be nominated for Oscars and star in other blockbusters, but Wolverine was the character who gave him his career, and you can feel that he really respects that, still, so many sequels and spin-offs later.
Jackman talked about the possibility of returning to the X-franchise, what the differences between Darren Aronofsky's version of "The Wolverine" and the one eventually directed by James Mangold were, what's in store for us in Joe Wright's "Pan," and why he still hasn't seen "Drive," a movie that he was involved with intimately at one point (with "Game of Thrones" director Neil Marshall). It's a fascinating chat with one of the loveliest people working in movies today.
Moviefone: What the schedule like for this? Did you go right from "Wolverine" into "X-Men: Days of Future Past"?
Hugh Jackman: No, I did "Prisoners" in between. So we finished "Wolverine" at Christmas and started this in late April. So it was bang-bang-bang, but it meant that I could, luckily, stay in shape and prep some more.
So your last day, you're done with training -- what was the first thing that you ate?
Burger, fries, and chocolate shake. At this place in Montreal... I should give them a plug. The guy who owns the burger joint owns Ben & Jerry's. And the shake was like a Ben & Jerry's chocolate ice cream melted down. It was the greatest shake I've ever had. But that's the first thing. But, weirdly, at like 11 o'clock at night, I'll go, "Hmm, I want some breakfast cereal." Don't you love it? I love eating breakfast cereal at night.
Was there any trepidation about doing them so close together?
There was just some complaining because I found out in October and we finished near Christmas. And I was looking forward to some time off. Because there had been such a long lead-up to that; we kept delaying the movie. So I had been training and eating really well for over a year. So I was ready for it, but I was also ready for a break. I took about a week off when I finished that and then got back into it. But actually the moment I heard the idea, around October before we started filming, I was in. I knew it was a great idea. I saw the synopsis and I thought, This is awesome.
What was it like working with the same characters but played by different actors?
It was a little surreal but kind of fantastic. I always thought filling in Patrick's shoes would be really, really difficult. But then I saw "X-Men: First Class," I was like, Wow, they really did a good job. And then working with him and seeing how they developed that relationship, in this, I thought, not only did they pay homage to the other guys and you can feel that lineage, in a way, but they really make it their own. And that's a really difficult line to try and find. I was very impressed. Earlier today Patrick said, "Now that I've seen the movie, I want to go back and play more stuff for Xavier, because you get to see so much more of his character in this movie."
Wolverine being back in the past obviously offers endless possibilities for hijinks. Did you film a bunch of stuff that didn't make it into the movie?
Yes, because for me, the whole thing felt really natural for Wolverine. I've always said that Wolverine never left the seventies, even though he lives on and on -- clothing-wise, attitude-wise. He's Dirty Harry, he's Mad Max, he's Charles Bronson in "Death Wish." I think the moment the eighties arrived, he was out -- legwarmers, Flock of Seagulls, Tears for Fears, Wham!...
But he's kind of got a Flock of Seagulls thing going on with his hair.
Good point, good point. But yes, I made a lot of little comments about the seventies that ended up getting cut out.
Can you talk about what Darren Aronofsky's take on "The Wolverine" was going to be?
Darren was really impressed with what Jim did and said that he thought Jim did a better job than he could have done. He was very complimentary to the work that Jim did. But there was one thing that he said to me that I can remember. He said to me, "I don't think you've just got to be a little bit bigger. I think you've got to be fifty pounds bigger... and muscle-only." He had a really cool idea about scars. He said, "I want to see him completely scarred. I know he heals but if you think about it, we have a scar, we have a scar for life. It doesn't really get better. It might reduce over your lifetime but it also stays there."
So his whole thing was that he should have been completely scarred and disfigured and slowly they could go. Maybe what takes us a lifetime to get rid of would only take him a year-and-a-half. I thought that was a really cool idea. He had a couple of other really big ideas, some of which, by the way, made the movie.
So Darren Aronofsky's Wolverine was giant and covered in scars?
Yes. And I actually thought that was a good idea. But I couldn't have eaten more or trained harder for these movies, and I think I'm in the best shape ever, and I thought, I'm going to try that. And I just couldn't do it.
Is that a deciding factor in terms of deciding whether or not to go back and do another one -- having to get into that kind of physical shape?
Well, that I kind of feel like I could get back into that shape, if need be. But what Darren was asking me to do, I don't think so.
Did you see "Noah"?
It was very much like "The Fountain."
Yes, there were certainly elements of that. I loved working with Darren. I would love to work with him again. Maybe I'll convince him to do a "Wolverine" movie at some point. We had a long discussion, Darren and I, as did Jim and I, about making "The Wolverine" R-rated.
I imagine the studio would not have allowed that.
They were open to it, actually. It didn't scare them off, as long as we have a good reason for it. I was the one to call it off. In a way, I would love to do it -- if there was ever a character that would necessitate an R-rated version. But I'm the one who, every day of my life, meets 12, 13, 14-year-olds. I see in their eyes how I used to feel about Indiana Jones. So for me to say, "You know what, this next movie, it's not for you" -- I would have to have a really good reason for it. So we made the movie without a rating in mind, and the first cut, let me tell you, we had trouble. It was definitely R-rated. So in the end, we just snuck on the side of it, but that's why we released the unrated cut on Blu-ray.
So what's the percentage possibility of you coming back for another "Wolverine"?
If I was a betting man? 90%. But what does that mean? I think what I've said has been slightly confusing for people. Can I see an end? Yes. Am I closer to the end than beginning? Yes. But I'm loving it more than ever, and when I see this movie it feels vital and fresh and interesting to me. And I look at that and say, "No, I want to be a part of that universe." The movies are getting better. And as long as they stay on that track and there's always new things to explore in the character, which is not only important for me but important for the audience, I think I'll still be around.
What if you took 20 years off and came back and did "Old Man Logan"?
That's crossed my mind. That's totally crossed my mind. By the way, Jim and I did look at "Old Man Logan," because I'm rapidly approaching it and when I'm training at 4 o'clock in the morning I think, That's the only story I can do. It's interesting. And I should be careful about saying, "Ah, I'm done." Because I could see myself doing a version of that, actually. Of just saying, "You know what, I'm done for now, and somebody could play the part, but down the track I could come back." That's very cool, actually.
Another movie you were involved in that became something completely different was "Drive."
What was that version of the movie like? And what did you think of the final version?
This is a character flaw of mine... But I still haven't seen it. I think it's going to be hard for me to watch, because it's the one that got away. I presume that it's relatively close. What happened was that there was another movie, and I can't remember what it was, but it was getting going and I said, "I think we need to work on the relationship. It still feels like something is missing."
I always felt the beginning of the movie was so strong, and I felt that we set up a promise that didn't fully deliver, so let's work on that, right? And then they came back and said, "We were going to do a budget at this level and now we're going to drop it down to here." I said, "Fine, that budget doesn't worry me except let's not forget that this character is explained through the driving. And he's smart – so how are we going to shoot that?" The next call that came back said, "We're going with this new director." And everything I kept hearing made me feel like I was holding this up. I'm going to keep asking questions and they're ready to go. I remember the next thing I heard about was, "Oh, by the way, that director just won Best Director at Cannes," and I was like, "Sh*t."
There was something really exciting about the movie, which is why I wanted to get involved in it. And one of the producers came to me and said, "I know you worked on it and we did three or four drafts but because you didn't work on the final version can we take your name off of it?" And I said, "Yeah. It's probably fair." And then when it came out I thought, Maybe that wasn't such a good idea either. But that's me being stingy. I will get around to watching it. I know it's going to be good but my palms will be sweating the whole time.
So the beard, I'm assuming, is for Blackbeard?
Yes. Or as my son likes to call me, "black-and-white beard." I'm like, "All right, there will be make-up involved."
How is "Pan" going?
Oh, it's great. I love Joe Wright. I love the way he preps a movie. I've seen a lot of the artwork and pre-viz for this, and it's going to blow people's minds. I think it's going to be really special.
Is he still maintaining that incredible visual sense?
Yes. But giving him the palette of Neverland is just awesome. It's so unique and beautiful that I said, "Joe, you need to release this pre-viz because it's one of the most beautiful pieces of art I've ever seen. It was a mixture of storyboards, slightly animated, computer animated pre-viz and it's one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. I said, "Keep that. Whatever happens with the movie, I would pay to see that." He's so phenomenal and has such a great touch, with a sense of humor and panache.
Have you talked about working with your "Prisoners" director Denis Villeneuve again?
Yes. I just had dinner with him in Montreal when we were doing pick-ups for this. And we talk and email all the time. And I always say, "Don't forget me."
Photo by Stefan Gosatti/Getty Images