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X-Men Origins: Wolverine - Gavin Hood interview

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Interview by Rob Carnevale

GAVIN Hood, the director previously best known for South African Oscar-winning drama Tsotsi and political thriller Rendition, talks about joining the X-Men franchise, combining the animalistic quality of the Wolverine character with a vulnerability, and working with Liev Shreiber as Victor Creed/Sabretooth.

Q. How was it to join the X-Men family knowing of the great expectation on your shoulders before the cameras even start rolling? Were you at all apprehensive, nervous?
Gavin Hood: It was fun, intimidating and also very exciting. I have to say that Hugh Jackman is as you see him – generous, warm and made me feel very, very at ease. Initially, I didn’t quite know why he called me for this job. As you all know, I haven’t done a comic book movie before. So, I went along slightly sceptical and Hugh comforted me by saying he’d never read comics before he started, then he got involved and became a geek and understood, and told me to go away and take a read. And I did. And here we are. I am very pleased and very fortunate to have done it.

Q. What is the attraction of the Wolverine character for you and for cinema-goers?
Gavin Hood: Well, I didn’t know the comics and was somewhat sceptical. But after I went away and read them I started to realise that here was a comic book hero who wasn’t the good guy going after the bad guy, but the good guy and the bad guy kind of co-exist in him within himself. And it’s so much more interesting to me to have a hero in a mythic way, who isn’t either the guy with the forces of good behind him or the guy who’s just emotionally in control all the time.

I think that in some ways, that old figure of the pale rider who comes into town and is completely in control is quite dangerous to young men because it says you should never show emotion, you should always be cool, you should make a bit of love with some woman and ride off into the sunset, don’t get too involved. It’s a kind of male fantasy in a way but it’s potentially a dangerous fantasy because that’s where Victor Creed ends up. You end up frigging isolated, alone, miserable and going to beat the s*** out of your brother, saying: “I need someone to connect with.” So, Wolverine is a character who actually needs connection and yet he’s in conflict with his own testosterone, if you like.

Q. From a female perspective, how hard did you work to make Wolverine quite such a sexy character?
Gavin Hood: Hugh Jackman is in phenomenal shape. Mums have to want their kids to see this movie and we want mums to want to go and see the movie. Hugh was in great shape and when he takes a run across fields, for some reason all the women in the production office found it necessary to come and check on things logistically. Buy in terms of picking up Hugh’s previous comments about exposing the vulnerability of the character and physical beauty, there’s a shot of him when he’s at the end of a corridor and has that argument with Stryker and he says what are you going to do and he says: “Find him and kill him.” Stryker says: “I can help you.” And Hugh stops and turns.

Don [Donald McAlpine, director of photography] lit him so beautifully at the end of that corridor and Hugh initially I think had his shirt done up. He was getting a radio mic check, the shirt came undone and I said: “Leave it like that, cut the thing open.” You don’t usually tell the actor that. I say this candidly, but I’m looking through that lens and looking, first of all, at a fantastic close-up of vulnerability and determination, and then I go to the mid-shot where you have a six-pack, which looks like a 12-pack, and you just handle it. You never tell Hugh that, of course, because he would be embarrassed, and probably is now. But this is a moment for women in a vulnerable but powerful and magnetic way.

Q. How difficult was shooting the underwater sequence where Wolverine is born?
Gavin Hood: It was tricky. We tried to get an underwater speaker in so we could talk to him. We tried but that was hopeless. What made it so challenging is that we have camera moves that are happening, that have to be timed with thrashing and when the heart rate goes to zero and he dies. It sounds very silly but it was actually quite tricky. So, we developed this very high tech way of doing it. I grabbed his feet and said when I tug it once you start thrashing, when I tug it twice you do it some more, three hard tugs you die and then a gentle squeeze to the baby toe and that’s when you start to wake up.

Q. What made you decide to cast Liev Schreiber as Victor Creed/Sabretooth?
Gavin Hood: Hugh was so buff in the movie it was terrifying and he worked unbelievably hard every day. Every day, 4.30am, no matter how late we’d shot the night before, he was training to stay in that kind of shape. So, we needed an actor to be a worthy antagonist. And we needed that on two levels. We needed someone who would be physically believable in being able to come up against Hugh Jackman. Liev is about 6ft 3 or 4ins, too, so I’m six-one and going: “Now listen here you two guys.” It’s quite intimidating. But more importantly for me, we needed someone with the kind of dramatic power that could give you a strong intelligence so that this character could genuinely feel like the confused younger brother.

Q. Why make them half-brothers, because that has been controversial among some sections of the fan base?
Gavin Hood: The hardcore fans have some dispute over this. Some people say Victor Creed isn’t Wolverine’s half-brother and others say, of course, he is. I wanted to stay true to all the fans and, of course, doing the research I found myself stuck with this dilemma. But I chose to go unashamedly with the version that the fans have where Victor Creed is Wolverine’s half brother. Why? Because as a dramatist when you’re looking for a kind of emotional conflict we all know that the greatest emotional conflict happens within families and to have this kind of protagonist/antagonist who are related just gives a tremendous emotional feel to the action. So, you have this wonderful emotional connection and two guys willing to put in the amount of work that they did is just a dream. It’s two great actors competing to be the toughest guy in the room.

Q. Is there any special power that you would like to have?
Gavin Hood: As a kid I wanted to be able to fly. My dream was to fly. So I think this idea that one can have some sort of physical mutation, be able to do extraordinary things is very much a kid’s fantasy. People have different ways of expressing it. Certainly mine as a kid if you have those dreams, you call them nightmares, I could just take off and fly and float above it all. That was my fantasy of escaping.

Read our review of X-Men Origins: Wolverine