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X-Men Origins: Wolverine - Hugh Jackman interview

Hugh Jackman in X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Interview by Rob Carnevale

HUGH Jackman talks to us about the continued appeal of the Wolverine character, getting into shape and competing with co-star Liev Schreiber and why he always likes to overcome his real-life fears and anxieties.

He also talks about his reaction to the internet leak that featured unfinished footage of the film a month before its release, and why he feels the internet community rallied around the film and acted in its best interests as a result.

Q. What’s the attraction of playing Wolverine?
Hugh Jackman: He’s someone who’s at war with himself all the time, there’s a conflict going on in extreme ways. We all experience it on some level – the controlled and the chaotic side, the animal and the human. These things are always at war within you. This is one of the things Gavin and I really resonated with right from the beginning. To me, one of the great things is part of him really wants to connect. There’s a love story and part of him wants to retreat and be completely on his own. Both of those terrify him and both are exciting to him. As an actor, this duality is the kind of thing you look for in a character. I never thought I’d find him in a comic book series. I feel even though I had no other choices at the time when I landed Wolverine I really lucked out. He’s one of the more interesting characters from a comic book series.

Q. Wolverine is indestructible and has obviously eternal youth but he’s also scared of flying. Do you have any of these little phobias about flying or have you had a horrible moment while in the air when you became susceptible to the vagaries of turbulence?
Hugh Jackman: I kind of love flying. I don’t know why I chose that [for the character], because it’s not from the comic book. I think since I saw Indiana Jones and he was scared of snakes, it seemed a little abstract but I kind of loved the idea of making someone so animalistic a little vulnerable. It made sense to me he would not appreciate being out of control up high in the air. Personally, I kind of love it so that was probably some of the greatest acting challenges of the movie.

Q. How much in the film is you doing the stunts? And what are you scared of?
Hugh Jackman: A lot of it is me. I enjoy doing it, I must admit. I have a bit of a sport background. I wasn’t great at it but I enjoyed it, and a little bit of a dance background. For me, film stunts and stunt choreography is a mixture of the two – sport and dancing. So, I enjoy doing that and I think audiences deserve it too. Audiences work out when you’re using a double. They work out when you’re using face replacement. And whenever you can do it, it helps the audience get into it.

I don’t know about you, but I grew up with older brothers and sisters so I was always doing things set above my age. I remember being so upset with myself that I was scared of heights that I went down every day to the diving board at our school. We had a 1, 3 and 10 metre board. And I kept jumping off the 3 until I wasn’t scared, then I went up to the 10, and I did it for about a month, just jumping until I was no longer scared and from that moment I’ve kind of loved it. I hate being frightened of things. I’m not someone who can say: “Oh, I’m scared of flying, I won’t fly.” Fear seems to creep over every part of your life so if there’s something I identify as frightening to me I want to tackle it.

Q. What was that the most unpleasant sequence to film?
Hugh Jackman: Without a doubt, the underwater sequence. Not only was water going up my nose but the more uncomfortable part of it was being directed by Gavin who had his sleeve rolled up and his hand in the tank squeezing my toes. There was a different code for when to wake up and when to die. I felt like I was playing this little piggy went to market for two days. The trouble is Gavin is a very enthusiastic director. I think I have three dislocated toes from that sequence [laughs].

Q. What was it like working alongside Liev Schreiber?
Hugh Jackman: He was the first person I wanted to cast. I worked with him in Kate and Leopold and he did this stunt that didn’t have to be done. To this day, it’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. And I’ve known him personally, as a friend. Physically, he’s unbelievably strong and capable and agile. So I knew he could fulfil that and was excited that people didn’t know he could do that. There’s also a competitive nature to Liev. If I was eating steam chicken and veggies, he’d eat steam chicken and veggies. When we were lifting weights together he’d always say, “ah, I can’t lift that”, and then lift it. When we were fighting there was a nice little edge where we were basically punching the crap out of each other. No one knows how to play a villain better than you English, you’ve put the best villains of all time on film and Liev, to me, understands what that is.

Q. Did you miss the actors you’ve previously worked with on the X-Men films? And did their absence and new cast members bring a new set of challenges?
Hugh Jackman: Of course, it was different actors and it took me about two months to get over not having Halle Berry on set every day. It was so different in many ways. Because I was involved as a producer, I was so involved with the casting that by the time we got to shooting, unlike most movies, I was intimately involved in it. I was excited by the time we got there. In the three previous films I played a character with no idea of his past, no idea how old he was, where he’d been or what had happened to him. He was also probably bad.

To have those blanks filled in and to make a film about those blanks was actually terrific. Then having someone like Gavin… it was clear to me that Gavin was a great person for this film because we were going from a large ensemble piece down to one character and Gavin knows how to tell a story, how to carefully map the emotional journey of a character, the arc of that, as well as handle the size of the movie. He was able to push me. I can imagine for some directors that it would be hard going up to an actor who’s played a part three times already and suggesting that maybe he knows something better than me. But Gavin pushed me, which is what I wanted.

Q. There are now a lot of comic books movies out there. Did you feel any extra pressure to do something different with this?
Hugh Jackman: There’s always a desire as an actor to push yourself to do more than you’ve done and Gavin [Hood, the director] and I talked about this from the beginning. There may have been a query from some people about what this movie was. Is this a spin-off? It’s not. Is this X-Men 4 in disguise? What is this? I knew expectation was high and that we have to go beyond that in every way – story-wise, mine the depths of the characters’ emotion, humour, the action. In every way we have to try and exceed people’s expectations. Physically, I wanted to be more of the visual side of the character, that animalistic side of the character that I saw. To me, it’s just a way of life. You want every movie to be better than the last. You want the visual effects to be better than they’ve ever been before. That’s probably just blind ambition probably.

Q. Can you talk to us a bit more about your reaction to the leak on the internet?
Hugh Jackman: It was heartbreaking. People throughout the studio had been working so hard on this – Gavin went many nights without sleeping to finish the movie. What was leaked was a month old and kind of like a Ferrari without an engine. But then there was a great rallying from the online community, which was very heartening and very encouraging, and also from the fans. We have put it behind us now and I’m very excited by the movie coming out and I’m really confident that the fans, the people who are into the movie, will want to see it on the big screen. That’s what it’s made for.

Q. From a female perspective, how hard have you worked to make Wolverine quite a sexy character?
Hugh Jackman: It’s not something I have consciously thought about except there is a love story and it’s unusual to see Wolverine genuinely care for someone. There was that thing with Rogue and a kind of unrequited love with Jean Gray but to have him love someone is new. What we were working at was that there is something missing for him. My intention with the physicality of it was that when I saw Robert De Niro in Cape Fear and he’s in that scene in the prison and he takes his shirt off… I was frightened and uncomforable. There’s something about him that’s so raw and dangerous, and on my last movie [Australia] when you’ve finished galloping on a horse you can see the veins and muscles. It’s powerful and a little dangerous. That’s sort of what I wanted, the animalistic quality. I didn’t necessarily want to look pretty.

Q. Is there any special power that you would like to have?
Hugh Jackman: For me, it was always the water. There was a TV show, Man From Atlantis. I used to spend hours in the swimming pool, kicking like that and wondering why I wasn’t getting there. The desire to breath underwater was always mine.

Read our review of X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Read our interview with Gavin Hood