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X-Men: The Last Stand - Hugh Jackman interview

Hugh Jackman in X-Men: The Last Stand

Interview by Rob Carnevale

HUGH Jackman talks about the forthcoming Wolverine prequel as well as what it means to really ge his claws into a superhero role that he loves…

Q. Wolverine seems almost to be taking over your life. We now hear there’s definitely going to be a Wolverine spin-off?
A. I hope so. I’m actually developing it with Fox. But I love playing that character. In terms of action movies, he’s certainly the greatest role that I’ve had. I think many of the roles in X-Men are great for the actors because there’s a little meat on the bone. I don’t presume everyone’s read them but I have read a lot of the comic books and I now know how rich they are and how much there is about their characters that we’ve still not explored. So, I think there genuinely is enough reason to make a movie for that character. It’s not that I’m afraid of not working or money or anything like that, I just really love playing it. For me as an actor, you have to go on your gut instinct – you’ll know when it’s time to hang up the claws or when it’s not. At the moment, I still feel like slicing and dicing a little more!

Q. You started this project with one director [Bryan Singer], and then another [Matthew Vaughn] came on very briefly before he was replaced by a third. How did you feel the impact of those changes? Did it place extra pressure on you as a lead character because you knew more about them?
A. Well, I think it’s a strength of the film that we all came back and there’s that history and work that’s already gone into it. However, all of us don’t want to just play the same role. I think with Halle [Berry] and I in particular you can see an evolution in our characters and that’s something that we would want. But if I was writing the story of how a movie got made and this was a case history, you wouldn’t want this as your most ideal way to do it. But it seems to me that there’s been a little bit of chaos to all of these movies and it somehow seems a winning formula.
In this case, I don’t think you can underestimate the job that Bryan Singer did in creating a world that people believed in and characters people cared about. Matthew Vaughn should be given a lot of credit because I was involved with him when he was developing the script and I think he really did develop the script that was there into the best script of the three.
And Brett [Ratner] very smartly had a pad upon which he had written all the things he liked about the script and about X-Men as a series. On the flip-side, he had three things that he wanted to change or to enhance. These were that he wanted to make it funnier, sexier and more emotional. I’m not going to comment on the sexier but I think he’s done the other two things. So funnily enough, it kind of ended up being a situation where everyone gave the best that they had to give and I think ultimately the movie has been good for it.

Q. You’re reunited with Vinnie Jones [Swordfish] in X-Men 3. How was that?
A. I remember on Swordfish Vinnie had found a blow-up punching bag doll of Wolverine. When I got to work on Swordfish he’d directed in with like a noose around his neck above his trailer. He’d then kick it around. So it was kind of like I said: “Mate, this is your chance. Now you can really have a go at it.”
But as I turned up on set, Vinnie – who’s never watched a delivery of cricket in his life – all of a sudden became a mad cricket fan. I went over to my seat on the set and Vinnie, with the first AD, had erected this tent which had the Union Jack and an urn with Ashes inside.
But I did say to him when we first met: “You’ve been busy since making Swordfish.” And he said: “Yeah, I’ve done 27 films.” I exclaimed because I’ve only done about five in that time and he added: “Yeah, but you made more in one movie than I’ve made in all 27!”

Q. The X-Men comics and films have become a parable for any member of minority groups in the world. Bryan Singer and Ian McKellen have already talked about how they related to the project based on their backgrounds, so how did that apply to you?
A. I like the very large themes that are in this and the comic books which were originally kind of an allegory for the Martin X/Martin Luther King debate. At 37, I feel kind of okay with the cards I’ve been dealt in life. But now I’m a parent and I’m watching my children grow up. I dropped my boy off at school and remembered when he went to a new school when we’d recently moved to LA and it was that time to say goodbye. He’d actually been there for a few weeks but he walked off and I saw him looking around the playground, looking for options and then just going off to the swing and I felt for him. So you go through it all again and I know I’m going to see him go through all those struggles of finding out who he is.
But the large things in this movie… I think it’s the most clear crystallization of what the X-Men is about. The idea of the cure is so relatable for every character, but also in a large sense. There’s resonance’s with genetic engineering, there’s resonance’s politically going on now so you can really get a lot out of it. You should know that on the set there were raging arguments about each character. And without giving it away, the scene with Rogue at the end was shot both ways because right until the end there were huge arguments as to whether she’d take the cure or whether she wouldn’t.

Q. How important was it to you that the big action sequences required real physical stunt work without the need for computer-generated effects.
A. It’s important to me because as someone who also watches films I can always tell when a double is being used and it takes me out of it. Maybe that’s because I’m looking at it through slightly more introverted eyes than most. But it’s the same thing with endless special effects, you instinctively know whether you’re being tricked or not. So the more you can do the better. I’m not going to appear to be a hero and I’ll tell you when I’m going 80mph into a tree and then falling down through all the branches, that’s Rich, that’s my brother-in-law. But we’re family so it’s kind of the same thing.

Q. Is it true that you use your brother-in-law for a lot of your stunts?
A. It’s true. My brother-in-law has been doing it for a few movies now. I sent him home from Van Helsing with a broken leg, so I got a call from big ‘sis saying: “Start doing more of your own stunts, pal.”

Q. You’ve talked about how your characters have evolved. But if you could change one thing about them, what would it be?
A. I would change the hair! I’m personally responsible for the hole in the Ozone layer because I have a can and a half of hair spray applied every morning. But that’s it for me.

Q. You’ve played some very important real-life characters. Are there any more that you’d still like to play?
A. It’s hard to play someone real that people know. I’ve always been a huge fan of Socrates myself and I think his story is great. He died something like 3,000 years ago so people don’t really remember him. We could turn it into a musical – apparently he loved show tunes!

Q. How much did you train to get into the right physical condition for this?
A. I actually took a little longer to train for this because I did a show on Broadway – a musical – where I lost a lot of weight. So I had to get back into it. But I’m a little competitive with myself so I kind of keep wanting to jack it up.

Q. Can you tell us any more about the Wolverine prequel?
A. I can tell you that David Benioff has written two drafts. He’s a fantastic writer and a huge, passionate fan. I know that fans of Wolverine and X-Men will be excited about the direction it’s going. It’s a prequel at present. But because we’re not finished writing, it’s not finalised and even if it was I wouldn’t tell you.

Q. Is this the end of the X-Men franchise, or would you like to see them come back for more?
A. I think that the studio always planned it to be the end. It’s definitely the biggest in every way and it feels like a fitting end to the trilogy. There may be more and I can see there being fodder for more but whether that happens or not, who knows? One thing’s for sure, though, all the actors came back and none wanted to come back feeling they were just gratuitously making a buck and the studio was trotting this out. I felt like the script we had at the beginning of this was the best of the three and that’s why everyone signed on. I think there was genuine development for the characters and it didn’t feel like a cynical, commercial exercise for me. It wouldn’t happen unless there was a genuine feeling that we had another story to tell that was evolving. We’re all proud of what’s been created. They’re three great movies and Bryan Singer pretty much started comic book movies again. So you can be guaranteed that if there is another one it won’t just be a kind of cash-in, or glorious swan-song moment of ‘I’ve got to get back in the game’, that’s for sure.

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