Hugh Jackman, Clawing to the Top

It’s amazing how one movie can change the course of an actor’s career. Who knows how many of us would have heard of Australian theatre actor Hugh Jackman if he hadn’t been hired by Bryan Singer to bring the popular Marvel Comics character Wolverine to life in the first X-Men movie back in 2000?

Now, as he prepares for the release of the third and supposedly final movie in the series, X-Men: The Last Stand, Jackman is busy doing a lot of different types of movies, knowing full well that he’ll be wearing the adamantium claws soon enough when he returns for the planned Wolverine prequel.

Superhero Hype! talks to the busy actor about what it’s like playing Logan for the third time.

Superhero Hype!: How does Wolverine evolve or change in this movie?

Hugh Jackman: As the movie starts, I think it’s fair to say that he’s part of the team of some kind. I wouldn’t say he’s a card-carrying X-Man or that he has a permanent suite at the mansion, but really, in this movie, his journey is about more what role he will take. He has to take on more responsibility, and as you guys know, it goes against his grain. So at the start of the movie he’s obviously hurting from the whole thing with Jean, and in this movie, it goes to another level. It’s really how far would he go for the woman he loved, even though, in his case, it’s unrequited love.

SHH!: If it’s really unrequited, why does he turn Jean away when he has a chance to get with her in the laboratory?

Jackman: Because he knows what everyone else knows or senses what everyone else knows; that it’s all a little off. Something’s wrong here. He loves her. He really loves her though.

SHH!: Do you feel any pressure that the Wolverine character has increasingly become the focus of these films?

Jackman: I wouldn’t call it pressure, but I suppose as the movie has gone on, I had a little more say in how the movie and script pans out. I have to share a little more of the responsibility ultimately, and I quite like being in that position as an actor. I’m probably more comfortable being in that position than say someone coming in and doing a great character role. I’ve always felt more comfortable being in the middle of it from the beginning to the end. I like working every day and being there. In this movie there’s a whole subplot with Ian McKellen’s character that I wasn’t in and there was about three weeks where I didn’t shoot and it felt really weird. I would visit on set ocassionally and just sort of pop in and I came back to work and felt like, “Alright, I gotta get my legs back here.”

SHH!: What was your reaction when you heard that Bryan Singer wouldn’t be returning to direct this movie?

Jackman: I was upset. It was so long before we were shooting the movie, and at that point, I hadn’t committed to the movie. I committed to looking at the script. Instinctually, I felt that regardless of who’s directing, we have to have a great script. I thought what we came up with – and by the way, Matthew Vaughn needs to be credited because he helped to develop that script and he did a great job–in terms of a starting script was the best. Brett did a great job and smartly, didn’t try to recreate the wheel. I don’t think people who are not very au fait with film will really be able to tell the difference stylistically. Yet, Brett’s a really emotional guy, a real passionate guy. In some ways, Bryan’s more cerebral where Brett was a little bit more suited to this script, which was more emotional and by the end, more melodramatic. I think it worked but it should be that big because it’s the end of the trilogy.

SHH!: What would you say are Brett’s greatest strengths as a director?

Jackman: He’s passionate about life. He’s happy as a guy, and he loves what he does. His passion comes out on the film. He’s not shy. If you look at all his films, he’s not shy with emotion, but I don’t think it’s ever sentimental. I think he’s very passionate and that comes easy to him. We shot 30 takes and he picked the best one. He’s got good taste ultimately, but he’s instinctual and passionate. I would say those are his greatest strengths. And great fun by the way.

SHH!: Were you pleased that you and Halle were able to work together more on this film as Wolverine and Storm became closer?

Jackman: Well, I feel very close to Halle, because this is my fourth movie with her. I really think she’s an amazing person and actress and I’m really proud of what she’s achieved. Yes, we are closer, but we were already close. When you’re friends, you’re friends. It was great for me to have more to do with Halle, and I had been asking for that on the first two. It’s a good dynamic as well cause they’re both strong characters.

SHH!: Have you gone back to the comics in between the three movies to do any continued research on how to evolve your characterization of Wolverine?

Jackman: Oh yes. Of course I’m getting into it at the moment because David Benioff is writing a movie version of Wolverine, which is gonna be a prequel. It’s gonna deal with the origins of him so I’m into it a lot. In this movie actually we were lucky to have [Second Unit Director] Simon Crane who did “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” and he’s amazing. I think a lot of the action pieces are well done and he’s phenomenal with what he brought to it. Simon came to me and said, “I’ve got an idea,” and showed me some comic books that had some things we could do stylistically that was a bit different. I always saw Wolverine as a street fighter–like watching old Mike Tyson. Nothing pretty, just going for it. Simon said, “If you look in the comic book he has some really cool moves,” so we did put a couple of those things into this. That’s something that some fans might recognize.

SHH!: With the younger actors on the set did you ever feel like a mentor to them?

Jackman: Well, my character gives them a hard time, but am I a mentor? I don’t think so. I was very happy for that young guy Kelsey Grammer… He’s really good. (laughter) I actually became really good friends with Kelsey. The truth of the matter is that he makes me laugh, so there’s more footage on the cutting room floor of me laughing, ’cause Kelsey just has a look in his eye that is so wicked. I really loved working with Kelsey. But Ellen Page? I think she’s an extraordinary actress. Brilliantly cast. The little boy that plays Leech? Cameron Bright. I didn’t actually work with him, but one day, I saw him on set and he’s just perfect for that role. He’s so brilliant. I saw him in “Birth” and he was great in that. You can’t get him out of your head; it’s quite haunting. By the way, Brett is brilliant at casting. I thought Ben Foster was terrific as Angel. It’s a tough role to pull off and I really believed his dilemma. I would’ve liked for him to have more to do, but Ellen did a good job. And Vinnie…(laughs). Vinnie is so much fun to have around. He really popped in the film too; he has a few great lines. Dania [Ramirez] was terrific.

SHH!: When you saw the finished film, was there anything about it that surprised you?

Jackman: As we were filming it, we were all very aware that it was pretty heavy. I saw it, and I thought it was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it. It was a fun moviegoing experience. I think it’s satisfying emotionally, as well. There’s many scenes and character plots I had seen on the page that I hadn’t been on set for filming, but I thought the whole thing with Kitty, Rogue and Bobby worked so well. I loved all the stuff with Patrick Stewart’s character and you really got to see the ambiguity of his character early on. His world was a little gray, and he was unsure of some of the things he was doing and some people were questioning him. When I think about it, there were many things that I saw on film where I said, “This is great!” I really enjoyed the complexity and it was great fun. Visually, it’s always a shock and a great thrill. It’s one of the great joys of doing a film like this. It’s a blast. It’s one type of filmmaking that you can watch a film as though you haven’t been in it, because so many elements aren’t there as you’re filming.

SHH!: As an actor, how do you feel your career evolved since doing the first “X-Men” film?

Jackman: I now seem to be on the radar of directors that I really admire. That really means a lot to me. I’m thrilled about that. It happened in a weird way. For example with Darren Aronofsky, I don’t think I was really in his radar until he saw me in “The Boy From Oz.” “The Fountain” is nothing like Peter Allen, but he saw me on stage. Actually that happened quite a bit, so that changed things for me. So I’m very, very happy. After “X-Men” came out I made choices where I realized I still had a lot to learn about film coming from the theatre. I didn’t want to be put in situation where I was front and center all the time. “This is my film and if it works I’m going up and if it doesn’t I’m out.” I thought I really wanted to get some more experience, so I worked with some great directors like Jim Mangold and Tony Goldwyn and Steve Sommers, who’s a very assured director as well. It hasn’t all been planned this way but the loose plan I’ve had has worked out.

X-Men: The Last Stand opens everywhere on Friday, May 26. Read Superhero Hype!’s interviews with Halle Berry, Patrick Stewart, Kelsey Grammer, and director Brett Ratner.

Source: Edward Douglas