The villainous mutant Viper

Out of what we’ve seen out of the footage today, marketing materials, there are a lot of examples of mutant versus humans, but obviously Wolverine in this case is… there are higher stakes, he’s more vulnerable. Is there still an element of mutant versus mutant in this film?

You will see every combination. I mean I think that all the combinations of whatever you hope for are in the picture.

On that note, there’s a big mystery. We haven’t seen much about the Viper character. Can you tell us anything about her or her allegiances?

The thing is… the reason that I hesitate is that I don’t want to give away the surprise, but more to that the movie is a mystery. The movie itself is kind of a labyrinth. There’s so many kinds of ways to tell a story. If you don’t just kind of have a very clear bad guy who, as I said, has an agenda to destroy x, then your story operates more from ground level with Logan figuring out what’s going on. And so very much, whether you’re talking about Viper or Mariko or Yukio or Yashida or Shingen or Noburo, you’re trying to figure out where they all stand. Everyone’s got secrets and everyone’s got surprises, not just Viper. The joy of the film to me is trying to figure out, like Logan is, you land in this Oz, you don’t really have your feet planted on the ground, you don’t know the way things operate here and you don’t know the language. So there’s a level where the interesting quality of the movie is watching him with us unpeel what the hell is going on.

And I’m sure he’s going to have one big epic fight with Silver Samurai.

I’m sure a lot of things will happen. [laughs]

From seeing the footage we’re getting a darker Wolverine, something we even saw marketed with Man of Steel and Iron Man 3 with superhero movies in general are seemingly starting to take a darker, more serious tone.

Well the audience in a way is the generation that grew up on these series of films, all of them, I just don’t mean ours, are getting older. The people who saw the first Iron Man, the kids who saw the first X-Men, in a way there is a natural… it makes sense to me. I feel like the bar, in a funny way, is being raised in unique ways on cable and other places where the sophistication of films is demanding that… I think the idea of just spending a whole lot of money on a whole lot of sound and images isn’t enough. I think that’s a really good thing, a really healthy thing for movies. It isn’t just that easy that you can just string two hours of anything loud and fast moving together and know you’re going to get your money back. I think that’s an opportunity for filmmakers because that means actually that you better be delivering something of actual story value.

You talked a little bit about how freeing it was coming up with this story from the way that you guys approached it. What were the challenges that you faced not having all of these other characters to just fall back on?

You’re naked. You just have to make it work. You have to make the movie works on the terms of… I think of it as basically a western or a samurai picture or a noir picture, having made all of them, they’re much more relatable in their bones architecture than… there’s a reason that Seven Samurai became Magnificent Seven so easily. The reality is that these forms are very related to one another. The dressing is radically different, but the way of the structure and the way that characters relate isn’t. I felt more like I was making a western with Hugh Jackman without horses in Japan. From the moment you’re kind of doing that, you’re kind of adjusting to the fact that you’ve got to believe in the people on ground level. That’s the one thing that a western teaches you, the one thing, the cliché that the tent pole action picture has that you don’t have in a western, noir or a samurai picture is that you don’t have this crutch of being able to turn towards over-the-top action to hide the fact that you’re not actually telling any story at all. For a western or a noir picture or a samurai picture to function, it actually needs a story about character. So that kind of reductive way of thinking about the movie, and then adding the large action as a kind of deserved bonus that you get now that you care about these people and predicaments is a slight different way to think about it.

Just from the themes of immortality, does Wolverine come from this permanently changed, whether that’d be physically or emotionally?

How could I possibly answer that question? [laughs] It’s my hope that every character that enters the film is in a different place by the end than they are at the beginning.

The second part about that is what you were saying about how the story comes first and that in this movie you tell and complete your own Wolverine story. Is there still more room for that in the future, other stories that you can see in your own mind and other stories you can tell–

There’s room, there’s always room in the future.

You talked about seeing this as a genre piece, but it ultimately still is a comic book movie. How much do you play with that? Obviously we’ve seen the bullet train scene that works. Do we see that all the way through, the sort of comic book-ness of it?

I mean I don’t recognize these lines. If I had a record store I wouldn’t have country and rock, and where does this one go? I don’t know what comic book movie means. Does it mean Batman as it was on TV with Adam West, or do you mean Batman as done by Christopher Nolan? There’s a huge spectrum when you say that, and I don’t… why is Josey Wales not a comic book? Because he wasn’t a comic book? Why isn’t the Seven Samurai not a comic book? Because it wasn’t a comic book. Is it really that different? Is there a story, is there a legend, is there how they came to be, are there secrets, are there special tools in their special belts? Yes. So I don’t actually recognize if they’re actually that different. I think, to me, what’s dangerous is in the world of studios, calling something “comic book” has a danger of being a way of making it do anything and they’ll eat anything, meaning that it doesn’t have to make sense, it’s a comic book. I think the reality is that it does have to make sense and the comic books did make sense. Sometimes it’s too easy to take a brand and shovel a movie out where it doesn’t all add up but people are going to show up anyways because it is a comic book and a brand. So the point is, my whole thing is take it seriously. Take it seriously like you were making a western or another kind of film of classic lineage, in less pulpy lineage, because in a way that’s what I think Chris[topher Nolan] and others have done, which is take it very very seriously. I don’t think the first thing Chris[topher Nolan] thinks about in making those movies is a comic book. I think he thinks about the story.

Did the studio put pressure to ensure The Wolverine lined up with Days of Future Past, since Jackman is also returning for that?

I’ve been allowed to do whatever I wanted to do with this. I’ve had an incredibly great ride on this movie and it’s been incredibly fun. I think one of the things we were very lucky about was that the story was so clear, and I came in with a very clear idea about what I wanted to do, which everyone here liked and then we did it. As you well know, because you’ve probably read the comic books it’s based upon, the reality is you don’t even end up that hog tied because of what’s coming later because it’s so clear that what’s coming later has to do with what happened earlier. It’s not like I’m handing off to a movie that just clearly steps off from where we stop.

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