Once the story moves to Japan, which we saw in the intro, the rest of the story…
Yes, 100% Japan from there. You saw the entire part of the picture that exists outside of Japan.
So there was the first movie that’s coming out, and we talked about how it was sort of it’s own one-shot of this new sort of Fox superhero thing where Mark Millar is talking about stories. Talk a little bit about you sort of for that once Mark Millar came on.
I’ve actually never met Mark. He’s been working on a script the whole time. One of the things that just showed from the studio’s point of view, I haven’t traded emails with him and talked to him with what I’m up to, but the reality is… I think what Mark’s doing and more so what people here are trying to do is just make everything line up in some way, but also at the same time not hog tie or keep each filmmaker being able to tell a story that works. I honestly have felt, and maybe it’s the luck of this particular project or maybe it’s the way that things are going to operate now, but I feel that we’ve just done what we’ve felt like we should do and the studio has supported it. It’s honestly been a really lovely process.
It must have been fun shooting most of it, or a good chunk of it out there in Australia. I have a friend who lives up there, he was taking a train and he went to a train stop and suddenly it wasn’t Australia anymore but it was Japan. Could you talk a little bit about the experience of it all in Australia?
In Australia? I loved it. It’s a great country. Sydney is an incredible city and I had one of the best crews I’ve ever worked with in my life there. I think that we brought a lot of them to Japan, but the experience was a great one. Not many people think about it, but Australia has such a unique position being this kind of destination of a lot of the biggest movies made in the last 20 years. If you kind of fold New Zealand, because they all kind of share a talent base of visual effects crews, it’s an incredible rich environment. You consider that the Narnia films were made there, the last 3 Star Wars films, all of Peter Jackson’s movies, it’s an incredibly rich environment. You need special swords made, special claws made, some new device or something someone’s up to fabricated, some of the greatest designers, prop makers, artifact builders, weapons people are all down there and they’ve done some of the most imaginative and fantastic work because of the kind of films that have landed there. In some ways it’s a tragedy for this country but so many of those movies have landed there that it dawns on you how talent-rich they are in servicing movies like this, and doing it with style.
I know Dave [Leitch] was the 2nd unit director, how much of the action did he bring to that and how did he get involved?
We almost shot, actually, 6 months earlier. You know Hugh ended up doing Les Mis, we could get it soon enough and the seasons weren’t working with us where we wanted to shoot. But the fact is that Dave and I, we ended up spending 6, 7 months together working on the movie, planning action before we ever went, so it was kind of this wonderful ancillary reality to how long it took for us to finally get into production which is I had all that time to prep. Usually these movies, I think that’s one of the biggest liabilities for directors. Usually when they’re greenlit they have a date and the date is already the next summer so you’re always in a race. Our film existed where we had clearly passed any ability to be out last year so we kind of then gained 8 months or R&D, which Dave and I spent working together. Dave did a lot of work but I’m not someone who likes the idea of having multiple stages shooting or sending people off. To me, these movies live and die by having a very strong sense of tone staying the same throughout the picture. And it was very important to me that the action, which is what Dave and I worked on more than anything, be believable. That it not be so, kind of, CG or wire driven that it feel like…obviously we wanted scale. And visual effects are going to play a role in that kind of scale. But there’s just a level where I don’t want Logan reaching up and pulling aircraft out of the air. I want it to exist in a more physical reality where he isn’t Spider-Man or Superman, he is a man – with a crazy strong skeleton and incredible strength and an ability to heal but he can’t leap over buildings in a single bound. So we live within and push at the edges but live within the realm of that. Modeling ourselves as much on movies like French Connection or Josey Wales or the Bourne films, trying to kind of pull things back to someplace where his own darkness and intensity and physicality has more of a chance to shine instead of every gag and every piece of action being so huge that it almost overwhelms. I want to see his character in the action and I think even in that train sequence it’s an effort to kind of make sure, even though the visuals are big, that you’re feeling connected to him and who he is and the moves he’s making and not just that your going on a kind of kaleidoscopic journey.
Can you talk about that train sequence? We’ve seen train sequences in Mission: Impossible and Spider-man 2, did you kind of look at other train sequences throughout the years?
I saw Mission way back when it came out and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen Spider-Man 2. But the reality for me was, after our first scouts, the idea of what going 270 mph might do. To the outside of the train. And you could take the trope that’s been around since Buster Keaton of running around on the outside of a train. I mean they did it in the opening of the new Bond film too last year. And then suddenly up the speed to this point that suddenly all these rules of physics start to change. That’s what started to interest me. Also if you spend time in Japan, the architecture is so intricate. The wires. It’s part of the artistry of how the cities are built. The amount of tressels and cables and the way they tie cables, it’s like a city of extension cords. And it occurred to me if you’re traveling 300 mph one of the biggest problems isn’t going to be the wind or the speed or any turns the train makes but just the shit that’s going to come by you that’s still. Suddenly you’re in this high speed game of limbo with overpasses, underpasses and to me most often the best action sequences are always, and again this gets back to westerns and the simplicity of them, is simple metaphor, simple idea. Something that kind of allows your characters to reveal more about themselves and their abilities in the face of one very interesting physical reality. And then not much more is needed. Sometimes people try too hard and there’s a lot to explore. You learn watching Cirque Du Soleil, they’ll just pull out one trampoline and do 150 incredible things with it. Movies too often to me pull out a trampoline, jump on it once, then pull something out, to me the inventiveness is how much you can keep finding new pedals, layers, underneath something and inverting the idea, then inverting the idea again.
You talk about the film being built as a mystery and you get that with the first 20 minutes, but how do you balance that with marketing a film? The first trailer didn’t give away too much, but now we know about the train sequence, do have a hand in that?
They do, they talk to you about it. They reality is they can’t possibly show…it’s very hard to show 3 minutes of the film cut up in any which way and not be giving away an awful lot. Particularly things have changed so much in the sense that now it exists online and people are making screen captures even if its an 18 frame cut and they’re analyzing what everyone’s wearing in the screen capture, they’re analyzing this, so you have several levels where you’re not done. Your visual effects aren’t done, so the trickiest thing is making sure A) what’s getting out is also getting analyzed in a way where, it’s such a complicated thing. Everyone is going ‘Where is my teaser trailer’ or duh duh duh and the second they get it they’re going ‘Well, that looks half baked’ or blah blah blah. So you’re always trying to balance how you can kind of both serve people’s hunger but also under stand that they’ll always be hungry for more, until the movie actually comes out.
Was the Vine thing your idea?
No. In fact I was really skeptical about it and when Tony showed me what they were playing with and then we messed with it a little more and got to this kind of 6 second thing, I understood suddenly, what I never understood cause the way it would have been pitched to me was ‘Oh people’s attention spans have gotten so short,’ right? And it was like ‘Yeah, they’ve not gotten so short that they needed 6 seconds or less.’ But what I didn’t understand and the second I saw it I completely understand is the way you could share something that small. Almost like a living playing card. In an email or a tweet or anything because just as a chunk of data it’s so small, it’s a pellet. It has a different kind of power. Which I think was more prevalent, I mean, we got incredible saturation with it, a lot of people saw it and part of that had to do with the newness of it and interest in the movie, obviously, but part of it is it is really convenient. It is really smart. And I don’t think it’s because people wouldn’t want to see something a minute and a half or three minutes long because then god knows why they would even bother coming to the movie. But the fact is it’s our currency now, these little nuggets and quotes and objects. But it was a great idea and a great name: Tweezer.
This project existed before you came onto it. Darren Aronofsky, Chris McQuarrie, how much of their stuff did you use? I know you said ‘This is my movie’ and put your stamp on it.
It doesn’t actually work that way. It’s not like I come in and piss on something. [All Laugh] I mean, these are smart people and they have good ideas and you’re kind of getting… I’m not taking offense, I’m just trying to say I have a lot of respect for both those guys. The reality is there’s always books and things friends have been working on and we also all talk to each other. I can’t tell you on other projects how many great ideas I’ve gotten from a friend who isn’t even credited with anything on the movie but just gave me a tip or something that occurred to them watching it. So you’re always sharing and you’re always passing things off and I spoke to Darren before I came on. But it was more that I was just in when I came on I was just trying to make it make sense for me. The whole thing kind of pulled together and make sense for me. But certainly there’s work of Chris’s script, there’s stuff in the movie. It’s not like we tossed stuff away. We just kept developing the movie. The real thing was I see my job and as a write myself, I mean I worked on the script as well. What you are always trying to do is you’re kind of setting down just an idea. I try and evangelize, like I did with you guys, like the first 5 words I wrote on the script was “Everyone I love will die.” This is a movie about that. So now what do I do? How do I follow my journey through the Claremont/Miller saga and touch upon that? Are there other people wrestling with issues of immortality? Are there other characters who wish they were dead but are mortal? Wish they could live forever but are mortal? Or are immortal and want to live forever and don’t have the same abilities? How many permutations of this idea can I populate this story with in which you suddenly get something really rich because, to me, that’s the best of what comic book films have done is to both exist in a pulpy universe but at the same time deal with deep themes. I mean Shakespeare played to the groundlings he didn’t just play to the royals. So who knows what makes a comic book a comic book? You know what I mean. The reality is just you just kind of sit down and its not so much I’m trying to get rid of someone’s work or enhance someone else’s work, I go ‘How can we set sail toward this theme? What is on this theme? What is a different theme and therefore taking me in the wrong direction? What’s going to carry me this way?
The Wolverine is directed by James Mangold off of Mark Bomback and Christopher McQuarrie’s screenplay. It stars Hugh Jackman, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Will Yun Lee, Brian Tee, Hiroyuki Sanada, and Rila Fukushima.
The Wolverine hits theaters July 26, 2013. X-Men: Days of Future Past hits theaters on July 18th, 2014.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes for your X-Men movie news.