Writer/director Christopher McQuarrie’s new hard-boiled mystery/thriller Jack Reacher (starring Tom Cruise) will be in theaters this holiday season. While attending the Jack Reacher press junket in New York, part of our interview with McQuarrie inevitably turned toward his work in the X-Men movie universe.

McQuarrie wrote the original script for The Wolverine, the version that had Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky attached, before a multitude of factors forced Aronofsky to drop the project, and McQuarrie to soon follow suit. In talking with the Usual Suspects scribe, I learned more about what his version of The Wolverine would’ve been like – a version that McQuarrie himself describes as, “Kurosawa’s Wolverine.”

Star Hugh Jackman and director James Mangold (Walk the Line) recently did an extended interview about The Wolverine, assuring fans and casual moviegoers alike that this will be the best onscreen depiction of the character yet. While that may turn out to be true, certain fans will forever be wondering “What If?” (that’s a Marvel joke, folks) when the question of Aronofsky and McQuarrie’s version comes up. After all, it was a film that many fans (somewhat spuriously) predicted could become an Oscar contender when all was said and done.

Talking to McQuarrie, it’s clear that the Oscar-winning writer also views his version of The Wolverine as being something truly special:

The truth of the matter is that ‘Wolverine’ I consider to be one of my favorite scripts that I’ve ever written. I really held it near and dear to my heart, and I was sorry that circumstances worked out that I couldn’t be there and be involved in that movie. I’m almost afraid to see what it’s evolved into, because that’s the nature of the process.

Hugh Jackman in ‘The Wolverine’

I followed up by asking him what, exactly, led him to the character of Logan, and why he felt his superhero character piece was in fact so special:

Well you know, it was an X-Men movie – it was a Marvel movie – but it existed very much in a real world. And more than anything, I love it for the very fact that – at least in the script I wrote – he was the only mutant in the movie… It was what you’d imagine the Wolverine universe to be under the control of somebody who wrote ‘The Usual Suspects’ and ‘The Way of the Gun’ and is a fan of Sergio Leone. It was Kurosawa’s Wolverine.  There was a real romance to it, there was real humor to it, and a very straightforward sort of plain-faced brutality to it. I’m hoping they preserve that.

Hugh was really great, I liked working with Hugh a lot – he was very understanding, very open and supportive of me – so I’ll be very interested to see how that film turns out.

From what we know so far, Mangold and screenwriters Mark Bomback (Die Hard 4) and Scott Frank (Minority Report) have tweaked elements of McQuarrie’s script – possibly to better link The Wolverine with X-Men: Days of Future Past and the overall X-Men movie universe. This includes adding more mutant character (like the villain, Silver Samurai), and setting the film after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand.

Aronofsky’s Wolverine

That said, during their extended interview, both Jackman and Mangold touched upon themes – Logan’s alienation and rage as a quasi-immortal killing machine – that are very much in line with what McQuarrie sought to explore. Mangold has also called the film “an unconventional superhero movie,” which is definitely what the McQuarrie/Aronofsky version would’ve been (to put it mildly).

Plenty of fans will assert that a Wolverine film that is a bit more comic book than Kurosawa is definitely a better approach; and given how The Wolverine could end up interlocking with future X-Men films, those fans may be right. After all, in this post-Avengers era, it’s not very likely that an artistic (and truly standalone) Wolverine character drama would’ve been as effective or popular – what do you think?

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Stay tuned for more from our interview with McQuarrie, including what it’s like directing a blockbuster film like Jack Reacher, and his plan to expand the X-Men movie universe.

Jack Reacher will be in theaters on December 21, 2012.

The Wolverine releases on July 26, 2013.

X-Men: Days of Future Past hits theaters on July 18, 2014.