Before X-Men: Days of Future Past opened in theaters last summer and before it set box office records for the long-running series, Twentieth Century Fox made it clear that they would be banking big time on the X-Men franchise and its most valuable comic book characters for years to come. They set a quick release date for a direct sequel, X-Men: Apocalypse, and announced a followup to The Wolverine which would re-team star Hugh Jackman and director James Mangold for another solo character adventure in 2017.

At the time, Jackman made it seems like he knew he was on his way out and hinted that Wolverine 3 (it currently remains untitled) could be his last X-Men film. After all, he’s an aging star in a physically demanding role and repeatedly said his recasting would be inevitable. We since learned that the character was almost recast for X-Men: Days of Future Past, meaning we might have had a younger Wolverine actor starring in movies alongside the older Jackman Wolverine.

That, thankfully for Jackman fans, is no longer the case. A combination of Fox taking the X-Men franchise more seriously than ever, and their inevitable plans to cross it over with the rebooted Fantastic Four movies has Jackman excited. Days of Future Past giving Jackman a chance to play another version of Wolverine in the past alongside X-Men: First Class stars Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fasssbender and James McAvoy helped “refresh” the experience for the Australian star and now he doesn’t want to stop. The Oscar-winning film Birdman and its story of an aging ex-superhero actor (played by original Batman star Michael Keaton) looking desperately to get back into the spotlight helped too:

“I said to my wife, ‘The moral is that I should never stop playing Wolverine. I’ve got to find a way to keep playing him until I die.’ I know that someday they’ll recast the role with another actor…I’d be happy if the role was eventually recast. It would mean that it had become iconic.”

While he can’t talk about it yet, and won’t officially confirm his involvement, we all know Hugh Jackman will also be reprising his Wolverine role (he’s already working out hard to get into mutant superhero shape) next year in X-Men: Apocalypse and it begins shooting in Montreal next month. Jackman previously went on record hoping that it and Wolverine 3 would shoot back-to-back to make it easier on his training but that’s not the plan. James Mangold tweeted the following today:

Wolverine 3 is scheduled for a March 2017 release date so it doesn’t need to shoot this year directly after Apocalypse. Since these dates were initially set, Fox also added two more X-Men movie projects to their production slate which makes separating those two a necessity as well. Deadpool begins shooting very soon for a February release date next year and after Apocalypse shoots, Gambit goes into production for a late 2016 release (also before Wolverine 3). We’re unsure at this point how intertwined the stories of these spinoff films are, or if Jackman is involved in anyway in one or both, but we do know Wolverine 3 and X-Men: Apocalypse have connections.

Jackman does frequently tease his interest in sharing the screen with Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool (again) though so we expect at least a cameo. In his own next movie though, Jackman’s Wolverine will re-team with Patrick Stewart’s Professor X so it’s becoming increasingly clear that these solo adventures could be building towards something larger, perhaps the unannounced 2018 X-Men movie.

More: Jackman Talks Avengers/Wolverine Crossover Interest

Fantastic Four opens August 7th, 2015, Deadpool on February 12, 2016, X-Men: Apocalypse on May 27, 2016, Gambit on October 7 2016, Wolverine 3 (not the official title) on March 3rd, 2017, Fantastic Four 2 on July 14th, 2017, and some as-yet unspecified X-Men film on July 13th, 2018.

Sources: Hugh Jackman, James Mangold

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