Back before Hugh Jackman got his first self-titled Wolverine spinoff movie after the X-Men trilogy, there were reports matching speculation that Fox could greenlight its first R rated X-Men film. Going back eight years, writer David Benioff (Game of Thrones) had every intention of making his script rated R but in the end X-Men Origins: Wolverine released as PG-13, banking as much as it could in theaters for Fox before the studio changed up the formula for the franchise going forward in response to the negative critical reception to X-Men 3 and the first series spinoff.
For the mostly standalone sequel, The Wolverine, the same discussion surfaced and those involved are absolutely interested in the idea of an R-rated Hugh Jackman unleashing adamantium claws on his enemies while embracing his berserker rage.
While on the Australian sets of The Wolverine in October, we discussed the rating with star Hugh Jackman, director James Mangold, producer Hutch Parker, and second unit director David Leitch, who would all love - much like some Marvel Comics readers would- to see Jackman's Wolverine unleashed, so to speak.
Would the content and action sequences in The Wolverine lend itself better to an R rating? Jackman has the best answer:
"We talked about it. Darren and I talked about it. Jim and I talked about it. The studio and I talked about it. By the way, they were open to that idea because if you're ever going to make a real character R-rated, Wolverine's the one, and I can… part of me would just love to indulge in the freedom that that gives you. On the same point, and I worked with him, but I'm forever grateful to Chris Nolan because I think what he's shown is actually the R-rating is not necessary to give you a satisfying, smart, dark, emotionally complex story. All I said to Darren and I said to Jim, I said, 'It's tempting , could be great.' Obviously, the samurai elements, and you think of the history of blood spattering and all of that, the visuals, all of that, which is so tempting, I can't tell you in the last 10 years how many 11, 13, 15 year olds, 17 year-olds that I've met that it's not just 'cool movie, man,' what it means to them. And so, I say, we've gotta have an incredible reason to deliberately exclude them, because that's what we're saying. We're saying, ‘This is not for you,' or ‘you can watch it in six years' time. I mean, of course, they'll all watch it anyway. But the message is, 'This is not for you.' And I just said, 'In the end, actually, everything we wanted to do with an R-rated version, we are doing in terms of who the character is.' So, yeah. One more?
The reasoning is sound and is consistent with Jackman's explanation to MTV earlier last year about desiring an R rating but knowing it's not necessary to deliver the same character story, action sequences and themes.
We asked producer Hutch Parker about the rating, knowing how much more visceral and bloody the film is versus previous X-Men franchise installments.
"I don't know what I'd put the rating, but it's definitely Wolverine unleashed. It's much rawer, much more visceral. In pushing down Wolverine you can expect and will be, I hope, satisfied by how much more of the berserker you see.
He's fighting more desperately in this and I think the challenges he faces, both internal and external, are deeper challenges and as a result it provokes a more rageful and berserker Wolverine, so it's certainly our intention to fulfill that. I think the comic book does and that's certainly the intention of the film."
We also chatted with second unit director David Leitch about the subject since he's heavily involved with some of the key action sequences in the film, and has a background in martial arts, stunt choreography and more, even doubling as the stunt man for Jeremy Renner in films including The Bourne Legacy and helping direct the second unit of Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. He told us on the journey to the set that he'd love to see a second R rated version of The Wolverine release, promising the the action in this flick delivers.
As for the man in charge himself, director James Mangold
"Well, I want to be careful about the words I’m using only because it has a lot of power one way or another, influencing all sorts of people. I want to make a more gripping, intense film. I feel like that—and I think you know what I mean, and I think the reality is that this character is built - he's not Superman. He has limits, but one thing he has built into him that’s a part of his character is anger, and the anger of being forever, the anger of being misunderstood, the anger of being a mutant, the anger of being damaged, the anger of the losses he's suffered in this incredibly long life he's already lived, the anger of the fuck-ups of humanity that he gets to watch us do over and over again. Those things I want living and breathing in his character, in his action, in his interactions with other people, and also in the way we depict action in the movie, which is that less fanciful, more gritty, more urgent, and more real in the sense that you want it to feel like it’s not straining the bounds of credulity every moment that action is happening."
Not unlike writer Christopher McQuarrie explaining that The Wolverine script is his best work, the in-development-hell Deadpool spinoff film also has a highly praised screenplay that earns a hard R. Will Fox take that risk one day or at the very least, offer a special edition re-release, whether in theaters or home video that includes such a thing?
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.
Stay tuned for our set reports and full interview with Hugh Jackman.
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 info.
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