Despite teasing that he could see himself playing the character for the rest of his career, Hugh Jackman made the bittersweet announcement to his fans earlier this year that the untitled Wolverine 3 scheduled for summer 2017 would be his last movie sporting claws for the X-Men movie franchise. Twentieth Century Fox now needs to build and grow the X-Men series without their long-time poster boy star and they're already starting on this process.
Perhaps it was this last negotiation for Wolverine 3 that convinced X-Men producers and the studios to greenlight other solo character films for Deadpool and Gambit - both releasing around X-Men: Apocalypse in 2016 - in an effort to establish other bankable franchise stars.
But just like the comics, and as we're already seeing in the movies, characters don't necessarily stay dead. Even the top-selling "Death of Wolverine" comic story arc from last year couldn't stop Marvel from bring in another version of Old Man Logan in their current Secret Wars event. And with time-travel playing a crucial role in resetting the entire timeline of the X-Men movie franchise, allowing them to reintroduce younger versions of core characters, it's likely, perhaps even inevitable, that Wolverine will return one day played by another actor.
Hardy of course is no stranger to the comic book movie genre, having played Bane and expressing interest in playing him again if possible in the new DC cinematic universe. He is currently 38 (Jackman is 46) though which, even if he did appear in Wolverine 3, would be 40 at the time. That selection wouldn't give the studio the lengthy multi-picture obligation they would aim for in this sort of casting.
Recasting the Wolverine character was the original plan for X-Men: Days of Future Past when it was first conceived by X-Men: First Class director Matthew Vaughn. His idea was for Days of Future Past to be a two-parter where a new and younger Wolverine would be recast for the first part and Jackman would return as older Wolverine for part two. As for who could take the reins from Jackman, the actor himself shared his own idea to MTV while promoting Pan this week.
That's a great question. I haven't given it a lot of thought. I've been asked the question a lot and I'm always like "I don't want to make it too easy on the studio to replace me." I've still got one more to do. I'm sure they're already talking about it, that some actor out there they've already said "shhhh... keep it quiet but we want you next."
He's younger than me for sure, I think Tom Hardy would be a great...
How and when such a recasting could take place remains to be seen but we know Wolverine 3 - which shoots next year - ends the arc of the modern era Wolverine and will focus heavily on the father-son relationship between Patrick Stewart's Professor X and Hugh Jackman's Logan. Jackman revealed that this movie would tie-in to 2016's X-Men: Apocalypse in a big way and since the latter is set in the '80s, perhaps time-travel or alternate universes are still in play after the events of last summer's Days of Future Past.
That plot device could be used to introduce another Wolverine but it may be more likely for the studio to wait until the time is right to re-introduced him, especially if the series will continue with the new younger stars playing Cyclops, Jean Grey, Jubilee, Nightcrawler, and Storm. They don't need him just yet.
The question we're still wondering is if and how Wolverine will factor into X-Men: Apocalypse after his mysterious sendoff at the end of X-Men: Days of Future Past and how that will affect Wolverine 3. Share your thoughts in the comments and let us know who you'd pick to play Wolverine next!
Deadpool opens in theaters February 12, 2016; X-Men: Apocalypse on May 27, 2016; Gambit on October 7, 2016; Wolverine 3 on March 3, 2017; Fantastic Four 2 on June 9, 2017; and some as-yet unspecified X-Men film on July 13, 2018. The New Mutants is also in development.