While on the Australian set of The Wolverine last fall, walking into a tent full of ninjas waiting for the wind to die down before they're called to set, we prepare to to chat with the star of the film. The ninja army leaving doesn't help reduce the noise in the large tent being blasted by the wind. After a few minutes, Hugh Jackman walks in, wishing to chat with us before he goes in for his makeup and hair. He's noticeably tall, unassuming, and he walks in with a smile, introducing himself as "Hugh" as if we didn't know who he was.
Under my button down is a classic X-Men t-shirt, he notices a corner of the logo, grabs my shirt asking what's on it and I assure him that Wolverine's there as I reveal the early '90s team. I was told, actually warned, he likes that sort of stuff, I wasn't told he loves that stuff.
There's myself and two others as we sit down on one of the dozens of wooden lunch tables is the vast temporary structure and begin our interview which we were told would be around 10 minutes.
Hugh Jackman: "How's it going, guys?"
Good, yourself? A little windy.
"A little windy, yeah, unfortunately. It's frustrating."
Okay, so the first thing we wanted to kind of ask you is where will we find the Wolverine character in the beginning of this film? We've heard a little bit about Wolverine's at his lowest point at the beginning of this film. Could you tell us a little bit about that?
"Well, you know where it takes place, right?"
After the [X-Men] trilogy.
"Yeah. So, pretty much as you know, a lot of his life even though a fair bit of it he couldn't remember, even the bits he does remember has involved pain and loss and the people closest to him dying, sometimes at his own hands, as you saw in X-Men 3. So, he's pretty much jacked off with life, with himself, with who he is, with his past. He really just wants out. He is finding it tough to find a reason for anything—to live, and battling with himself, with his really—with his immortality. All these things, everything close to him dies, so he doesn't want to be close to anything. So, he's pretty much off on his own. I don't think I want to tell you much more than that."
When you say everybody he knows dies, does that mean that this is further in the future?
"Well, not everyone, but the people he loves, you know? He's not good for people that are close to him. So, what was your question?"
No, that was it.
"Oh, that was it, right."
So, the Claremont Wolverine series, you were drawn to that. What was it about it that was interesting to you?
"Our movie is obviously quite different. I mean, it's not an X-Men reunion and there's no wedding like that. But, I just immediately loved the intrigue of the world, that it was based on some things that are true—the Yakuza, the elements of Japanese life. And I just think the juxtaposition of who he is as a character thrown into this world, which is just so opposite to him, where he kind of ends up at first, you know, he's sort of disdainful of it all, dismissive, and then he actually starts to learn some things. I love that first scene where he kind of, he's a little poisoned and he gets his ass kicked by the father. You know, I thought it was unexpected, and I think that's the great thing about that series and about the world we're setting up. A lot of it's unexpected and a lot of it, it's not jam packed full of mutants everywhere and powers, but it is otherworldly, in a way, and it's a fish out of water story and he's in our movie. Certainly, through Wolverine's eyes, it's really foreign and you don't know who's what. You don't really know who's good or bad. You don't really know what's at play. All we know is there's a lot of confusing, intricate elements.
The love triangle between Logan, Yukio and Mariko was a big part of the comic series.
Does that factor into this film as well?
"Yeah, it's obviously different because we're not starting—well, I'm trying to work that out before….." [Looks towards publicists at neighboring table]
(Laughs) We understand.
"Yeah, I know. There is an element there, but it is different than it is in the comic. But, I think that we touched on it enough that the fans of the comic will I think be really impressed with what Chris McQuarrie, how he interpreted it and how he came up with it to make it a narrative film line, I think was really smart, and I think actually even the points where we move away, the fans will go, 'Oh, actually, that's really cool, and I see why,' I'm pretty sure.
Our own Kofi Outlaw spoke with Christopher McQuarrie about Jack Reacher late last year where he detailed his original vision for The Wolverine, a screenplay he describes as his best work, and one that surprisingly involved no other mutants.
I have a question. So, when you did the live chat with Ryan [Penagos aka Agent M] on Monday, you specifically used the word, we're going to see your "Kryptonite," so to speak. Can you tell us a little bit about the physical dangers that you deal with, and whether or not mutants factor into that—mutant powers or mutant abilities?
"Right. Well, there are definitely, you know, let me start by saying I always think one of the most interesting things about Wolverine is the battle within himself. I think that is key, key to this story too, and that's where we start and it's really the resolution where we finish. There are a number of other mutants. You know about Viper, obviously. There's others that are certainly formidable in a very classic sense, I think. The fans will be really excited about that. So, there's a number of opponents to him that are great matches for Wolverine.
In terms of his Kryptonite, we were getting in that situation, and it was Chris McQuarrie who first said it to me, he said, 'There's this weird inflation or power to the point where it feels like there's very little danger, you know, to him, very little peril and it's like that. So, what you know, really, he's been shot. Oh, so now we gotta shoot him with an atomic bomb?' So, in this movie, and now I actually can't tell you why because it's so endemic to the core of the story. But, I was about to say something which would've given it away—no, I think he's just very, he's certainly compromised. And so, some of the things he could rely on, he can't all of. So, that's what I meant by Kryptonite.
This is a key part of the marketing so far when it comes to both trailers (one and two) of The Wolverine. Something happens and when Wolverine is shot at the funeral, his healing powers don't work as expected. We have yet to discover the cause of it, whether it's a permanent change that'll end his "curse" as promised or something caused by poison or another mutant power.
So what is it about the Japanese culture that draws Logan in?
It's girls, first, as is with him (laughs), you know, his weakness, really. There's a lot more girls in this, but it really is actually a girl. I mean, in our story, the reason he gets over there, I definitely can't tell you. I know you guys will love it. It's fantastic. It's Chris McQuarrie at his best. So, he gets drawn in very reluctantly, what is going to be a flyby, and it's got to do with something in his past and something that he said he would do a long time ago in his past that he's avoided, really for years, and just sort of, ah fuck it, I'll go, you know, that kind of thing. But, what really draws him in is the girl. That's what makes him stay a little longer than he normally would've, should've, whatever, however you want to look at it. But, I think your question is a good one because this idea of tradition and family, honor, history, the whole samurai code are opposite to him. He kind of thinks it's a bit like how you found him in X-Men - this whole idea of teams and this and schools. It's a crock, you know? He's just look after yourself and do the best you can, don't worry about all this other stuff. He actually realizes through it - even though he's definitely still a little disdainful of a lot of it - he realizes that actually in some way, the strength of those codes is in some ways greater than his own strength. So, he sees the positive side to it as well, and certainly learns from it. And one of the cool things of the action is, not that he's going to finish up the full samurai, and I know we've seen those images. Those certainly are some of the elements, particularly the mind control, which is something he's obviously struggled with his whole life. There are elements that he picks up on.
So we know a lot of this film deals with the idea of immortality, something you deal with is all of this loss. How many years does this take place after the X-Men films? Could we ever see something of Logan in the future, like Old Man Logan from the comics where he's looking back on his life and he's lost even more?
"Mmm... Great question. Can I say generally how long after? (looking at publicist)
Jackman: A few years, not that far. So, it's not that long after X-Men 3 finishes, long enough so that you see him—and you've probably seen the pictures of me with a really long ass beard and the long hair. Right. So, obviously long enough for that, and long enough to feel that he's settled into this kind of rut that he's in. Essentially, he's doing his best to stop himself from inflicting more damage and pain on everyone around him. I didn't answer the second part about the older. I think that would be fascinating, and I think that I can't really answer that question because you're onto something."