In the fall on 2012 I visited the set of The Wolverine and chatted at length with star Hugh Jackman about his career and future as the most popular X-Men hero. The cast and crew were halfway done shooting the second standalone feature for the adamantium-laced mutant, a film by James Mangold that explored the "curse" of immortality. Let's just say that by the conclusion of The Wolverine, Logan (Jackman) was a changed man in more ways than one.
Wolverine is a mutant with extreme regenerative healing abilities, so over-powered that not even a nuclear blast can take him out. In the comics, the cartoons and the films he cannot die. At least that's been the way so far, but as the 45 year-old Aussie star ages, there must come and end to his Wolverine story. There must be an end to Wolverine. Wolverine must die.
Not to get too dramatic, but the timing of this is just too good, and this is what Marvel Comics is planning. Just last week, the publisher announced the 'Death of Wolverine' comic series and "3 Months to Live" story arc coming this summer, an event that will take away Wolvy's healing powers and kill him off. We all know that tends to be a temporary thing in comics but Marvel promises that these events are coming from "a standpoint of finality, of closure" and are already teasing a different Marvel universe, one without one of their flagship characters.
It's no coincidence either that just a week before, Hugh Jackman made a few subtle comments (not the first time) while promoting X-Men: Days of Future Past in saying that he knows for certain that Wolverine will be recast, which means to us, that he's chatted with his friends James Mangold - who's currently putting together a story for Wolverine 3 - and X-Men franchise producer Lauren Shuler Donner about concluding his story. In fact, at this point, he's not even signed on for Wolverine 3 which already has a release date for 2017.
In speaking with SFX about the future of Wolverine, Jackman explains that if he does Wolverine, he's rather certain it'll be his last time playing the character.
"I don’t know yet. We’re talking it through. I still am very ambitious for the character. And tonally I feel like we corrected the ship with the last one. But I feel we can still go further, in a way. If I did another one I’m 99.9% sure it would be the last, so that will inform what it is for me."
With an aging actor playing an aging character, we had thought something like this would be coming when we asked Jackman about it in 2012 - and this was before he even signed for X-Men: Days of Future Past - and when I brought up the story of Old Man Logan from the comics, it brought about an interesting reaction from the star who said this:
"I think that would be fascinating, and I think that I can’t really answer that question because you’re onto something."
Skip forward a year and a half, and it seems we know why he was all smiles and dodgy about the potential of an Old Man Logan-style film.
"Well, of course we’re looking at Old Man Logan, because that may be the only option left at this point! [laughs] We are looking at a lot of different storylines. No one has jumped out. You can tell from my answer that we’re still working it out. I’m working with Jim Mangold, which is exciting. Jim came on board The Wolverine after Darren [Aronofsky] left, so he inherited it. And of all the things that Jim can do, one of the great things he does is develop scripts. I’m excited to see what we can come up with, but I haven’t signed on signed on. I’m genuinely at that point where unless it’s better than the last one I’m not going to do it."
Jackman continues, pointing out that he doesn't want story elements of the next Wolverine adventure to be predictable and he felt that was an issue in the last one. He'll only do it if it's worth doing, if it's better, echoing the statements producer Hutch Parker said about a third Wolverine as well - that the onus is on them and the studio to craft a story that's worthy of Jackman's efforts. And it's a mighty effort considering the physical demands of maintaining a ripped physique.
So, if 2017's Wolverine 3 is the last Jackman appearance as Logan, that doesn't preclude him from also being a major part of 2016's X-Men: Apocalypse and we're rather certain he will be in that one too. As for Jackman, just because he's probably done making Wolverine movies, it also doesn't necessarily mean he's completely out from the franchise, nor does it mean the character will be "killed off" in an expected way. Saying that Wolverine 3 is 99.9% his last might only refer to solo outings.
Jackman already hinted at recasting so we will inevitably one day see a younger star play the character, and as we've speculated for half a decade on the site, there's always the potential of keeping Jackman around by transforming him into the character of Cable - the time-travelling mutant that was redefined as an older Wolverine from the future in the Ultimate X-Men comics. That would let the studio keep franchise poster boy Hugh Jackman, while also introducing a new Wolverine for the long haul. It also lets Jackman take a break on the lean chicken and steamed veggie diet.
Then again, if the comics are killing Wolverine, that's a cross-media type marketing ploy which means he might die in the films. Only time will tell. How would you like to see Wolverine handled in the movies? If X-Force gets the greenlight, should Jackman be in it?
Bryan Singer directs X-Men: Days of Future Past with newcomers Peter Dinklage, Omar Sy, Boo Boo Stewart, Fan Bingbing, Evan Peters, Adan Canto, Josh Helman, Evan Jonigkeit along with returning stars Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman, Anna Paquin, Ellen Page, Shawn Ashmore, Halle Berry, Lucas Till, and Daniel Cudmore.
X-Men: Days of Future Past arrives in U.S. theaters on May 23rd, 2014, followed by Fantastic Four on June 19th, 2015, X-Men: Apocalypse on May 27th, 2016, The Wolverine 3 (not the official title) on March 3rd, 2017, Fantastic Four 2 on July 14th, 2017, and an unspecified Marvel film on July 13th, 2018.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.