Hugh Jackman, Wolverine, X-Men: Days of Future Past
X-Men: Days of Future Past features more mutants than have ever been on screen together before for a massive adventure launching us from an apocalyptic future back into the world of the First Class team. But spanning both time periods, and anchoring the film as he has the franchise, is Hugh Jackman’s troubled warrior, Wolverine.
With his near-impervious Adamantium-bonded bones and his remarkable ability to heal, Wolverine has, over the years, become one of the best-loved heroes in the X-Men films and one of the most iconic superheroes to make the leap from comics to the big screen. In Days of Future Past, he’ll be tested to the limit as his consciousness is sent back through time to help his friends stop one of the most dangerous threats they’ve faced yet.
Returning to the character for his seventh appearance is Hugh Jackman, who himself has won a big following thanks to his charisma-filled performances. He talks about Logan’s mindset, bonding with the First Class actors and working with his old friends…
How did you react when you were presented with the material, knowing it’s going to be Days of Future Past?
I didn’t know it as much. Obviously I’m more myopic about Wolverine and I didn’t really know X-Men at all before I started. So I’d heard of this comic, but didn’t know it was as beloved or iconic as it is. I just knew fans are going to flip out at this, because as they know with Bryan, there’s no director better at handling multi-character stories. He knows how to do that; he showed us throughout The Usual Suspects. His characters are always smart, always engaging, and always surprising. He really wanted to create a very realistic, human, emotionally rich dynamic and it’s just gone to another level on this. It’s a very epic, big, big movie.
And this is forcing Logan into a newer situation where he has to be a guide and a leader…
As soon as he gets to a point where he’s ready to do battle and be part of that, all of a sudden he’s given a job that is completely different for him, and he doesn’t think he’s qualified, except for physically, as he’s the only one that can go back. But when he goes back in time, in a way it mirrors the first X-Men, as he has to be a mentor for Charles and the others in the way Charles was for him in that first film.
And it can’t be the easiest situation to show up at somebody’s house and announce you’re from the future!
Exactly! And he’s not really a man of many words, nor does he have a lot of patience to explain things like this. He just figures he’ll be accepted immediately, which of course, he’s not, which brings up some very funny bits. He’s just a man of action and wants to get in there and get things done, so it was really fun to play. There was definitely the acting challenge of revealing the older mind in his younger body. It’s not just a matter of explaining the deal and what he’s got to do, but also encouraging those characters to solve the situation.
How was it working with the First Class cast?
They were awesome! I remember the first day on set we had with Nick Hoult and James McAvoy, and we were walking down the old X-mansion hallways, which Bryan had made to the exact blueprints that he used for the first X-Men film. Nick came up to me and said, “I remember watching you walking down these halls when I was eight years old…” I said, “Nick, I think I really like you, so why don’t we stop the conversation right now? I know that’s meant to be a compliment, but…” And he goes, “Right. Sorry, yeah mate. Got it.” (Laughs) I’ve never really been on a set before where you’re saying, “Guys, okay, enough with the BB guns around the trailers. Somebody’s going to get hurt…” They were hilarious and they were great. What was amazing was to watch them having the same bond that we all had on the earlier films. And when we started, we weren’t massive movie stars – Jennifer [Lawrence], Michael [Fassbender], James [McAvoy], and Nick [Hoult], the way they interact, they’re so down to earth and having a blast, while still taking it very seriously.
How was it reuniting with the original cast? The phrase school reunion has been thrown around…
I have so many images of watching Ian and Patrick walking arm in arm on the way to set. They were getting ready to do their play together, so they were running lines. Halle Berry was pregnant and as soon as they called cut, she would unzip her costume to relax. It was an incredible feeling. It was about a month for all of us all together and it’s been 14 years since the first one; we’re all still so close and to have Bryan there as well, it felt like it had come full circle and we were very grateful for the opportunity.
Has Bryan’s style changed in the time since X2?
He’s 14 years older and has had 14 more years’ experience in the business, so there’s a different confidence level there. And there’s also an awareness of how lucky we are to be doing this. At this point, particularly with superhero films, Bryan is iconic because he’s credited with starting the whole modern version of the genre. It was a bold choice back in the day, and there were many nonbelievers in the beginning. For this one, we had a very strong script, and in a way it felt similar to X2 where there was less of the anxiety about the genre or the tone working, and so it was interesting for him. It was a massive jigsaw puzzle in terms of actors’ schedules and he had an entirely new cast to work with… we both slightly felt like the outsiders when the First Class cast began shooting. Bryan has more confidence in the drama, as well as the comedy. He’s become such a master with the action and the visual side. And the 3D aspect – he knows how to shoot that and not have it feel like it’s a conversion job.
Was the time travel stuff ever confusing, script-wise?
Given that the production was split up because of Ian and Patrick’s schedule, we shot the future first and then the past, so in that way it was relatively easy. The thing about Bryan is – and I’ve never quite seen this before with him – he gets a lot of ideas on the day of or the day before for a scene that he already loves, which actually improves it. He really has this knack of elevating the material on the day, so there are always changes on-set, and learning how to be quick on your feet is important with him. It was really exciting. He always made things better – and he had a great script to start with. I think one of the great action sequences in the movie was a relatively late idea that he had – it was originally a scene between the younger actors and myself around a dining room table in the mansion that ultimately became this great scene in the X-Jet. It was fantastic because what Bryan understands is that powers come from an emotional fragility, some sort of trauma in the past. So you have action sequences that are emotionally dramatic and when Magneto starts to lose it and he’s on a plane 30-40,000 feet in the air, it’s going to be problematic! It was a really fun scene to shoot and it felt so real.
It’s pretty rare that in film that you get to play opposite two actors who are playing the same character. Can you talk about the difference in energy, or the complimentary energy, for instance, between Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender?
Well, what’s amazing is that with this story, I’m not talking about the actor, but rather the character of Xavier, as he is very much at the center of the story. Playing with the younger characters, you really get a chance to see a much broader range of him as a person than we ever got with Patrick, because he was a much more set character in a way. So his journey is huge and I get to follow it through, as you said, with both actors and both are… honestly, all four are incredible actors. I know that Ian and Patrick are thrilled that Michael and James are playing those characters. When I first saw X-Men: First Class, I thought one of the most difficult things was, ‘will they be able to create that chemistry, the layered, complex relationship that Ian and Patrick did in very little screen time?’ Because for me, I’ve known them for years as theater actors, right? And I always thought, well, this is the English version of De Niro and Pacino in Heat. These two actors up against each other are amazing. And I think the younger actors have created that and maybe even more, because there’s more for them to explore, story-wise.
The trailers make it look like you’re in even better shape than you were before. You play a lot of your own stunts, right?
Yeah. I do a lot of my own stuff, except the stupid stuff like bashing your head against walls or crashing cars and all that jazz.
So where does Wolverine’s future lie?
We are figuring out the next Wolverine. James Mangold and I have been working on figuring it out – James more so than me. I haven’t officially said yes to it yet. We corrected the ship with The Wolverine and we have to find a compelling reason to do another one. I am now quite protective of the character and what I do with it, so we have to find something new for everyone.
Catch X-Men: Days of Future Past in local cinemas 23 May 2014