July 5, 2000
Spoilers: Danger, Will Robinson,
[A few months ago, IGN Movies hiked up to lovely 28-degree Toronto to scope out the X-Men set at the old Gooderham & Worts distillery (whose weathered brick buildings look beautiful in snowfall). Get out your umbrella,'cause we're ramping it up for X-day (July 14) with a deluge of on-set interviews from the mutants that put together one of the summer's most anticipated (and sometimes feared) flicks.]
You know you're in a different world when you're scarfing down lunch and you look over and think, "Oh, there's Logan." And then you think, "Holy $#!^, that's Logan!"
It's the bizarre paradox of moviemaking: you've never met this guy, but you know the character he plays and feel like he's a friend. A psychotic friend, but a friend nonetheless. The difference is that off the set, Hugh Jackman smiles a lot more than Logan. And he's nicer: we didn't see him snikt! a single gaffer.
So can this Australian unknown pull off one of the most popular (and vicious) comic creations of all time? We think so. (Remember, nobody knew Christopher Reeve before Superman, either.) We can tell you this, Hugh's got the look. He's taller than the Logan you'd expect, but as somebody opined, do you really want a Wolverine who's dwarfed by Anna Paquin? Jackman hovers around six feet tall, but that's when he's in the lunch line. Onscreen he hunches over, compact and coiled.
Director Bryan Singer's mandate for X-men is realism. If it's not real, or you can't explain it in real-world terms, it's out. For instance, Cerebro and the Blackbird are explainable, and they're in. And we all know about the costume outcry. But what about Wolvie?
We can tell you this: Jackman easily rides that line between comics and realism. As Hugh says, Logan has to be able to walk around and not be hassled. So the hair points have been toned down to just-noticeable. The clothes are normal -- a worn, layered look, like someone who spends a lot of time outdoors in the same set of clothes. If you're looking for Logan in a crowd, you'll find him. If you're not looking, he blends in.
We grabbed a few minutes with Hugh to interrogate him about everything X. He had an info guard perched on his shoulder, to insure Mr. J. didn't let too many cats out of the bag. Still, Hugh said more than Fox wanted him to. Which is why we like him. By the time his guard moved to say anything, the words were out of Hugh's mouth and onto our tape.
To set the mood for this romantic mutant talk, remember this: Hugh Jackman sounds like Mel Gibson, has a great sense of humor, loves Wolverine like a fan, and he's a hell of a nice guy. Read on.
IGN Movies: How does it feel to be wearing the claws?
Hugh: At times it's a little daunting [due to expectations]. I had lunch with a guy today who works in security here, who'd been reading the comics for years. And his dog is named Logan. I said, "Bring him in and we'll get the claws in his paw and get a few shots."
[A guy in a health food store told me,] "You gonna to play him Canadian, right?" I said, "Well ... " "No, no, no. He's Canadian. You don't play him Canadian, man, you're in trouble." So there's hockey sticks hanging there in the set. But I'm not saying [Canadian accent] "oot and aboot."
IGN Movies: Do you say, "Bub"? You gotta say "Bub."
Hugh: Yeah. I've slipped "Bub" in twice so far. It hasn't been in the script. But I've just slipped it in, at the end of lines. And hopefully it'll make it to the movie.
It's such a signature thing. It's a fine line we walk in this movie of making it realistic and having a tone that is real. Making this world real. Still maintaining the essence of the story without it being two-dimensional in any way. Things like the hair, for example. We had to work on that for a long time, because of all the fans. "In the first moment," [director Bryan Singer] said, "they have to say 'That's Wolverine!'" But at the same time he's got to be able to have a drink in a bar without people thinking "Who's this freak?"
I'm not answering your question, basically [laughs]. Kind of the more I find out about it, the more of a responsibility and the more of an honor it is. Because this character in people's imagination is literally larger than life.
IGN Movies: What was it like wearing the claws? Any mishaps?
Hugh: I've got a nice scar just here [above left knee] on my leg from the X-Men uniforms that we have. They have padding built into them around the knee. High-density rubber, which is a centimeter thick. I was doing the big fight with Sabretooth. I don't even know how I did it, but I punctured straight through [the rubber padding]. And I remember thinking, "Ooh, that was a bit close." End of the day I took off the suit and there's a red patch [of blood] all over here [above knee]. I'd punctured straight through the skin.
And these are not even [sharp]. The first claws I had were razor-sharp. I just said, "This is ridiculous." Because they would kill someone, without a doubt.
Having done [stage] fighting, getting used to that extra 9"-long [claw] is the hardest thing. Because you want to keep getting in closer to [your victim], but you don't have to.
We did about three weeks of straight work with all the stunt guys, getting that right. And getting the fighting style of Wolverine and how he uses those claws. Because he's the best at what he does. He can't look like an amateur.
IGN Movies: What kind of fight training did you have? How did this prepare you for becoming Logan?
Hugh: I did four years of training as an actor, and [fight training] was a big part of the training. I have never trained fully in martial arts or anything like that. And then specific training for this. [Looks frustrated, sighs.] I'm not sure I can tell you all this. There's some very cool stuff where Wolverine fights -- not in his style. I'm not going to even give that away, because it's a very cool moment. But basically, he starts fighting in a completely different style. So doing that was weird -- I had to learn a whole different style of fighting.
What I really wanted to get with Wolverine is, he's a street fighter. He's quick, he's fast, he's smart, but he's not pretty. It's not pretty, anything about what he does. And it's unpredictable, and he's not in there to spar with you, he's not in there to do this. If he can slash your head off in one go, that's what he'll do. Because he doesn't want to stick around. So that's what we really worked on.
IGN Movies: Which comics did you read for preparation?
Hugh: Bryan didn't want me to read any. I was into comics as a kid, but for some reason X-Men escaped me. Since then I've read quite a lot. I love Project X. It's fantastic. And I realize how brilliant the animators [artists] are to capture so economically emotion and fights -- some fight sequences might have ten drawings, and you get everything. So they've been a really great resource to show the physicality, and how he draws his claws, exactly how he does it. And I've used it a lot for that. And the history. But I barely go a day without someone telling me something about his background.
IGN Movies: So you have this climactic fight with Sabretooth. Is it a little daunting going up against Tyler Mane, who plays Sabretooth? I mean, the guy's 6' 10" in real life, and he used to be a professional wrestler.
Hugh: Before each take he'd say, "I'm gonna kill ya!" [laughs] We both loved it. I never worried about it. It's only later, afterwards, you think, "Whoa." Or when I took off [my uniform] and I saw blood, and realized I'd been going three days of slashing and I thought I could have easily poked him in the eye. But at the time we were just loving it. It was great fun. At one point we were going so hard I started having this huge headache, and before I knew it I had heat exhaustion. Now you'd think a guy from Australia would be pretty cluey with that, but I wasn't. So before I know it I was vomiting in the trailer. It was so hot in those suits. It's not glamour, glamour, glamour.
There was one point where we had to do a shot where I was falling, and to stop myself I ram the claws into the side of this building. And I'm [hanging] hundreds of feet in the air. To do that I was [about 20 feet up]. And I was dropped with my full weight, and then at the designated stop I punched into the wall. I had a harness on that was around my groin. And I was picked [up] from the hips. Somehow in mid-flight, my boys got entangled.
As I dropped, I [makes a pained face] and went "$#!^!" And no one did anything -- they thought I was acting. I said, [hoarsely] "Get me up!" So it was just as painful. They were yanking me up by my boys.
That was definitely the last take of that day. As I was walking down, past the monitor, I heard [Bryan Singer] say, "Did we get it? Did we get it?"
Hugh Jackman has an easygoing style and, unlike a certain Wolverine, a friendly demeanor. You gotta loves a guy who, when introduced, looks around and says, "Where are all the girls?" Later, Hugh parries a prying plot question with a smile, "You gotta remember, I studied journalism for three years." But for the most part, Hugh didn't have a problem telling us what it was like to be the man who wears the claws.
IGN Movies: How was it wearing -- and fighting in -- Wolverine's costume?
Hugh: It was tight -- skin tight. Wolverine gets caught up into this world of the X-Men in this movie. He's a reluctant member of the group, and he's a reluctant uniform wearer. So he gets a uniform, which of course, is not his -- it wasn't made for him. It was very tight on him. In fact, all of them were tight. It was just the particular look they wanted, very sleek. [The costumes were] very expensive, and leather. It was really difficult to move. I couldn't bend down at first. And we did one take where I was landing -- I was being dropped -- and as I dropped, the whole seat of the pants went [makes ripping sound] and ripped straight out, right in front of the camera. Then it was perfect [laughs].
It took a few days to really settle in. We just made sure we sat in them. We'd take them to the trailer, to eat lunch in and do everything. And then, by now, they feel like a second skin.
IGN Movies: How does Logan end up with the X-Men?
Hugh: One of the key relationships in this movie is the Rogue/Logan relationship. After a while Logan, without wanting to or expecting it, begins to care for this little girl. And this little girl looks up to him for protection in this world -- not only in the real world, but also in the world of mutants. Even in Professor Xavier's, she still looks up to him. So [Logan's] key to it. But he's very reluctant the whole time -- and when he meets Rogue, he doesn't want a thing to do with her. And she's just a dogged little individual that sort of tags on.
But the story of Rogue is, you see it from the beginning. I understand that in the comic book, there was one point where you see her as a teenager. But this movie's exploring - particularly with Rogue - that point at which a mutant discovers what they are, and how they're going to cope with it in their real world. So you actually see Rogue in her prior life, at the beginning of the movie. So it's her journey. She doesn't start a mutant, proud of it.
That's what I think is really great about this movie. Because you've got not everyone happy with who they are, and happy being a mutant and "I'm on this team and you're on this team, and here we go." Logan represents to the audience that person who is skeptical of everything: skeptical of the uniform, skeptical of the names that everybody has, skeptical of what Magneto stands for. [Wolverine] sits very much in the middle of the Xavier and Magneto camps. In that way, the audience can come in through him -- they can come into his world and try and work out where it all fits. [Smiles] I'm being very vague, aren't I?
IGN Movies: What do the X-Men stand for?
Hugh: Tolerance. Instead of being good and bad, we set up different camps. And so you've got the Brotherhood, the X-Men, and then you've got Senator Kelly, who is basically representing a part of mankind which doesn't understand these other two camps. And Logan is not a part of any of those. He is a mutant. He knows that. He's not necessarily flaunting it. When you discover Logan, he would be quite happy to go through his life without anybody else knowing he was. If he has to use [his powers], he will. This is the point in the character where we find him. So it's a good journey for him as well.
As we all know, 15 years ago is when Logan was experimented on. So he doesn't know anything about his past; he's not really happy about what's happened to him. He hasn't worked out himself exactly how he feels about it. Where does Logan's anger come from? No one is just angry. No one's just furious and unpredictable and pissed off and ready to kill without a reason. So the movie's trying to establish a validity, a believable background to all the characters. Hopefully if this movie's successful, there'll be more -- it's gonna be the development of the whole world.