THE posters featuring Logan/Wolverine dressed in a suit with his claws extended walking off into the sunset say it all. Logan is the final film where Hugh Jackman will play the character that made him a star and the 48-year-old admits he is ready to leave him behind.
“I was very nervous knowing what was at stake for me and the film exceeded my expectations,” Jackman says. “I looked at the character and there were some moments where I cried, like when Logan was carrying Charles [Patrick Stewart] up the stairs. I felt like I loved that character, but I can’t say I’ll miss him as he’s not going anywhere for me. The fans will remind me every single day or every second day of my life. It’s part of who I am and I’m so grateful for it.”
Thankfully, at the Berlin International Film Festival recently, Jackman was his clean-shaven self, which came as something of a relief given his bearded craggy appearance as the 160-year-old mutant. Over the past 17 years Jackman has played nine incarnations of the superhero character — three times in standalone Wolverine movies and six in the X-Men franchise — and he has had to stay incredibly buff for the role. Even when we spoke recently for Les Miserables, the Jean Valjean role that would garner him a best actor Oscar nomination, he was eating.
“I love to eat, but I have to eat because somewhere in my life not very far away I am putting on the claws,” Jackman said. “I am just too old to let it all go and then get back that level of fitness.”
There were even times when in order to be credible in the part he had to wake up in the middle of the night and eat. Now he admits with a chuckle, “I won’t miss the chicken breasts, let me tell you that!”
Jackman maintains there was one more film left for what he terms “the archetypal reluctant hero” and he was determined to go out with a powerful movie. Currently there’s even speculation that Logan might be up for 2018 awards. The film has been incredibly well received (IMDB has it at a stunning 9.6) and Jackman explains it’s the best of all the films in which Wolverine appeared.
Sure there are action sequences, some of which come as a surprise, given the extent to which diabolical Zander Rice (Richard E Grant), the scientist in charge of the Transigen organisation, will go to create artificial intelligence and sheer brute force — even in kids. Yet, there’s also a tender story with 11-year-old Laura, played by scene-stealing Dafne Keen, at the film’s core.
BACK ON THE TEAM
Jackman gladly reteamed with James Mangold, the director of 2013’s The Wolverine, the second standalone movie which came after X-Men 2009’s Origins: Wolverine.
“I reached out to Jim because he’s a great storyteller,” Jackman says of the director who came up with the story that was turned into a screenplay by The Wolverine screenwriter Scott Frank.
“I will admit when Jim first told me the idea I was like, ‘This sounds awesome, but how the hell are we going to pull it off? How can an 11-year-old handle that?’ And it was so clear with Dafne as she’s an extraordinary young girl and I’m really proud of her,” says the devoted father of two who has been married for 20 years to Aussie actress Deborra-Lee Furness with whom he lives in New York. Of course Wolverine, er Logan, turns out to be a decent type, after all.
“For me great stories illuminate who we are, our everyday existence and they also make us look at the world beyond ourselves. Jim immediately said to me, ‘Let’s tell a story about family from the point of view of someone who is terrified of intimacy — Logan — and let’s set it in a world where things are shifting. I hope there are resonances and it makes people think about their day-to-day lives. More importantly, though, it’s about violence and the effect it has on people.”
Set in 2029, the story follows Logan helping a group of mutant killer kids — newer models that are deemed to have defects — escape across the border into the more libertarian Canada.
While the 45-year-old Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau is sure to be a fan of the film and probably grew up watching the clawed and flawed character, Logan’s premise couldn’t be more prescient.
“We were talking about the border scenes a year before any of those debates about the wall happened,” Jackman notes. “I think it’s a sign that Jim and Scott were onto something.”
Still it’s not as if the film is broaching any polemic. Most important for Mangold, a comic book fan since the age of 11, is that “movies which reference pop culture and have very large natural audiences use that platform to do something other than sell happy meals or t-shirts or action figures”. Like Jackman he wanted to examine action heroes who in the twilight of their lives are in a mood for self-reflection.
“This character has been within me for 17 years,” explains Jackman, “but not until this film do I feel like I’ve really got to the core of it. I’m not blaming anyone; sometimes it’s my fault, sometimes it’s just the nature of storytelling where you have 20 characters. When Jim and I first got together I told him I want my grandkids to ask me when I’m 80, ‘Which one of those movies should I watch?’ I want to say that this is the movie that defines this character.
“This movie is a love letter to the Wolverine fans but beyond that I wanted to make a movie that someone who’s never watched a comic movie in their life would see and get something out of.”
Jackman is also currently playing circus founder PT Barnum in The Greatest Showman. “It’s a family movie, there is no blood, it couldn’t be more different,” he says. He’s unsure what he will do after that. One thing’s certain, given his recurring skin cancers, which he says are not life threatening, he’s not spending much time in the sun, at least without sunscreen.
“There are statistics that 50% of Australians who live beyond the age of 50 will get skin cancer,” he notes. “We grew up without knowing about global warming and the ozone layer, using no sunscreen. Everyone should get checked once a year.” Wise words indeed from a departing superhero.
- Logan opens tomorrow