Despite playing a superhuman with a hyper keen sense, unbreakable bones and claws, and possessing healing powers which render him almost immortal, Australian actor Hugh Jackman doesn’t feel as omnipotent as the iconic comic-book character he portrays on screen.
Of course, he is only human.
But it is Wolverine’s less-than-powerful nature that Jackman was interested in when he took on the role for the sixth time.
"All along, I felt what made Wolverine so interesting as a character is not just his superhuman strengths, his claws or healing ability, but also really his human side. And it's this very human quality that makes him all the more formidable,” the actor explained in an interview with inSing while he was in Seoul for the film’s premiere in South Korea.
Hugh Jackman with Rila Fukushima and Tao Okamoto in London. Photo: REUTERS/Luke MacGregor
"I love that conflict in him and I love being able to explore that in this film."
‘The Wolverine’ opens in Singapore this week on 25 July.
Taking place after the events of ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’, Wolverine (or Logan) is grief-stricken and tormented that he had lost his love Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) while saving the world.
After roughing it up in the Canadian wilderness, Logan is taken to Japan by Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi), a soldier he saved during World War II, and he winds up in a web of murder and intrigue as he protects his friend’s granddaughter Mariko (Japanese model Tao Okamoto) along with a feisty assassin Yukio (Japanese model Rila Fukushima).
Along the way, he battles Yakuza thugs, ninjas, a giant metallic samurai warrior as well as the deadly Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), making this a far more dramatic, exciting and violent take on Wolverine than previous instalments. Logan is given the chance to give up his immortality and this paves the way for audiences to see him physically vulnerable for the first time.
ON BEING VULNERABLE
Jackman said vulnerability is important to him as an actor.
“Just putting oneself at risk alone is a position of vulnerability. Whether I’m on location, on a set or on stage hosting the Oscars, I’m always putting myself out there and things can go wrong or fail.”
Dressed in a blue shirt and black pants, the actor hardly looked vulnerable as he was all smiles, still wearing Logan’s trademark “mutton chops” facial hair.
He added: “As a family man with two kids, you feel vulnerable all the time. I can’t help but feel susceptible everytime my kids walk out the door. And I feel whatever my kids are feeling, maybe twice as much. So I think being vulnerable is not neccesarrily a bad thing.”
'The Wolverine' trailer
The 44-year-old is married to Australian actress and director Deborra-Lee Furness, 57, and they have two adopted children, Ava, eight, and Oscar, 13.
“In many ways, I look forward to it, maybe professionally because I think that fear or vulnerability pushes you to be better prepared, to work harder and become stronger.”
Jackman made his mark in Hollywood when he was brought in to replace Dougray Scott as Wolverine in Bryan Singer's ensemble superhero flick ‘X-Men’ (2000), before playing the character again in sequels ‘X2’ (2003) and ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’ (2006). In 2009, his character got his own standalone film in’ X-Men Origins: Wolverine’.
Jackman as Jean Valjean in 'Les Miserables'
In between these movies, he played a British aristocrat in Woody Allen’s ‘Scoop’, co-starred in Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Prestige’ and appeared with Nicole Kidman in Baz Luhrmann’s epic ‘Australia’.
He hosted the Academy Awards in 2009 and won wide acclaim for his gruelling role as Jean Valjean in the movie version of ‘Les Miserables’ which earned him an Oscar nomination.
Considering that most franchises get rebooted and actors replaced after three films, having a single man play the role for more than a decade is quite a feat.
So 13 years on, a lot is riding on ‘The Wolverine’ because the character's first solo outing on ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ was considered a dud by critics and fanboys alike.
Jackman went through a punishing workout and his diet includes seven chicken breasts a day, as well as martial arts training to get himself in shape for the character.
“Although it gets harder physically, it does get more fun. I’m enjoying it more now than I used to… Maybe being a little older helps playing someone who is 200 to 300 years old,” he quipped.
The actor is already filming ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’, which reunites the original X-Men cast members of Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Anna Paquin, Jennifer Lawrence and Michael Fassbender. Scheduled for release in 2014, it is directed by Bryan Singer.
A DIFFERENT WOLVERINE
Jackman with director James Mangold on set. Photo: 20th Century Fox
Jackman promised that ‘The Wolverine’ is different, presenting a purer picture of the character. The story is loosely based on the 1982 ‘Wolverine’ comic book mini-series written by writer Chris Claremont and artist Frank Miller that documented Logan’s time in Japan.
“I read the original comic (on which ‘The Wolverine’ is based) 13 years ago, and I was championing it to the studio from that moment on,” he said.
Darren Aronofsky (‘Black Swan’) was first hired to direct the movie, but dropped out due to personal reasons.
‘Kate & Leopold’ director James Mangold, who worked with Jackman before on that film, was then roped in. In a previous interview, Mangold said that he wanted to do an “unconventional superhero movie”.
'The Wolverine' Seoul Premiere Press Conference Highlights
“What interested me about ‘The Wolverine’ was doing something quite different from the standard superhero movie. In this story, the action and suspense are built more on character, and are woven into a world that makes for a completely different kind of experience, one that you haven’t seen before,” he said.
The result is an intriguing Japan-based neo-noir thriller without the trappings of a comic-book movie that touches on Logan’s alienation, his immortality and his rage.
“The story takes Logan into a kind of fever dream of today’s Japan, full of Yakuza, ninjas, samurais, industrialist crime, mystery and mysticism,” the director enthused.
Jackman said: “I really like this script. It might be a comic-book movie but it doesn’t feel like one. Yes, we still have all the fun, action and all the great Wolverine moments that you want, but this film has more complexity and there’s more room to play.”