How Wolverine's Hugh Jackman makes him a rough guy again

Contributed by
Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Hugh Jackman, star of the upcoming X-Men Origins: Wolverine, told reporters that he was eager to see his character return to the rough-and-tumble personality that he had at the beginning of the X-Men series.

"It's fair to say that by X-Men 3, Wolverine had gotten probably a little soft," Jackman said in a news conference on Saturday in Los Angeles. "I kind of agree with them there, and I think what fans love about Wolverine is that he's more, in a way, more uncompromising in his approach to life."

In Wolverine, Jackman reprises his role as Logan, this time in order to set up an origin story for the character, including where he originally came from and how his body was transformed into a killing machine. In addition to talking about juggling the audience's expectations as he returns to the role, Jackson talked about the new challenges he faced bringing the character to life, both physically and emotionally. The following is an edited version of that news conference.

Can you talk about reinterpreting Wolverine for this film? Did you try to make him different from the Wolverine we saw in the X-Men films?

Jackman: As these guys have probably already found out and are about to find out about every third day for the rest of their lives, they're going to hear a critique about how they played their part, what they should have done differently and what they could do next time if they ever get a shot at it. I knew exactly what fans wanted—and I'm not just talking about comic-book fans, I'm talking about fans of the movie—and it's fair to say that by X-Men 3 Wolverine had gotten probably a little soft. I kind of agree with them there, and I think what fans love about Wolverine is that he's more, in a way, more uncompromising in his approach to life. He is who he is, and he's not always a nice guy. He has got edge—he's an anti-hero—and there's also vulnerability in there. There's conflict and battle going on in there, so I had, with Gavin and all these other actors, a chance to explore that more. I wanted the film to feel different; Gavin and I talked a lot about that, the aesthetic of it, the tone of it, probably a little darker, a little rawer, a little tougher and, hopefully, maybe a little more human. Because I think that's really what has appealed to me about the comic book. And no more black leather suits.

Were there any new physical or emotional challenges that you had to deal with?

Jackman: Everything. Everything felt new to me. I mean, obviously, you see the actors I'm around; everything is new, and it took me a little while to get over the fact that Halle Berry wasn't on set most days. I jest. I'm, yes, playing the same character, but I'm filling in approximately 100 years of his life that had never been explored before and had been unknown to him. So it was a chance not only to reveal that, but [something] Gavin and I talked about right from the beginning was we didn't want that shot at the beginning of the movie [where] people go, "Yeah! It's Wolverine! Cool!" I wanted to see him evolve. You see him at the very beginning as a little kid, very unlike how you would imagine Wolverine to be as a young boy, I think, and a wonderful young actor. To watch him evolve was fantastic. Part of the reason—not my main reason—but part of the reason I wanted someone like Gavin—and I know all of the actors share this feeling—is that Gavin is an amazing actor's director. He gets straight to the heart of it, he won't take any BS. He won't take anything less than your best, most committed work all of the time. And there was many an occasion when I felt a kind of friendly arm around my shoulder after take one, or sometimes before take one. It was like—and Gavin has that ability, to even know I've played the role three times, and yes, it may be my fourth time putting the claws on, but to make it feel fresh, new, deeper and hopefully more honest.

You and Liev Schreiber play very intense characters. How did you de-stress at the end of the day?

Schreiber: I've never been someone who takes characters home with me at night. The claws and the teeth came off. Unfortunately, the sideburns didn't. But I've never really had a problem with that. Also, particularly in my case, I was playing anger, which is a relatively easy emotion to access. I know you're all thinking, "Oh, he's an angry guy!" No. It's easy for everyone.

Jackman: That's true.

Schreiber: It's a much easier emotion than love.

Jackman: I feel the same. In fact, playing Wolverine is great therapy, really. Playing Victor is probably the same thing. You get to exorcise a lot of your demons and then go home feeling very, very relaxed and happy.