Hugh Jackman is best known among genre fans as Marvel’s fan-favorite mutant Wolverine, who he played for 17 years — somehow getting more buff with every portrayal. However, as fans have laid the character to rest (until the MCU inevitably reboots him), there’s been little chatter about the character that made Jackman’s Hollywood career and helped drive the X-Men franchise. But as Jackman himself recently revealed, his work as the mysterious amnesiac Logan almost ended before it began.
During a performance of his one-man show The Man. The Music. The Show. on Sunday night, Jackman explained to the audience — in between renditions of songs from The Greatest Showman, Les Misérables, and more — that he was nearly fired in the middle of filming the first X-Men movie.
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“Five weeks into shooting and I was on the verge of getting fired,” Jackman said. “The head of the studio pulled me aside, sat me down at lunch, and said that they were worried that they weren’t seeing on camera what they’d seen in the audition.” Was that former Fox exec Tom Rothman? No matter who it was, they had some damning criticism that they delivered through an interesting simile.
“It’s like there’s a lampshade over the light,” Jackman remembered being told. “The next day the director pulled me aside and told me exactly the same thing.” So Bryan Singer thought the same, even using the same figurative language. Obviously there’d been discussions about him and his performance at a high level. “I was freaking out,” Jackman said about his impending termination from the “biggest break” of his career.
Thankfully, after going home to his wife Deborra-Lee Furness, he got the pep talk he needed. He got back on that horse (or that metal-clawed mutant) and helped create an unmatched cinematic superhero legacy. But who in the world would Fox have replaced him with if he hadn’t rallied?
The latest, Wolverine-less X-Men movie Dark Phoenix is out in theaters on June 7.