Mutant Meeting: Jackman, Schreiber, Reynolds Talk WOLVERINE

Meet the Mutants

Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool in 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine'
Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool in 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine'
Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool in 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine'

He might have clawed his way into the X-Men series as a replacement for first choice Dougray Scott but, these days, Hugh Jackman is the mutton-chopped face of the Marvel franchise.

Shedding fellow mutants played by Halle Berry, Anna Paquin, and Famke Janssen, Jackman is front and center for X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the first chapter of the series.

So, what's Wolvie been up to? Well, the pointy-pawed one is hanging out with fellow freaks and geeks like Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds), Gambit (Taylor Kitsch), and Bradley (Dominic Monaghan), trying to free himself from evil Army colonel William Stryker (Danny Huston) and engaging in a vicious rivalry with his beastly half-brother Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber).

Flanked by castmates Schreiber and Reynolds, Jackman sat down recently to discuss sinking his claws into Wolverine...

Newsarama: Hugh, how did you approach Wolverine this time around? He's a much different creature at the beginning of the film than he's been in previous installments.

Jackman: As [my co-stars here] have probably already found out or are about to find out, every third day for the rest of their lives they're going to hear a critique of how they should've played the part, what they should've done differently and what they could do the next time if they ever get another shot at it. So, I knew exactly what fans wanted. I'm not just talking comic book fans. I'm talking fans of the movies. I think it's fair to say that by X-Men: The Last Stand, 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 is an uncompromising character, as far as his approach to life is concerned. He is who he is. He's not always a nice guy. He's got edge. He's an anti-hero.

There's also vulnerability in there. There are conflicts and battles going on inside him. So with Gavin [Hood] and with these other actors, I had the chance to explore that more. I wanted the film to feel different. Gavin and I talked a lot about that, the aesthetics of the film, the tone of it. It's probably a little darker, a little more raw, a little tougher and, hopefully, maybe even 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 either.

NRAMA: Speaking in terms of your comfort level, was it easier to play Wolverine this time around? Are you used to him by now?

Jackman: Everything felt new to me. I mean, obviously, you can see the actors that I'm with today are new to the series. It took me a little while to get over the fact that Halle Berry wasn't on set most days. I jest. So, yes, I'm playing the same character but I'm filling in approximately one hundred 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 I think that what Gavin and I talked about right from the beginning was that we didn't want that shot right at the beginning of the movie where people go, 'Yeah, there's Wolverine! Cool.' But I wanted to see him evolve. You see him at the very beginning as a little kid, and he's very unlike how you would imagine Wolverine to be as a young boy, I think. That was a wonderful young actor playing him, too. So, to watch Wolverine evolve was fantastic.

NRAMA: This is your baby, Hugh. Do you feel more protective of the film than you did about the other X-Men pictures?

Jackman: Every film [is important] for me as an actor but obviously this movie has a different dimension, particularly because I'm a producer. I found myself yesterday asking [journalists] what they thought about the movie, and I was nervous about it because, in that way, I feel that it's more personal to me. It is more my baby. I've asked all these actors and the director, Gavin, to come onboard and so obviously I'm more attached to it. It feels more personal and that's the difference.

NRAMA: Did you find it tough finding the right balance between the quieter, more character-driven segments and the balls-to-the-wall action scenes that comic books fans have come to expect from these movies?

Jackman: Hold on, I don't think that's true. I think that comic book fans love Wolverine, the character, and, in fact, all the 'X-Men' characters, more than the action. I think that's what set `X-Men' apart from many of the other comic book-inspired movies. Wolverine is revolutionary in that he's the first anti-hero. With [his story], it wasn't just good guys versus bad guys but he was undergoing an internal battle of good vs. bad within himself. That's why people relate to him. Yeah, he's cool and he's got claws and he can do amazing things with swords and cars, all that great fun stuff, but Wolverine - and the other mutants - all have personal battles going on. That's why audiences can relate.

So, the first priority for this movie, number one, is that I want it to be fun. I want people to come and have a great time. I want them to be entertained. I want them to go see it on the big screen with their friends or whomever and just have a great time. But I think that what we had the opportunity to deliver - and this is in the comic book itself - is something deeper. We can make people think a little bit, make them feel and take them on a journey through these characters.

NRAMA: Gavin Hood, who directed Rendition, is not exactly known as an action guy. How did you decide upon him?

Jackman: Part of the reason I wanted someone like Gavin, and I know that all 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 the time. Gavin has that ability to know that I've played the role three times before, and yes, it may be my fourth time putting the claws on, but we still need to make it fresh, new, deeper and hopefully more honest.

NRAMA: If Gavin in an unconventional choice so, too, is Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool. Why did you two want to play this role, Ryan?

Reynolds: Well, I've actually wanted to play Deadpool for a really a long time. So for me it was a little bit of a dream come true. I always thought that he was a character that felt like a cross between Commando and Phantom of the Opera by way of Caddyshack. So, for me, it was a pretty original type of guy in this universe.

NRAMA: Ryan and Liev, did you guys work out like maniacs so you could stand next to Hugh and not look scrawny?

Reynolds: To get ready…well, I felt like I was ready years ago because I've been wanting to play this guy forever. But there was a lot of sword training, a lot of working out with Hugh. I remember my first day, it looked a lot like Hugh was going to make a necklace out of my teeth. That was sort of the gold standard that was set from early on. But basically it was about spending hours and hours and hours, countless hours, with the Katana sword training fellas.

Schreiber: Twelve years ago, or something like twelve years ago, Hugh and I did a film together and believe it or not I think that I was bigger than Hugh at that time. Things have changed and he's grown substantially as an actor and as a human being, in general. So the first agenda was getting bigger. I made the awful mistake of going online to see what the fans thought and, of course, they said, 'Liev needs to get bigger.' So I started working out with Hugh and doing my protein diet. Between the two of us, I think that we wiped out a whole gene pool of chickens. I know that people think it's strange, that it's a departure for me, but I don't feel that way, really. I feel right at home with that sort of sibling rivalry and it was a lot of fun.

NRAMA: Do you guys ever listen to music to get into character. And, if you do, what's on your playlist?

Jackman: Not on set but when I train, it's the kind of music I rarely listen in real life, like Godsmack. I enjoy Godsmack really turned up high, as loud as I can get it. It's sometimes a little embarrassing when you're in public but to me that's the closest to Wolverine that I can get.

Reynolds: I heard Faith Hill coming out of his [headphones] to be honest.

Jackman: There is sensitivity to Wolverine.

Reynolds: Yes, there is.

Jackman: And it's not easy to access.

Reynolds: Yeah. For me it was the band called The National. I was obsessed with them. I love them.

NRAMA: Any funny incidents from the set that have stood out in your memory? Any favorite memories?

Jackman: I remember Taylor Kitsch and I were in a fight scene and Taylor reeled back very quickly and someone called `cut' right in the middle of it. I look down at my claws and there are only two claws left. I look over at Taylor and it's sticking out of his thumb and he's just looking at it. It was good for me; I liked it. I have a strange sense of humor…And, also, we were all together shooting and we stopped to watch the inauguration of [Barack Obama]. For me that was a highlight because by that point you feel like family…and that moment was pretty amazing.

Reynolds: I honestly worked the longest day of my life on this movie. It's a huge movie so there are several units going at once and I had a day where I was going back and forth from each unit. It was about a 22-hour day and there was makeup and all these things and I'm having to spin these swords at a million miles an hour around my body. By about hour 19, I had a couple of extremely close calls with these Katana swords. When you're spinning these swords you're going to want to wear pants for that. I honestly just about lost my future legacy a couple of times. I had to take a little break and pour myself a nice shot of espresso and carry on. That for me was probably the worst of it.

Schreiber: Early on in the film we were shooting in New Zealand and it was the first big fight sequence for Hugh and I. We had rehearsed day and night for this. I'll admit - I'm being candid here - that I wasn't sure if physically I was up for this role. So, initially, I was a little concerned. I'm sorry to say this but Hugh and I being the elder statesmen of this cast were both, rightfully, concerned that we wouldn't be able to pull off this fight scene that the stunt guys had showed us. Sure, we can lift some weights and can look large, but what they were asking us to do was truly impossible. I just remember the third night, after shooting until six in the morning every night, looking over at Hugh and the two of us were just so smashed up by this fight and desperate to improve and desperate to impress our small sons at home. So, [Gavin] said to us, 'Would you guys like to do one more?' I remember looking across at Hugh, praying to myself that he would say, 'I'm tired. I want to go home and go to bed.' Hugh said, 'Nah. I feel great.'

Jackman: The biggest lie of my life.

Schreiber: I looked across and I said, 'Yeah, sure, I feel great.' I looked at Hugh and they said, 'So, one more?' And Hugh said, 'No, I can do two more.' He looked across at me and I said, 'Yeah, I could probably do three or four more.' That was my sole motivation for the rest of this entire film.

NRAMA: Do you guys take these characters home with you or do you leave them on the set when you clock out for 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, you're playing, particularly in our case and especially in mine, you're playing anger which is a relatively easy emotion. It's easily accessible. I know you're all thinking, 'Oh, he's an angry guy.' No, it's easy for everyone.

Jackman: It's true.

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

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

Related:

Wolverine - A Complicated History in 1000 Words

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