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article imageThe muscle behind Hugh Jackman & X-Men Origins: Wolverine Special

By Earl Dittman     Sep 19, 2009 in Entertainment
On the heels of its international box office success, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is now clawing its way onto Blu-ray & DVD. Aussie actor Hugh Jackman recalls all the blood, sweat & tears that went into bringing the buffed Wolverine back to cinematic life.
Even before the third film of the Marvel comic book-based mutant trilogy, X-Men: The Last Stand, had become one of the largest grossing films of 2006, Hugh Jackman, the Australian-born actor behind the metal-clawed, mutant hero Wolverine/Logan in the X-trilogy, was already planning on doing a solo-Wolverine prequel. “We dealt with what happened to him a little but in X2,” Jackman explains. “But, the question had always remained, ‘How did this guy become a man with a metallic skeleton, metal claws and started going by the name Wolverine?’ We wanted to answer that.”
In the Gavin Hood-directed X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Jackman (who also co-produced the film) and his new team of mutants would do just that. Already one of the Top Ten box office hits of this year (it earned a reported $35 million on its opening day when it was theatrically released in May), Wolverine is now clawing its way onto Blu-ray (with digitally-enhanced picture and sound) and DVD.
Set approximately two decades before Wolverine/Logan turns up at Dr. Xavier’s (Patrick Stewart) mutant school in X-Men, X-Men Origins: Wolverine depicts how and why Logan’s skeleton was bonded with the indestructible metal of adamantium. Wolverine also focuses on Logan’s time as part of Team X and cinematically introduces comic book fans to such legendary, iconic X-Men mutants as the explosive Gambit/Remy LeBeau (Taylor Kitsch), the self-healing Deadpool/Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) and Logan’s bloodthirsty half-brother Sabretooth/Victor Creed (Liev Schreiber).
Packing on over forty pounds of pure muscle to portray Wolverine/Logan, Jackman was determined to look the part of indestructible mutant. “I wanted to look in the mirror and see Wolverine in addition to just feeling and acting like him,” Jackman says. “I worked out probably for a year prior to the shooting. I started January 1 and we started filming February next year. It took me ten months. It was a very intense diet and heavy, pretty intense training. The most important thing to me was to look lean, I want it to look animalistic, powerful, and dangerous. I didn’t want to look pretty.”
The affable, frank and always gentlemanly Jackman discusses (during a roundtable chat and a LA press conference) how he got into shape to play Wolverine, how he and his cast mates did most of their own stunts, why he wanted to a film on the muscled mutant in the first place and his thoughts about a possible Wolverine sequel (a X-Men Origins: Deadpool installment, with Ryan Reynolds in the lead, is currrently in the works.)
Hugh Jackman in X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Hugh Jackman in X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Fox
How did it feel having Wolverine's claws again after three X-Men films? “Everything felt new and fresh, and that was important to me. Obviously, starting with Gavin Hood, the director, we both felt the movie needed to head down a new avenue and a fresh direction. Let’s face it, I was filling in 100 years of this guy’s life, so in a way, it was sort of acting the wrong way around. Normally, that’s where you start. I’d played a character who didn’t really know anything about his past. In this movie, I was kind of evolving that character. I have to say, it felt as fresh as ever. I really, really loved it. It was challenging. With Gavin, all the new cast members and all the others involved, it felt brand new.”
Why did you want to do a fourth X-Men film, based solely on Wolverine’s story? Was it for the great paycheck? “It was never my intention to make Wolverine: X-Men IV, in terms of either timeline or in any way, and I would hate for people to think, ‘Ah, he was just cashing in.’ Financially, I had no need to do it. I had no need other than creatively. I always felt that the story of Wolverine needed to be told. You understand a lot about him through the three X-Men movies, but I thought there was enough in his character to substantiate a whole movie. I think for me, as an archetype, it’s like a Mad Max and a Road Warrior.”
How do you identify with Wolverine? “I can always identify with that feeling of being alienated, being different, about having things about yourself that you don’t understand. Now, Wolverine is that, but times-ten, because he doesn’t know his past. There is a lot of pain underneath that, and there is not a person on this planet that doesn’t mask some kind of pain that come out in behavior in some way, but all of us have that and as a youngster I had a bad temper. I don’t think that I have it now. I was the youngest of five, and so I had no power even. But then, all of a sudden, it would come out… There probably could be moments in my life when, if provoked, I could have some reactions like his, but not all the time. I’m more at ease with myself than he is.”
Hugh Jackman in X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Hugh Jackman in X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Fox
Did the constant bodybuilding help you stay in character? “My bodybuilding? Okay, this is a little embarrassing but I’m a little more of a wuss in real life, obviously, than my character. There’s a moment when you’re training where you just want to give up. I used to kind of imagine myself, not when I was training with these guys because that’d be a little embarrassing but when I was on my own with my trainer Michael, I used to kind of imagine I was Wolverine. Somehow, it always got two or three more reps out of me. It was also kind of humiliating with the yelling and it looked a little silly.”
What was a typical Wolverine work-out like? “If your ever saw me in the gym, you be a little bit frightened and think, ‘That’s not Hugh.’ I turn up Godsmack or Metallica, and I’m screming and yelling and I’m swearing like there is no tomorrow, and I’m lifting weights as though I’m at that breaking point. I always feel that you have to think that he’s on that point where at any time he could snap and just go berserk, as they say in the comics. It was good therapy.”
Wasn't it nice walking around looking like Wolverine, all buffed up with these big muscles? “Yeah, but there’s a good and bad side to everything. I also had to walk around with those mutton chops for six months, as did Liev. It kind of looks alright in the film, but in real life, with a baseball cap on at six o’clock in the morning in the gym, it just looks odd.”
What did your wife (Deborah-Lee Furness) think of all the working-out? Did she like your big muscles? “My wife used to constantly say, ‘Hugh, this is ridiculous. Look at you. I don’t even know who you are.’ Then she said, ‘Now, get into bed.’ No.”
Did that stop you from working-out? “No, that spurred me on.”
A lot of your fans like the shot of Wolverine popping out of the water tank, so that they get a peek of how the working-out affected your butt muscles. Did they have to talk you into doing the butt check scene? “Not at all, I loved it. (laughs) I actually insisted for the naked shot myself way back in X-Men 2 (X-Men United) , because I wanted him to look animalistic. So, it was easy for me doing it for this film, too.”
Hugh Jackman & Liev Schreiber in X-Men Origins
Hugh Jackman & Liev Schreiber in X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Fox
What was it like adding the new X-Men mutants to the cast of Wolverine? “It was great. For Deadpool, the fans wanted Ryan (Reynolds) for a long way back, so I think they’ll be happy. It was actually one of the great things about this movie — to introduce characters we haven’t had in the X-Men universe that fans love. Taylor’s (Kitsch) character, Gambit, is, dare I say it, as popular as Wolverine in the comic book world. It’s an unbelievable character and when we showed it at Comic Con, that first trailer which was about a week after we finished shooting, we cobbled together some footage, I mean, they went mental the moment Gambit appeared. The same thing with Deadpool and Lynn (Collins) as Kayla. Then, we put Liev (Schreiber) into it and here we are. It is one of the genuinely exciting things about doing this movie. I think there are so many characters in the X-men universe to explore.”
Did Liev, Ryan or Taylor get banged up fighting with you in the movie? “Liev got banged up all the time. We encouraged it. Made him mad, made the fights better. And, maybe an occasional, deliberate hit after we’d cut.”
Taylor said that one of your claws went through one of his thumbs. What happened during your fight scene? “During the filming of the scene, he just stopped. I actually looked down because Taylor pulled away very quickly. I was like, ‘Man, we’re only halfway through the fight. What’s the matter?’ And I looked down, I’m like, ‘I’ve only got two claws in my hand.’ I look up and there he’s just like, ‘Oh, man, that really hurts.’ It’s sticking out of his thumb. He quite a look of shock on his face.”
Didn’t Ryan end up doing some really amazing stunts for his Deadpool sequences? He said that it was easy for him, though, since he had worked-out, too, and gotten fit. “Well, when he says easy, there’s one sequence in there you see at the beginning of the movie which he was training, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, nonstop and he does some of the most amazing, really amazing real stunts in the movie. I know a lot of people are going to presume the work with those swords is CGI, but I can tell you right now it wasn’t. It’s lucky he’s still got his manhood with him. There were a couple of close shaves.”
Hugh Jackman & Taylor Kitsch in X-Men Origins:
Hugh Jackman & Taylor Kitsch in X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Fox
Didn’t everyone end up doing most of their own fights and stunts? “One of the things I was most proud of, and one of the things that was important to me, was that all the actors had a physicality. We cast people for their acting ability first but with Liev, with Ryan, with Taylor and even Lynn, they are very physical, too. They were doing ninety-five percent of their own work, and I think that’s important when you’re playing these characters. They are innately physical.”
Where would you like to see Wolverine go next? If there is a Wolverine sequel, what would you like to see him do? “It’s no secret, I’ve been a fan of the Japanese saga.”
Untitled
Fox
You mean the Japanese storyline from the Marvel X-Men comic series? “Exactly. The Japanese saga, to me, actually when I first thought about doing Wolverine, that’s where I thought we’d go. (Screenwriter) David Benioff rightly convinced me that you just can’t keep teasing a guy’s background for a fourth time. You can’t keep saying, ‘Oh, he has amnesia. We don’t know who he is.’ You need to establish who he is, where he came from and do that properly, otherwise, you’re always going to have to come back to it at some point. So that’s an era, right now if you asked me, that’s where I’d want to go.”
Are you the luckiest man on earth or the sexiest? “Oh, I don't know. I have to say, being in a movie that I’m proud of, I feel incredibly lucky. I’ve gotta be honest. When I was about 28, I was at the National Theater in London doing a production of Oklahoma and that was about as far as I’d ever dreamed life could ever go to for me as an actor. Everything since then has been a little surreal and there’s really not a day that goes by where I don’t thank my lucky stars. To be really honest, to be in a position where I feel a little bit of propriety over why we’re here makes it all worthwhile. I feel very lucky. The sexy thing, I’ve known that for a long time. It’s more of a relief than anything finally. This is going to sound bad. Irony’s never good in print is it?” (laughs)
X-Men Origins: Wolverine 2-Disc Blu-ray Bonus Features: Commentary by director Gavin Hood and producers Lauren Shuler Donner and Ralph Winter, a conversation with Len Wein and Wolverine creator Stan Lee, deleted and alternate scenes with commentary from Hood, four additional behind-the-scenes featurettes, Ultimate X-Mode BONUSVIEW, interactive BD-LIVE: Live Lookup powered by IMDB and a Digital Copy for portable media player.
Hugh Jackman & the mutant cast of X-Men Origin
Hugh Jackman & the mutant cast of X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Fox
X-Men Origins: Wolverine is now available on Blu-ray and Special Edition DVD.
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