SINGAPORE—It’s the role that turned Hugh Jackman into a worldwide overnight sensation. But it’s still a shock to realize that Jackman has been playing the ferocious mutant hero Wolverine for 14 years and in seven movies since his Hollywood debut in 2000’s “X-Men.”
Yet Jackman says he’s really pumped for “X-Men: Days of Future Past” and loves playing Wolverine. “I like that it’s always different… The writers always find different sides to him and that I’m playing a character with that kind of complexity,” he tells Inquirer Lifestyle Super.
“I feel these movies are getting better and better, and with ‘The Wolverine,’ we somehow righted the ship a little bit about that character and its arc,” he adds. “This movie is my favorite of all of them. It feels fresh… new… vibrant. It feels almost like a beginning. So, I’m enjoying playing him more than ever. Being a little older helps me play Wolverine, it turns out, because I’m naturally grumpier.”
He’s kidding, of course, and the 45-year-old Sydney native’s playful trickster side was on full display at the movie’s Singapore premiere as he took selfies with fans and, at one point, engaged in mock fisticuffs with a mohawked member of the media. He was happy to note that “X-Men: Days of Future Past” also has its light moments. “I’m all for it and on set I do a lot of ad-libbing with different lines,” he says. “These movies are heavy, so you’ve got to have a laugh. You need to have fun.”
Jackman was noticeably happy about the announcement that actor Channing Tatum had agreed to join the forthcoming 2016 movie “X-Men: Apocalypse” as Gambit. It turns out Jackman had been a vocal supporter who considered Tatum to be the perfect choice for the role. He jokes that he would have been removed from the movie if Tatum hadn’t signed up.
He says that director Bryan Singer took the idea of time travel very seriously and this suited the actor’s needs. “For Wolverine, it’s a fascinating concept because he could be 200 years old. He’s lived many lives and, as an actor, greedily, I get to play all of them. That’s why, visually, it’s a great piece of storytelling because I can link the future and the past seamlessly… I’m the only actor who can play both sides. Who knows what’ll happen to Wolverine? I think it’s exciting.”
It helps that Jackman feels Wolverine is very much at home in the 1970s setting that dominates the film. “I like that he’s back in the ’70s,” he says. “Because, for me, I feel like Wolverine never moved from the ’70s, with his clothes, hair, muttonchops and style: He’s sort of like ‘Easy Rider,’ ‘Dirty Harry,’ early ‘Mad Max’ and Charles Bronson all at once. So, in that way, he’s perfect, and I love exploring a whole new side to him.”
He recalls that Singer had to shoot from odd angles for the first “X-Men” movie to cover up the fact that Jackman wasn’t in fantastic shape. But he says he really got into astonishing shape recently.
“It’s only in the last two films that I was really in that shape,” he admits. “For ‘The Wolverine,’ I had a whole year to prepare because we kept delaying the movie. I was training for ages. Then four months later, we shot this. So I’ve learned so much, and if anyone needs workout tips, they can ask me.”
This is funny coming from a guy who admits to working in a gym for three years but never lifted weights except to pick up after messy bodybuilders. He’s clearly in the best shape of his life.
Even as it’s been confirmed that Jackman will appear as Wolverine in both “X-Men: Apocalypse” and the as-yet untitled third Wolverine movie in 2017, Jackman is still sketchy on the production details, but happy about the franchise’s direction.
“They’re just getting the script together now. I’m excited because the whole franchise and its future feel really ripe,” he says. “I don’t think even the fans know where it’s going … and that is the most thrilling part of it, particularly with me playing a part for so long. As long as they want me, as long as I feel about the character as I do now, and as long as the script stays good, then I’ll probably stay.”
From the original “X-Men” all the way to “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” Jackman has embraced the fans and understands the uncanny trajectory his career has taken. “I’m really grateful to the fans and I’m really excited for this movie because there’s a lot of surprises. It’s a bit of a love letter to the fans, as well as being very fresh to the people who have never seen the movies,” he says. “I think it ticks many boxes for viewers. It’s a summer blockbuster but it has real heart.”