The actor talks about the new film, working with Brett Ratner, Bryan Singer and Darren Aronofsky
Hugh Jackman is that rare movie star/leading man who is able to carry a movie without it necessarily being a Hugh Jackman film. Witness his roles in such films as Swordfish and Kate & Leopold. Both of these were high profile, big budget endeavors, yet they were never seen has "Hugh Jackman" vehicles. It is however his role as the iconic Wolverine in the X-Men series that has seemingly garnered him the most attention.
During a recent interview for the latest installment in the franchise X-Men: The Last Stand, Jackman discussed playing Wolverine, spinning off that character into it's own film and his work on Darren Aronofsky's highly anticipated The Fountain.
THIS INTERVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS ABOUT THE FILM! READ WITH CAUTION...
Would Wolverine's power be your ultimate X-Men power?
Hugh Jackman: No, I don't think the claws would be my ultimate power. Really, every time you used it you're up for life imprisonment. Which one would I like? The walking through walls is kind of cool but really... the telepathy. Telepathy is very, very handy. It would cut down the dating process, early on in life. You could be in and out of a bar in like five minutes. Check it out, there we are, what are my options? Lets go.
Can you talk about doing your own stunts in this film? And your training?
Hugh Jackman: I train everyday so I have to get in shape for that. I start training about four months before the film starts. Stuntwise, we rehearse, things like jumping off the tree and things like that take quite a long time. Other things it doesn't take a lot of time, it just takes more balls than anything. It's better not to rehearse it. Generally, my rule of thumb is, I have a stuntman, actually there's two because there's two units, and I say, "You do it first." If they don't kill themselves and it doesn't look that hard, then I just get in there and do it. It's kind of tough because one of my stuntmen is my brother-in-law and on Van Helsing he broke his leg. So it's a pretty tense family situation.
How is your preparation different for an action film?
Hugh Jackman: No different, for me. Actingwise, no different. I look at the script in the same way and I think why X-Men has been successful is that it is a character driven piece. I think beyond the amazing visuals and the great special FX, it's about these ten or so characters. This film is, I think, by far the most emotional. A lot happens in it and in a way, for an actor, it's a lot tougher to get that eventually across to an audience when there is so much going on. You know, you've got Elvis chops on, and Elvis hair and claws coming out of your hands and you've still gotta make people believe and slightly relate to that character. I'm not saying I should be up for an Academy Award... it's exactly the same for me.
What was it like working with Brett Ratner?
Hugh Jackman: Oh, Brett was great. He's, I love Brett. He's the most fun guy. You can see his personality in the film. He loves the epic scale but he's also a very emotional guy. He's not as cerebral as Bryan, he's more instinctive and incredibly passionate. He loves what he does, like I've never seen anybody love what they do. In any job, in any field. I think that comes across. He's unflappable. It's the toughest kind of thing for a director to pull off and to not ever have a tantrum, and to not ever really have a low moment. There's a couple of moments where fell asleep in the chair at 4 am and the entire set left, and we had him on video sort of waking up. He's just sort of looking around and this huge set piece was empty... and he went straight back to sleep, anyway.
But apart from that, generally he was always up and I thought he brought a lot to the film. I thought he was smart to not change what was working. He didn't try and reinvent the wheel. Yet, I thought he made it his own.
What do you think about the idea in the film that these are powers that people might want that are being "cured"?
Hugh Jackman: Well, everything in life is a double-edged sword. Having power is a double-edged sword. If you're the leader of the free world, as President, there's gonna be moments where you wish you were a garbage man. You know what I mean? Every person's dream can become their nightmare. So even though the X-Men have powers that seem so cool... every one of them, because of their power, is alienated, separated and unhappy with it. Look at Rouge's character. She's arguably one of the most powerful and yet there's a human being that can't touch people. Can never have children, can never make love, can never kiss. It's a pretty horrible kind of prospects.
I think X-Men really connects with people, because there's not a person on the planet who doesn't feel a little different. Who wouldn't like to change something in their life. And if there was a pill you could take, which is really what this story is a metaphor for, if there was something you could take would you just get rid of it like that? When we were filming X-Men: The Last Stand, there were arguments on set, for example, about the character of Rogue. Should Rogue take the cure or not? And literally, we'd be in standup arguments. And it's split and I am sure the audience is gonna be split. Particularly, that ending is quite shocking. I think that's what makes X-Men a little different.
Is Wolverine going to happen?
Hugh Jackman: I hope so. I hope we can do a spinoff of Wolverine. I'm championing it. We have David Benioff, who's an amazing writer, who's just written the second draft. It's never been my intention that if we did a spinoff that it would appear to be X-Men 4. I always thought we had an opportunity to really flesh out this character. I felt lucky in getting one of the most complex and amazing characters in, I think, comic book history. It's well loved and for a reason. It's got a lot of depth and a lot of mystery to it. I see it as kind of a Mad Max. I think we're gonna make the movie. I'm sure we're going to make the movie.
What was it like working with Halle Berry?
Hugh Jackman: It's my fourth movie working with Halle? I never have any complaints about working with Halle Berry. In fact, it's a contractual stipulation that at least, every two years, I work with her. She doesn't know that but we have an arrangement. Her agent and me.
What comic books did you find yourself most drawn to as a kid?
Hugh Jackman: I wasn't a big reader of comics or comic books. I was a big fan of cartoons. The X-Men cartoon didn't even come out in Australia when I was around. I think my favorite was Justice League, Legion of Doom, it was kind of like the greatest hits of the good guys and bad guys. That was my favorite actually.
In a franchise film the goal, it seems, is to make each film better? Were you nervous about this new X-Men film?
Hugh Jackman: Absolutely. There was a genuine feeling among everyone making this movie of wanting to, I suppose, please the fans, basically. The fans have been very good to us. Many people working on this film grew up with the comic books. They know everything about it so they're passionate about it. For my money, Two was better than One. I thought One was a great film and it reignited comic book movies. I felt Two was even better, I still feel we had room to improve. I think the script was great. The central idea of the script in Three was great. Brett has made it really entertaining and I think it's an emotionally satisfying film. Of course, we always want it to be better.
And I, in turn, want Wolverine to be better than all of these three. I think, what's the point of going into it if that's not your goal?
Hugh Jackman: Oh, I can't wait to see it. I know Bryan was very conflicted about doing X-Men 3 and doing Superman. I recall a moment on X-Men 1 and I was standing at the Statue of Liberty rescuing Anna and fighting up there, and he yelled at me through the megaphone, "Hugh, it's just like that moment in Superman when Superman rips off the door and pulls Lois Lane out of the car and then throws the door away. That's the moment and ACTION!" I said cut, "Bryan, I haven't seen Superman since I was twelve."
So we shut down filming and he had Superman in his trailer and we went in and watched the scene. He said, "You haven't watched this since you were twelve?" And I said, "No." And he said, "Well, I watch it like twenty times a year." So it was no surprise to me that he found it too compelling to give up. Although I know in his heart of hearts he would have loved to have done both.
Are you ready for the comic book conventions?
Hugh Jackman: You can never be ready for Comic-Con. If that becomes normal than everything is wrong. It is the most wonderful, amazing, freaky, slightly frightening experience you can go on. I remember being there announcing Van Helsing and I looked down and there were twelve Wolverine guys posing down, and trust me, every one of these guys looked exactly like the comic book version. They were stacked, these guys, and I was like "Whoa, I better get back in the gym!"
What's the toughest part of playing Wolverine?
Hugh Jackman: I think the toughest part of Wolverine, as an actor, he's always kind of fighting that beserker rage. You're feeling laid back and yet you always have to feel like he's ready to snap. That for an actor is concentration. A thing of intensity that you have to have. Over five months that's the toughest thing.
What do you think of all the new young actors and characters?
Hugh Jackman: I think Ben Foster does a great job as Angel. I thought it was a really interesting choice, the way he played it. I really felt for him. I felt his conflict. Ellen Page, I think is an amazing actress. I think she's wonderful as Kitty. She's gonna have a huge future. And that young guy Kelsey Grammer, I don't know where he's come from, but that guy... I'll tell yeah. I honestly think, because hasn't had a chance to see the movie, I said, "Man, you gotta see that movie with an audience." Particularly, in the third act when he's fighting. I said, "Everybody is gonna be cheering." The stuff that guy does is unbelievable. From the moment I saw him on set and we acted together, I can't see anyone who could have played that role.
Can you talk about The Fountain?
Hugh Jackman: It was the toughest thing I've ever done. It's probably the thing I'm the most proud of. It's a film, I can guarantee, whatever you think of it, if you can make sense of it it is like nothing you've ever seen before. I watch that movie and I think, "I'm just glad I'm in that thing." Darren Aronofsky, I think, is the new Kubrick. I think he's that good.
X-Men: The Last Stand opens in theaters on May 26th, 2006 from 20th Century Fox.