Hugh Jackman ready to slash ‘n’ burn as ‘The WolverineWritten by Staff Reports | | firstname.lastname@example.org
By James Evans
Special to Toledo Free Press Star
Reprising his role for the sixth time, Hugh Jackman takes the X-Men’s clawed mutant Wolverine to Japan in this summer’s stand-alone blockbuster.
The actor, singer and dancer has finally landed his own film franchise. Rather than following the X-Men canon as a sequel to 2009’s “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” the new feature opening July 26 could well turn into a permanent spinoff from the action hero series.
“The Wolverine” has been a long time in the making, Jackman said, but he’s happy to finally give the character his due.
“This is a very different kind of story and it gives you the chance to do so much that will surprise audiences,” he said. “This is a much more character-based film and has a different feel than the other X-Men films. There’s a new cast and the fact that it’s set in Japan adds a new element to the plotting and atmosphere. It’s probably the most dramatic and demanding story that Wolverine has ever had to endure, and it takes audiences on the kind of journey that I think will satisfy all the curiosity and interest in the character.”
To Jackman, then, Wolverine is much more than an angry mutant with claws.
“I think of him as a very real and intriguing figure, someone who is not that easy to read. He’s an enigmatic figure who has this visceral energy and anger to him,” he said. “I think of him as the most badass comic book character in films. There is no fear or hesitation in him. He’s a very tough customer and way cooler and tougher than me! I get a kick out of playing him, that’s for sure.”
Wolverine, unlike the Australian who plays him, is pretty much immortal. Although people might assume this is a good thing, for Wolverine it’s a double-edged sword.
“He feels so much pain and regret that he’s living what seems to be an immortal life, and it’s a source of anguish in some sense as well as an incredible experience,” Jackman said.
“How does it feel to carry that pain with you for what seems like an eternity?” he said. “This film explores all that and setting the film in Japan carries a whole other set of dangers and mysteries because the culture is so different and Wolverine feels very isolated. It just adds to the level of tension and strangeness of his journey.”
Sydney-born Jackman has starred in a string of hits, from early theater work in Australia and London to playing Wolverine in 1999. Along the way he’s demonstrated versatility in (among others) “The Prestige,” “Van Helsing,” “Kate & Leopold,” Baz Luhrmann’s epic “Australia” and, of course, his Golden Globe-winning and Oscar-nominated turn as Jean Valjean in 2012’s “Les Misérables.”
“‘Les Misérables’ definitely stands as the high point of my career, but this is close,” he said with a smile. “I’d been trying to do a movie musical for the longest time. When I first heard that the movie version of ‘Les Misérables’ was going to be made, I immediately threw my hat in that ring. But ‘The Wolverine’ is something special as well, and I love the idea of flicking between two completely different genres. I think that’s good for me and probably good for movie fans as well, as they don’t see me as the same guy playing the same characters. I’m comfortable with that.”
Jackman is evidently comfortable away from the big screen, too. He met his wife, actress Deborra-Lee Furness, on the set of Australian TV show “Correlli,” his first acting job after graduating from drama school. The couple has gone on to adopt two children.
“Nothing I’ve accomplished as an actor or performer would mean very much to me without having a beautiful family to come back home to,” he said. “My life revolves around Deb and my kids and they are the real core of my world. I’ve always viewed being a good husband and father as my greatest goals and challenges in life.”
Although having Furness at home takes the parenting pressure off a little, Jackman is the typical easy-going Aussie.
“I can be strict, but there’s no yelling really — although I can put on my Wolverine face if the need arises!” he laughed. “I think kids need a bit of discipline because they are always testing the limits of how much they can get away with. That’s just human nature though.
“We all did it and it’s sometimes funny when you see it happening in reverse. You have to admire the bravado in a way. I still believe it’s better to tell your kids that they are driving you crazy and being impossible than to yell at them though. Repressing the urge to yell at your kids when they’re driving you crazy — that’s where my greatest acting skills come into play.”
Would Jackman surmise that being a good father suggests the kind of home life he was never able to have when his parents divorced?
“Well, it does give you the sense of being able to get things right, as a parent, the way you always imagined they could be when you were a child,” he said. “But I never think of my father as a bad parent, not for a moment. He had a very important job at an accounting firm and he had to raise five kids basically all on his own. You think of that and you realise he didn’t have the luxury or time to be easygoing and cheerful when he got home at 7 p.m. every night.
“He was dealing with a lot of fighting between me and my brothers, all of us looking for attention. I can’t even imagine how I would have coped if I had been in a similar situation.
“What I do know is that breaking free of all that and expressing myself through my acting has been important. I’m not saying that’s the reason why I’ve found myself doing what I do, but I’ll never have emotions bottled up when I can free them by playing characters like Wolverine. It’s the best release anyone can have — I can recommend it!”