Ahead of The Wolverine hitting UK cinemas tomorrow, Hugh Jackman talks dangerous stunts, getting body-building tips off The Rock, and going “berserk” for the new film.
Few actors have become as synonymous with a role as Hugh Jackman has with claw-fisted, invulnerable comic book badass Wolverine – and the star believes that new blockbuster The Wolverine is the character’s best big screen outing yet.
Following on from the events of X-Men: The Last Stand and taking the complex hero to Japan, Jackman claims that the film – directed by James Mangold – is “the definitive Wolverine movie”.
“Jim knows how to make a movie that’s fun, has incredible action, and yet also delivers all the finer elements of character and storytelling. He pushed me to go deeper, angrier, heavier, more berserk in every way.
“This story takes The Wolverine into a world that is vastly different from any seen before in the X-Men series. It’s visually different and the tone’s different.
“There are a lot of battles in this story, but the greatest battle of all is the one within Logan – between being a monster and becoming a human.
“He’s someone who’s always marched to the beat of his own drum but at the beginning of our movie, Wolverine’s probably more isolated than you’ve ever seen him.
“He’s disaffected with the world, because he was created as a weapon and he’s rebelling against that, and he feels he’s a danger to society.
“He’s struggling with identity, with his reason to exist, and now he faces the choice of whether to embrace his true nature or not.
“The reason it’s called ‘The Wolverine’ is because this is the definitive movie about him. This feels fresh, different, and I’m just really grateful to have the opportunity.”
Fortunately, there’s no sign of Wolverine’s darker side today. Jackman, sporting his full Wolverine beard, is suited and booted on the night of the film’s UK premiere, hand in hand with wife Deborra-Lee Furness.
“England’s in my blood. I come here and I pull out my British passport, which is good,” says the actor, whose parents were born in England.
“But it’s also a difficult time to be here, being Australian, what with the Ashes, Wimbledon, Tour De France and the Olympics,” he jokes.
Jackman had to bulk up before filming his latest action role, after losing weight for his Oscar-nominated performance in hit musical Les Miserables.
He says he relished the challenge.
“I’ve always loved playing this character, but I’ve always felt like I wish I had gone a little bit further physically with him.
“This script gave me an opportunity to go further emotionally, and I wanted to do the same physically. I started training and started a very strict diet far in advance, and I think the results have paid off – because when I look at the screen, I see Wolverine.
“I think it’s important for him to be lean, to see veins, to be vascular yet very strong obviously. I’ve always wanted people to look at the screen and go, Whoa!'”
Jackman even went to wrestler turned actor Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson for tips.
“I rang him up and said, ‘mate, what do I have to do?’ and he gave me his diet. Let me tell you, it was brutal – and I only did half of what he does. He gave me his training regime too and that was even crazier.”
He also had to learn new fighting styles, a variety of ninjitsu and other Japanese martial arts.
“I’ve always portrayed Wolverine as a street fighter and a pub brawler. His style is not pretty – he just wants to take your head off in three seconds and move on.
“I was training every day. I thought gym work was hard but training on the martial arts floor is ten times harder.”
The work paid off, although the actor was left with an injury after filming an action sequence on board a bullet train.
“That was pretty hairy. My wife was a little nervous wondering why I was home at four o’clock in the afternoon and I, of course, played it down.
“There are two things you don’t ever tell your wife about – serious action sequences mistakes…and love scenes.”
The Wolverine is out at UK cinemas from tomorrow, July 26. Find screenings near you