By: Izumi Hasegawa
Izumi Hasegawa: Hugh, how protective do you feel about this movie versus the other X-Men movies, since this is really you, front and center?
Hugh Jackman: Obviously, everything I do has no less effort or desire. Every film has that sense for me, as an actor. But obviously, this movie has a different dimension as a producer. Particularly, I found myself yesterday asking everyone what they thought of the movie, and I was nervous about it. In that way, I feel it’s more personal to me. It’s more my baby. I asked all these actors and Gavin Hood, the director, to come on board, so obviously I’m more attached to it. It feels more personal. And that’s the difference.
IH: Hugh, why was it important to you to include more of Wolverine’s relationships in this, as well as the action? Because a lot of the comic book fans just want to see the action…
HJ: I don’t think that’s true. Comic book fans have loved Wolverine, and all the X-Men characters, for more than the action. I think that’s what set it apart from many of the other comic books. In the case of Wolverine, when he appeared, he was a revolution really. He was the first anti-hero. There was not just good guys versus bad guys, but an internal battle of good and bad going on within the character. That’s why people relate to them. Yeah, they’re cool and they’ve got claws and can do amazing things with swords and cards and all that great, fun stuff, but each one of them has a personal battle going on, and that’s why audiences can relate. So yes, the first priority of this movie is for it to be fun. I want people to come and have a great time. I want them to be entertained. I want them to go see it on a big screen with their friends or whoever, and just have a great time. But I think what we have an opportunity to deliver — and this is in the comic book itself — is to make them think a little bit and make them feel, and take them on a journey through these characters.
IH: Hugh, can you talk about reinterpreting the character and making him a little bit different from the Wolverine character that the fans have know in the previous X-Men movies?
HJ: With these guys, about every third day for the rest of your life, you hear a critique about how you played the part, what you should have done differently, and what you can do the next time, if you ever get a shot at it. I knew exactly what fans wanted, and not just the comic book fans but fans of the movie. It’s fair to say that, by X-Men 3, Wolverine had gone a little soft, and I agree with them there. What fans love about Wolverine is his more uncompromising approach to life. He is who he is. He’s not always a nice guy. He’s got edge. He’s an anti-hero, and there’s also a vulnerability in there. There is conflict and battles going on in there. With Gavin and the other actors, I had the chance to explore that more. I wanted the film to feel different. Gavin and I talked a lot about the aesthetic and tone of it. It’s a little darker, a little rawer, a little tougher and, hopefully, maybe even a little more human. That’s really what has appealed to me about the comic book…and no more black leather suits.
IH: For Gavin, what challenges did you face in honoring what came before while adding something uniquely original for your own vision?
Gavin Hood: Coming into a franchise that’s done as well as this franchise has done is obviously, at some level, a little intimidating. I think I was lucky that this is a prequel and not a sequel because, in that sense, if you’ve never seen any of the other X-Men movies, you can still go to this movie and enjoy it because this is the beginning and, hopefully, then you’ll go and see the others. At the same time, I don’t think a director consciously says, “I want to do something stylistically different.” By and large, directors don’t really know how to do something other than the way it comes to us. It seemed to me that there was an opportunity here to do two things: there was the opportunity to deliver the expected spectacle — the action, the energy and all of that wonderful eye-candy, great stuff; but also, there was an opportunity to do something that was really character-driven and to work with, ironically, very human emotion in what is an otherwise great big mythic comic book story. Really, what I wanted to be sure we did — and Hugh very much wanted this too, when he first spoke to me — was to make sure people really attached to the character. I think it would be very easy — and there certainly was a moment for me — to be caught up in the visual effects and the action and let that overwhelm you, and forget that the most important thing, at the end of the day, for me, when making a film, is still that moment when I’ve got a long lens on an actor’s close-up…with any one of the actors. That’s when I’m at my most focused, because if you don’t crack that moment behind the eyes — that moment where those reactions are just not melodramatic or goofy and they just somehow attack that moment perfectly — all of the special effects in the world aren’t going to save you. So I’m very proud of the performances by the actors, and I thank Hugh for getting me involved in this. I had a great time.
IH: Gavin, with the film leaking to the Internet, was there a satisfaction in finally being able to show the completed version of this film to an audience? What reactions have you gotten from people so far?
GH: Well, the reaction seems to be positive, absolutely! It was a huge shock, for all of us, when someone stole the movie. It would be like me reaching out to you guys and grabbing your notebooks right now and saying, “You know, I’m just going to publish whatever you’ve written right now. I know you’re not done yet, but we’ll just shove it out there and see what people think of your work.” Any piece of work is molded and shaped, and finally you feel ready to offer it to the public, knowing that you will be judged on that piece of work. So I’m thrilled that it’s finally out there in the form we wanted it to be, on a big screen, and thank you for coming to see it on a big screen.
IH: Hugh, this is your fourth time playing this same character. What is new for you about it? Are you used to the action, or is it still new to you — or the physical aspect of playing the character?
HJ: Everything felt new to me. I mean, obviously, you see the actors I’m around — everything was new. It took me a little while to get over the fact that Halle Berry wasn’t on set, most days. Sorry, I jest. Yes, I’m playing the same character, but I’m filling in approximately 100 years of his life that had never been explored before and had been unknown to him, so it was a chance to reveal that. What Gavin and I talked about, right from the beginning, was that we didn’t want that shot at the beginning of the movie, where people say, “Yeah, that’s Wolverine! Cool.” I wanted to see him evolve. You see him, at the very beginning, as a little kid — very unlike how you would imagine Wolverine to be — and a wonderful young actor. To watch him evolve was fantastic. Not my main reason, but part of the reason I wanted someone like Gavin — and all the actors shared this feeling — is that he is an amazing actor’s director. He gets straight to the heart of it. He won’t take any B.S. He won’t take anything less than your best, most committed work, all the time. There was many an occasion where I felt a kind of friendly arm around my shoulder after take one, or sometimes before take one. Gavin has that ability — even though I had played the role three times, and yes it may be my fourth time putting the claws on — to make it feel fresh, new, deeper and, hopefully, more honest.
IH: Ryan [Reynolds], what kind of work did you do to get yourself ready for all of the fight sequences?
Ryan Reynolds: I’ve actually wanted to play Deadpool for a really long time so, for me, it was a bit of a dream-come-true. I always thought he was a character that sort of felt like a cross between Commando and Phantom of the Opera by way of Caddyshack. So, for me, it was a pretty original type of guy in this universe. To get ready, I felt like I was ready years ago because I’ve been wanting to play this guy forever. But it was a lot of sword training and a lot of working out with Hugh, who I remember, on my first day, looked a lot like a guy who was going to make a necklace out of my teeth. That was the gold standard that was set from early on. Basically, it was about spending countless hours with the katana sword-training fellas.
IH: What about having your mouth covered? Was that very claustrophobic?
RR: Yes. Having my mouth sewn shut was definitely [uncomfortable]. It’s a moment where you say, “Why am I method?” but you go for it anyway. At lunch, snorting a steak was hard, but I got it down.
IH: And Liev [Schreiber], how was the training for you?
Liev Schreiber: Something like 12 years ago, Hugh and I did a film together and, believe it or not, I think I actually was bigger than Hugh in those days. Things have changed over the years, and he’s grown substantially — as an actor and as a human being, in general. So the first agenda was getting bigger. I made the awful mistake of going online to see what the fans thought and, of course, they said, “You need to get bigger.” So I started working out with Hugh and doing the high-protein diet. Between the two of us, I think we wiped out a whole gene pool of chickens. I know people think it’s a departure for me, but I don’t really. I feel right at home with that sibling rivalry thing with Hugh. It was a lot of fun.
IH: As an acting technique, do any of you ever listen to music on set to get into character? If so, what was on your playlist?
Taylor Kitsch: Obviously, Gambit is from New Orleans, so I was listening to John Lee Hooker all the time.
Lynn Collins: I had one song, “Apologize,” from One Republic. I listened to it constantly, and now I can’t listen to it anymore. It ruined the song for me.
HJ: Not on set, but when I train, I listen to Godsmack, which is the kind of music I would rarely listen to. I’d listen to it really high, as loud as I can. Sometimes it’s a little embarrassing when you’re in a public gym. To me, that was as close to Wolverine as I could get.
RR: I heard Faith Hill coming out of Hugh’s trailer, to be honest.
HJ: There is a sensitivity to Wolverine. It’s not easy to access.
RR: For me, it was a band called The National. I was obsessed with them. I loved them.
Will.i.am: I’m always making music…
HJ: Yeah, all the time — on set.
WIA: I had to stop ’cause I had to focus. This was my first big thing. I took my studio there, at first, and then I got a whisperer saying, “You should probably take your studio out of the trailer.” I was making beats in my off-time because you’re sittin’ there and waitin’ a lot, so I made about a thousand beats.
LS: In between takes, Will and I would play this game where we would hum TV show tunes to each other and see if we could identify them. He has an incredible memory for music, especially with ’80s sitcoms.
IH: Do you have any special memories from the set? Something funny that happened?
LC: We were on this location, and Hugh came up to me and said, “You know, we’ve seen some of the dailies and we just think that your outfit needs to be skimpier,” so I was like, “Shit! Okay, whatever.” He was like, “So we found something for you. We put it in your trailer. Can you please try it on?” There was a gaggle of men [standing outside], so I go into my trailer and there is a [tiny] silver spandex dress, and I had this panic attack. I was like, “Oh, my God. They’re all standing in front of the trailer, so I have to put it on.” I put it on and it didn’t fit. You could see my butt and my breasts. It was horrible. I opened the door and everybody was cracking up, and Hugh was like, “April Fool’s.”
HJ: I love that you put it on and didn’t slap me in the face.
LC: It was horrible and slit up the thigh where a very tender area of a woman’s body was just exposed in front of a lot of men.
HJ: If we put that on the DVD extras, sales would go through the roof.
TK: I’m reminded of the pressure of playing Gambit, especially before I got to Oz, but the biggest memory that stuck out for me was when I first got there. I wasn’t working my first day. I was nervous and, when I first met Hugh, it was really great because I just felt that I was already at home and I had the opportunity of a lifetime, and this guy was going to catch me if I fell. He’s ready to take risks. With all the pressure, it was just really great to know that I was going to work with someone that was so genuine and open.
HJ: And then I stabbed him.
TK: And then he stabbed me, and I bled a lot on set.
HJ: We were in a fight scene, and Taylor reeled back very quickly and someone called, “Cut!” I looked down at my claws and there were only two claws left, and I looked over at Taylor and it was sticking out of his thumb, and he was just looking at it.
TK: Yeah, those were some good memories, Hugh.
HJ: It was good for me. I liked it. It’s my Australian sense of humor. Genuinely, for me, it’s a rare experience, as a producer, to be involved so heavily with casting and to feel so attached to a scene you’re about to play with everybody and the actors who are playing the characters. Some directors don’t like to rehearse, so often on film, you can turn up the day before and meet someone who is playing your wife or your lover. I was so excited to be involved because movies exist on relationships and characters, and to be in every one of these scenes was a great thrill for me. And then, as a personal moment, when we were all together in January, when finally Ryan Reynolds’s schedule had loosened up for us and we had all flown in to be with him, we shot it in his backyard because it was the only way. I was the one to talk to him because his agent was there. We were honestly all together shooting, and it was the inauguration, and we all stopped to view the inauguration of the President. For me, that was a highlight because, by that point, we felt like family. To be together and to be united again by that moment was pretty amazing.
RR: For me, there was a weird silver dress in my trailer. I honestly worked probably the longest day of my life on this movie. It’s a huge movie, so there were several units going at once, and I had a day where I was going back and forth from each unit. It was about a 22-hour day, and there was make-up and all these things, and I had to spin these swords at a million miles an hour around my body and, by about hour 19, I had a couple of extremely close calls with these katana swords. When you’re spinning these swords, you wanna wear pants for that. I honestly just about lost my future legacy a couple of times, and I had to take a little break and pour myself a nice shot of espresso so I could carry on. That, for me, was probably the worst of it.
LS: Early on in the film, we were shooting in New Zealand and it was the first big fight sequence for Hugh and I, which was outside of the bar. Hugh and I had rehearsed day and night for that. I’ll admit and be candid that I wasn’t sure that, physically, I was up to this role. Now I know I am, but initially, I was a little concerned. I’m sorry to say this in public, but Hugh and I, being the elder statesmen of this cast, were both rightfully concerned that we wouldn’t be able to pull off the fight that the stunt guys had shown us. Sure, we’d been lifting weights and we looked large, but what they were asking for was truly impossible and brutal. I just remember the third night, after shooting until 6:00 in the morning every night, looking over at Hugh…and the two of us were just so smashed up by the fight and desperate to impress our small sons at home. They said, “Would you guys like to do one more?” and I remember looking across at Hugh, praying to myself that he would say, “I’m tired. I want to go home and go to bed,” and Hugh said, “No, I feel great!”
HJ: That was the biggest lie of my life.
LS: I looked across at him and said, “Yeah, I feel great too.” They looked at Hugh and said, “One more?” and Hugh said, “No, I could do two more!” so I said, “Yeah, I could probably do three or four more!” And that was my sole motivation for the rest of this entire film.
WIA: For me, the whole trip [was a memorable experience]. On the first airplane over to Sydney, I was excited. I was like, “Wow, this real!” This is my first big thing. Usually, I tour around the world with my friends when we’re going to sing in Sydney, but here I was, going by myself for the first time, which was the total opposite of what I normally do. So the whole memory was wonderful. I remember each day. But the one that sticks out the most was the inauguration, because I had just finished performing and then, straight after that, I did CNN, rushed to the airplane, flew back and put on my Wraith suit. I remember staying on set that day, after doing the inauguration, and it was just two different worlds. Of course, I was excited and wanted to share, but I wanted to focus on what I was there to do. It was wonderful to see everybody’s face when I walked in. Everybody was excited and said, “Wow, we just saw it on TV!” and I was like, “I was there!” The most memorable thing, for me, was that day.
GH: For me, it was trying to figure out how to direct Hugh Jackman when he wouldn’t listen, or couldn’t listen, to a single thing I said. Hugh was submerged in that tank and he goes through a range of emotions. He enters the tank fairly nervous but calm. He sees spinning needles coming down into his body and he goes through this period of escalation where his heart rate goes crazy and he freaks out…and then he dies. There was a lot he had to remember as we were going along. And then he hears someone saying he might erase his memory and he starts to come around, and then he snaps out of the tank, roars up and he is the Wolverine that everybody has been wanting to see. It’s the best shot in the movie. So I had to figure out how we were going to do it ’cause he couldn’t hear a thing I was saying. We experimented with this underwater speaker that they assured me was going to work, but Hugh was hearing nothing. It was a total disaster. And he couldn’t just do it by himself, unfortunately, even though we’d figured out these steps, because the cameras were moving. So we had a very advanced technique for that particular scene, where I rolled up my sleeves, stuck my hand in the tank, held onto his big toe and explained to him that, “One grab of the toe is the moment when the procedure begins. By the time I get down to the baby toe, I’m going to yank that thing and that’s when you come roaring out of the tank.” We had this whole system worked out. And then, he screwed it up. I’d be on toe three and he’d think it was toe two, and he’d come roaring out. I’d be like, “How long do you want to stay under the water for?”
HJ: But that shot of me coming out of the tank is actually me responding to the two dislocated toes on my right foot.
RR: This little piggy got pissed.
IH: Hugh and Liev, playing such intense characters, how did you de-stress at the end of the day?
LS: I’ve never been someone who takes characters home with me at night. The claws and the teeth came off. Unfortunately, the sideburns didn’t, but I’ve never really had a problem with that. Also, particularly in my case, I was playing anger, which is a relatively easy emotion to access. I know you’re all thinking, “Oh, he’s an angry guy!” No. It’s easy for everyone. It’s a much easier emotion than love.
HJ: I feel the same. In fact, playing Wolverine is great therapy, really. Playing Victor is probably the same thing. You get to exorcize a lot of your demons and then go home feeling very, very relaxed and happy.
IH: Can you talk about working with Lynn and developing the love story between Wolverine and Kayla Silverfox?
HJ: Lynn plays a character and fulfills a role that was so vital to this movie. For fans, it will be a little shocking to see a love story there, but for anyone who knows acting and film structure, what Lynn had to pull off in the film was probably one of the most difficult things to do. She did an amazing job, and I was really, really proud of what she did. The casting of Lynn was something Gavin and I were so passionate about. The person that Wolverine could be in love with, but more importantly, the person who could be in love with this guy, was so vital, and she did an amazing job. I don’t want to belittle anybody else in the film. I’m so proud of it. I just wanted to say what an amazing job she did.
GH: I just want to second that. Hugh makes a very valid point. Lynn did have the hardest role in this movie because it’s the one that you can most easily screw up. You have to be somebody who’s in love, and then you have to betray, and then you have to be liked again. One minute she’s the lover, then she’s the bitch, and then she’s the lover. So, well done.