2017 marked the end of an era for superhero fans, as Hugh Jackman officially closed his amazing run as Wolverine in Fox’s dystopian, quasi-Western, road picture Logan. The film was a huge hit with both fans and critics, earning over $617 million worldwide (on a $150 million budget). It was an epic end emotional conclusion for the character, although it was outside of the ongoing X-Men franchise’s continuity.
Logan is a “What If” or alternate-universe tale, based loosely on Mark Millar’s “Old Man Logan,” a 2009 Marvel Comics mini-series. Set 20 or 30 years in the future, mutants have been hunted to near extinction; an elderly Professor X has become a psionic danger to society, while his caretaker Logan struggles to hide the fact that his mutant healing ability is waning. They discover a young, feral mutant girl with more than a passing resemblance to Logan; she’s pursued by a shadowy government hit team, sending them all on a desperate, heroic journey.
Variety recently caught up with the Aussie actor on the set of The Greatest Showman, a musical that’s about as far from the gritty X-Men character as one could imagine. Jackman reflects on his run as the world’s angriest mutant. The interview also includes some illuminating comments from his fellow Logan co-creators and cast.
Director James Mangold (Walk the Line, 3:10 To Yuma) described his overarching vision for Logan:
“This was not a film about selling lunch boxes or action figures. It was oriented toward adults. The goal was to make something gritty that was also a character piece.”
If that hardly sounds like a typical superhero action-adventure movie, you’re right. Logan was an enormous risk for Fox, killing off such popular and enduring characters could not have been easy. However, age simply caught up to Jackman, and Logan provided a fantastic, noir-ish way out — and it was the perfect for Wolverine.
It’s also shocking to remember that Jackman was actually a last-minute choice for the role (fellow Aussie Dougray Scott was intiially cast in the role, but dropped out when Mission Impossible II went over schedule):
“I was only in L.A. to do the paperwork for the adoption of my son. I had an agent at the time, and I gave him a ring and said, ‘I’m in town for a week. Is there anything I can read for?’ He said, ‘I’m hearing some whispers about [‘X-Men’] — let me make a few calls.’”
Patrick Stewart, who’s run as the patriarchal Professor Charles Xavier also concluded in Logan, recalls his first encounter with Jackman:
“We’d been shooting for a week or maybe more, and we were running out of stuff to shoot without someone to play Logan. One morning this slender, pleasant-looking guy with a strong Australian accent is introduced to us all. He spent 15 to 20 minutes chatting, and by the time he was called to do his reading, we’d fallen in love. He charmed everybody.”
Mangold adds his own feelings about Jackman’s skills and capabilities:
“He has such a humongous range. He’s like a fine musical instrument. He can play comedy and go light, but he’s also capable of delivering a performance of tremendous power. He’s got this incredible masculinity and strength and the courage to throw that all away and do a musical on Broadway.”
Jackman reflects on the acting choices he made while portraying the beloved, angry mutant:
“I wish I’d started playing him like that 17 years ago. So there’s some sense of missed opportunity, but when I saw ‘Logan,’ I sat there and I did have tears in my eyes. The main feeling I had was: ‘There, that’s the character. I feel like I’ve done it now.’ And I was calm and at peace, but I’m going to miss that guy.”
Two decades and nine films later, Jackman’s Wolverine no more. According to Jackman, it’s as bittersweet for him as it is for his fans. However, Fox would love to see Jackman return to the role one more time, but the pending acquisition by Disney has left the entire X-Men franchise up-in-the-air. When this deal concludes, and the X-Men emerge in the same universe as the Avengers, it’s expected that Wolverine will be recast with a younger actor, hopefully someone who can match Jackman’s intensity and depth and begin a new 20-year-run. Good luck with that.