Hugh Jackman is known for his long-running role as Logan/Wolverine in the X-Men film series and its Wolverine spin-off, as well as for his lead roles in films as diverse as Kate & Leopold, Van Helsing, The Prestige, The Fountain, Australia, Les Misérables and Prisoners. His work in Les Misérables earned him his first Academy Award nomination for Best Actor and his first Golden Globe Award. In Broadway theatre, Jackman won a Tony Award for his role in The Boy from Oz. A four-time host of the Tony Awards themselves, he won an Emmy Award for one of these appearances. Jackman also hosted the 81st Academy Awards in 2009. In Logan, from director James Mangold, he returns as his iconic superhero character in a tough and moving final chapter.
What do you remember of your last day on the Logan shoot?
What I remember most was that we had a lot of lightning issues. We were at 10,000 feet and if there was lightning within three miles of the shoot an alarm went off and we had to stop. But there were these pockets of lightning and then it’d be blue sky, so we were always stopping and it was really frustrating. We had real issues with the light in the mountains and we were losing the sun but still Jim [Mangold] came up to me and said, ‘Let’s just stay here for a bit. I have got everything I need but this has been 17 years for you. I am going to tell everyone that I am leaving the camera on, that I need just one more angle, but really I just want you to have a half an hour where you haven’t got people yelling and you can enjoy it. Just take your time.’ That was a great gift for me.
How did you feel at the end?
I am not really good with goodbyes. Even when I do a show that lasts a year, with 400 performances, people come in for that last show and they are crying even before the curtain goes up. I am like, ‘Come on, guys, we have got a show to do!’ I am not really comfortable with that but I do remember that final day on Logan just looking around at all the people, and seeing the core people who had been there for a long time. Also, it was somewhat of a revelation to me on this film that it was a smaller core group than ever before. It actually took fewer people who really believed more and fought more. And in that core group are seven or eight people, from studio producers to Jim and Patrick [Stewart]. We were all in sync from the beginning. I am sure there were people on the outside who were thinking we were nuts. But I was looking at our core group. And that really hit me. Seventeen years is a long time. You only go to school for 12 years. And remember how long that seems (laughs)?
What does the character of Logan mean to you?
It [X-Men] was my first film in America. You could make a very good argument that I wouldn’t have had any career at all if it weren’t for these films. I was doing Oklahoma! at the Royal National Theatre when I got cast, so I would like to think that I would be working in some shape or form, but this has been the backbone. It has allowed me to do many, many things. Plus, I have always loved the character. It has been very special to me, especially this film, which is probably even more personal because it was the last one. Logan and I are very, very different people but this character has taught me stuff. It’s been great therapy, getting all my anger issues out over the years. Really. I recommend it to everyone. My wife went to a spa recently and she said there was a Wolverine therapy. She said, ‘It’s not called that but we basically had to run to the top of the mountain and yell and scream.’ It’s some gestalt therapy. I said, ‘Yeah, that’s basically what I do every two years!’
Did you think of John Cleese in Fawlty Towers when you were smashing up that car in Logan?
Yes, I did think that (laughs). We’d already shot the scene but then Jim Mangold said, ‘Do one more and think of all the stuff that’s happened, with Charles and this and that, just go for it. Take that spade and hit the crap out of that fucking car.’ I’m like, ‘Did you check with the producers?’ And he goes, ‘No. Okay, let’s roll.’ It was so awesome. I highly recommend that. That was great therapy. I actually didn’t think that scene would make the movie. I just thought he was doing that for me but it turned out great.
Were you surprised about how much leeway the studio gave you with pushing the action?
Yeah. Jim and I came up with the idea when we were talking about Shane, The Wrestler, Unforgiven. We weren’t worried about the rating. We had a pretty good feeling that it would end up being R but we wanted to make a movie about the ramifications of violence. We were pretty sure it was going to have to be violent in order to unsettle the audience but we wanted an adult movie. I went into a meeting with the guys at Fox. I actually asked them to a meeting off the lot because I needed them to know that I was being serious here. I said, ‘I fully understand if you say no. I get it. This is not my money and it’s your jobs and it is also a brand you guys have built over many, many years but I am only really interested in doing this film.’ They immediately said yes even though I fully expected them to say no. I am not saying there weren’t a few fights along the way — over the title and a few things like that — but their courage was immense. People say that it happened because of Deadpool’s success, but we were talking two years before that movie came out. So they should get recognition for their courage. I knew that this was a movie that the character deserved and the fans deserved and that people would love.
And if they’d said no, you’d have walked away from the character?
Yes. And I told them that. I knew that it was the last one for me but as soon as I had that idea, this surge of excitement came. I felt this adrenaline and there was no way I was going to compromise that because it was something I knew I would live with for the rest of my life. I wanted to make a movie that my grandkids, if they asked me, ‘Which one shall I watch, granddad?’ I would say, ‘Watch this one. This is the definitive movie.’
Was it hard to show such an aged and tired Logan?
I wanted it. The scars I thought were a really cool idea. I thought it was really important. It’s cool. At the end of the day you look quite crap and then you take off your makeup and go, ‘Oh, actually, I’m not doing too bad!’ (laughs)
How important is family in this film?
Jim Mangold said to me, ‘This is a character who is terrified of intimacy, so let’s surround him with family.’ We had the idea of Patrick losing his mind and having dementia. And we were a year into it before Jim had the idea of Laura [X-23] and three different generations. It’s a perfect narrative structure, really. That’s all Jim Mangold. We all have families and everyone knows that there is nothing more rewarding or more frustrating or annoying or inconvenient as family. You are forced into relationships with people you may never have had a relationship with by choice. They can make you mad like no one else can make you mad but it is also in the end what makes life worth living.
How much does the story reflect the situation in the world today, with the Mexico wall for example?
The X-Men comic book series has always been about tolerance and diversity. And that’s since 1963/1964 when the first comic came out and when it was an allegory for the Civil Rights movement — Malcolm X being Magneto and Martin Luther King being Charles Xavier. So it always had aspirations to talk about the world and it has always been relevant. It always will be relevant. But I think there is a good case to say that it’s more relevant now. And yet our film doesn’t propose easy answers and nor does it ask easy questions. I remember from high school the Robert Frost poem [Mending Wall] that says, ‘Good fences make good neighbours.’ This is a question that has been around for ages. Should you just look after your own? Is it better just to wave over the fence or are we to be inclusive? Personally, I am all for inclusion. I find it interesting. A sign of growth or humanity for me is that you genuinely care for more people. So I really respect the Nelson Mandelas, the Dalai Lamas because their circle of care is so huge. They care not just for their own country but for the whole world. That seems to me the greatest thing. X-Men has always been political and relevant.
As a father would you let your own kids watch Logan?
I have an almost 17-year-old. That’s fine. My 11-year-old, she was on set. And it’s not about the violence or swearing. To be honest, at 11 they’ve probably heard everything. When we made this movie I really had Unforgiven in my head. And when I went back to watch it, it’s actually not overly violent. It just has adult themes and that’s something that Jim and I talked about. If we were going to be R-rated, we wanted it to be because of the maturity of the storyline and thematic more than just the graphic violence.
For you, what is an acceptable age for a child to see this movie?
When I grew up my father was like, ‘If it says 18 you have got to be 18. You can’t be 17 and 300 days.’ It was a nightmare. I didn’t see Star Wars! I was the only kid who didn’t see Star Wars because you had to be 12 in Australia at the time. And it came out when I was 11 so I waited a year to watch Star Wars. I was like, ‘Oh, dad, please!’ So it’s a film-by-film and a kid-by-kid basis. I don’t think you can put a definitive age on these things.
In one of the scenes you fight against a clone. Was that difficult to shoot?
Yes, because I really wanted to establish a different physicality for both characters. I wanted it to be clear to the audience that one was the embodiment of pure rage and destruction. But it was really weird because I actually fought my stunt double, Dan Stevens, who I have worked with for years and that had never happened before. Usually, it’s either him or me on screen. And when we were filming I accidentally clocked him on about the third take, right on the jaw, and I saw that look in his eyes saying, ‘You do not pay me enough to smack me in the face!’ Anyway, four takes later I happened to get smacked in the face (laughs). But he is an Aussie so I was like, ‘Fair enough, buddy!’ And he said, ‘I have waited a long time to do that!’ (laughs)
How do you feel going from Logan onto The Greatest Showman?
Both movies are very personal to me. It took us seven years to get a green light for The Greatest Showman. I can’t tell you how many workshops and sessions and meetings, rehearsals, recording and studio sessions we had to get that. It’s a really sweet moment for me to be able to do complete opposites. These are opposite characters and require me to use all the different skills I have learnt over many years. It is a movie musical with all original music. Prior to La La Land, there hadn’t been one for 22 years. Actually, the guys who won the Oscar [for La La Land], Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, wrote the music and were hired on our movie before anyone really knew who they were. That is gratifying. I love La La Land and I love that audiences are opening up to musicals. And people who would never go to a musical are going along. With The Greatest Showman we tell the story as if P.T. Barnum were telling the story of his life! You can argue that his story was the start of the American Dream.
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