X2 Interview Pt. 4
For the final installment in our series of X2 interviews, we've obviously saved the best for last. Wolverine, aka Hugh Jackman. In person, Jackman is so dissimilar from his character it's amazing how true-to-the-comics, Wolverine actually is. Jackman had long-flowing VAN HELSING hair, a cheery Aussie accent, and a wicked sense of humor. A really likeable guy who couldn't say enough about his wife or kid, Oscar. But before I hand it over to Hugh, I must remind you that today is May 2. GO SEE X2!!! OK, sorry...here's Hugh:Was this as much fun to make as it looks? NJ: Yeah, I have to say it was more fun for me than the first, because then I was pretty scared for about the first month. It took me about a year to admit, but I was pretty damn terrified. I got cast, for those of you don't know, a week into shooting on the first one. It was a lot of pressure on everybody, because it was this big franchise. So come the second one, I had time to get in shape, I had time to think about it, work on the script, feel ready to go from day one. We had a four-page scene on day one, and I was like, Whoa, here we go. And BANG, we shot it. Every character played in it, we got it and we were off and running. Great fun. Have you had a chance to see the film with an audience? HJ: Well, the press screening, but does that count? I guess...but the point being, when Wolverine does that first slash, there's a cheer from the crowd. HJ: When I first read this installment of the script, because I've talked to fans and if there's one thing they've said to me it was, You don't kick enough ass. Come on, we want to see that berserker rage. Let's go for it! I kind of thought about that and I was like, Geez, you're right, and when I went back and watched X-MEN and there really wasn't a lot of that. I had a huge fight scene with Mystique, where I ended up on my back, knocked out. But there wasn't that berserker rage. So when I read the script, I thought the relationships were better. It was funnier. I thought there was more action, but I still said, We've gotta get even more action in. So I kind of fought for a little bit more, in the mansion sequence particularly. There is a little more berserker rage there than there was originally [in the script]. Apart from that I thought the script had a great balance. I don't know, I think it works for Wolverine's story. It's not like he's in a corner crying. He's at a crisis point where he's about to find out everything he's ever wanted to know. As liberating as that might be, it's frightening as all hell. So he's on edge. He's having these nightmares. So it all kind of works in together with the action and that berserker rage.
Was it good to get back on the set again and see the family around? HJ: Absolutely. We're a pretty close group and I think, particularly when you're involved with a project that people are nervous about. [The original] certainly wasn't one of those films where people though, Oh, this is a slam- dunk. It's gonna be huge. The word was, for as much as I could hear or understand was this film will probably stiff. They didn't test it, we don't know. Who knows what's going to happen? Do people really know X-MEN? How big is the fan base? And then when it opened, it became so huge and I think everyone in the film was so proud of it. You were at that press screening. All the actors were there. I don't think I've been to a screening before when all the actors come and it ISN'T the opening night. Everyone was really into it and loved it and we generally all got on well together. What was it like going back to the part? HJ: My fear was that we'd be complacent, like a football team that won 50-0 one week and thought they would go on tobeat every team. We all worked very hard [on X-MEN] and, like I said, it was a surprise hit. So we were all surprised at the success. Coming into the second one, I was worried about that. You probably have heard all the stories that I used to take cold showers and stuff [to get into character]. So of course, being superstitious, I had to have them again. It's like wearing the same pair of underwear. Everything I did on the first one, I've got to do that for the second one. It actually just felt remarkably easy to get right back into it, because I love the character. It's a joy to go back and do it again. What was easier for you the second time? HJ: I think almost everything. The process of hair and makeup is the same: hang me by my feet and spray three cans of hair spray on my head. But I felt so much more confident on this film, and not in an arrogant way. So, starting again, from the beginning, being able to get ready physically, be able to work out and get into the right shape. I'd just come off three weeks holiday in Cicely [when X-MEN started] so, if you hear the commentary by Bryan Singer in X- MEN 1.5, there's a scene where I've got my shirt off in the beginning and he goes, He's a little bit flabby there... Which I was! So, every part of it was easier. I think the studio was giving us more leeway to do what we wanted. I felt like I owned the character more. I now had three trailers in the car park, not one and an entourage of seven and not one. So everything was easier. I had someone to do my dry cleaning and wipe my ass, so it was perfect... I'm joking about the entourage, by the way. Kelly Hu was in earlier saying she got beaten up pretty bad during your fight scene. HJ: She did? She asked for it, mate. I mean literally ASKED for it. She'd come in, Come on. Give it to me! I tell you, I've been in a few fights in my day and I don't think I've hit many people harder than I've hit Kelly. And she was like, Come on! You pussy!
What about you? Did you get banged up at all? HJ: A few bumps and bruises but not much. I got a bit of a concussion on one thing, but she's a pro. If she'd hit me, it would just touch me. It would look like she'd whacked me, but she's a black belt, so she knew how to do it. Me, this is the only black belt I've got (points to his waist). No, I was just whacking her. I had to do this one scene where I'm down on the ground, and she runs - you see the camera flies from the top - and I have to turn, and stab her in the stomach. So effectively I have to punch her in the stomach, and she has to fold over it. She kept saying, Harder, harder, harder, harder! I can take it. I said, Just do me a favor. Will you wear a pad? She put a black pad on, and I turned around, and BAM, I hit her straight in the boob. Four takes without the pad I'd gotten right perfectly, and as soon as she gave me the target, bang. And I said, Did I get you in the...? And she goes, Yup. Just a little lower. Thanks Hugh. That was the only time she didn't ask for it harder. Did you like doing the action scenes? HJ: Loved it. In fact, I kept trying to rewrite to get more in there. That stuff in the mansion, I love all that stuff. It was great. I like the whole idea of Wolverine being the babysitter and having 50 people coming. The body count's pretty high in this one, I think. I don't know how we got it past the ratings board. What was the hardest thing about making this film? HJ: There was one scene where you have a flashback of a nightmare of Wolverine. In the script it basically says, Flashback: Nightmare of being worked on. And I remember going to Bryan, Bryan, this is one of those unique opportunities where you can kind of see the making of a character. It's that moment where Wolverine becomes who he is now, with all that berserker rage. People under that extreme circumstance either fall or they're brought to life, which is where Wolverine was really created. We ended up shooting quite a lot on that. That was pretty intense. Do you get mobbed by X-MEN fans now? HJ: Well, I don't get mobbed. I don't know why that is, either they didn't like [X-MEN], didn't have anything good to say, or they don't recognize me. I did have this one odd, weird encounter with the fan that I won't forget. Vinnie at Bobby's restaurant in New York is my favorite encounter. He's a great guy. I used to go to that restaurant quite a bit. This is owned by De Niro so actors go there all the time. Vinnie's the manager, so it's not like he's unaccustomed to seeing other actors. The waiter comes up to me and he said, Hey, are you the guy who plays Wolverine? And I said, Yeah. And he said, Oh my God. Vinnie's a huge fan and really wants to see you. He's over there by the counter. And so I look over and there's Vinnie ducking behind his little manager's booth, literally ducking underneath. It took him ten minutes to come and see me. Then he comes over in a sweat and I said, Nice to meet you Vinnie. Are you a fan? He looked at me and said, [with a weird, disturbed look on his face] Am I a fan? And he took his shirt off - in the middle of his own restaurant mind you, and he turned around and he had a full-color tattoo of Wolverine on his back and he goes, Am I a fan? (Laughs.) He got down on his knees and he was sweating and he says, Thank you for doing the film. I love it, it's fantastic. My wife pulled out the camera and said, Vinnie, do you want a few shots? Well Vinnie was doing the poses and he had his arm around me and he turned his back and was flexing his back with his muscles. We took a whole roll of me and Vinnie and sent it to him. Were you concerned about Vinnie? HJ: I had a moment when he came over sweating where I was like, uhhh, I don't know where this is going... Before [X-MEN] came out, I'd met a few and the fans who were like, You'd better be doing this. You'd better be doing that. You'd better be playing him Canadian. You'd better say this. You'd better... I was like, Oh geez, because I'd just finished shooting the film so I was like, Uhhh, yeah. Well, OK. Interesting. I'll do my best.
So after doing two of these big blockbusters, why go and do another with VAN HELSING? HJ: Well, it is a big, summer, action blockbuster, there's no doubt. But I read the script and I knew the film was gonna be great. I spoke to [director] Stephen [Sommers] about it. [VAN HELSING] certainly wasn't on my radar because I was in the middle of a franchise [with X2]. I was just about to shoot [X2] when I signed onto it and I thought, I'm in the middle of a franchise. Do I need to slow down a bit? It was compelling because the script was so good. I knew all the people involved - or I found out about them - and it just seemed like a top-quality project. I have to say I'm feeling a little smug with myself. We're only three months into shooting and I've seen enough of it to realize it's gonna be pretty darn good. The director said the movie is loaded with monsters but no blood. How can there be a monster movie without blood? HJ: Did he say that? No blood? That's not entirely true let me tell you. I just bit on a blood capsule about a week ago. All I can say is, it's gonna look unbelievably good. Those monsters are amazing, the fight sequences are out of this world and it is gonna be frightening enough and action-filled enough to just sneak under the PG-13 rating. It looks fantastic. There are monsters in it but it's really an adventure story and the characters are really well-etched and I think people will really go along for the ride. I feel like I'm in an INDIANA JONES movie it's that big. I mean huge. You can't believe it. Is it true that here you're going to be playing performer/songwriter Peter Allen soon? HJ: I'm doing a new musical on Broadway in October, called "The Boy From Oz" where I play Peter Allen. For those of you who don't know, he became first famous in America for marrying Liza Minnelli. He used to do the opening act for Judy Garland, who he met in a club in Hong Kong many years ago. He then became a prolific songwriter. He won an Oscar for "Arthur's Theme." He wrote many hit songs that you would know but his life's story is truly amazing. He was a boy from the outback in Australia. If I said he was the polar opposite of Wolverine, I'm really not exaggerating. He was very ...flamboyant, shall we say. Famous for his Hawaiian shirts, gold, tap dancing shoes, jumping on top of the piano, making out with pretty much anyone who came in his path... Danced with the Rockettes, he was a pretty outrageous character (laughs). Movie musicals are coming back. How about doing a movie musical after you finish your Broadway run? HJ: Well as long there's not a half-dozen really crappy musicals in the next year and a half, I think musicals will be back because Rob Marshall and Baz Luhrmann have shown that they're viable and commercial and interesting and that they can work on film. It seems crazy to me that they haven't been done, really successfully, since GREASE. Crazy... Unfortunately though, if a musical is bad, it stinks to high heaven. It really does. So they're really tough. People ask me what musical I'd like to do and I would love a version of SWEENEY TODD to be made, if I had my choice. So I'm saying that to put it out there. But don't shoot yet! Wait eighteen months, please.
Why is it important to go from X2 to a stage production? Does it help remind yourself you can do it? HJ: Not only to remind yourself you can do it, but it is, without a doubt, the ultimate for an actor. The film world, we all know, is director and editor driven. So you have some fun moments. You have a great time, but as an actor, in terms of controlling the pace of the storytelling, on stage is really it. As long as you find the right thing. And of course every night you go through this incredible journey, which is very cathartic. It's more cathartic, really, to watch the final product of a film. The actual shooting of a film can be a little bit disconcerting as you're going. It's a bit piecemeal. But definitely, it's part of who I am. I trained for four years, classically on the stage, to do the stage work. So it's sort of what I love to do. Are you signed for the third film? HJ: No. I think all of us were signed on for one or two. I think people who were new to this film did a two-picture deal. Would you do it? HJ: I'm pretty sure, yeah. I mean, I love it. I can't imagine myself giving it up.