F-Bombs, Ball Punches, and Hugo Boss: Our Chat with Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy and Nicholas Hoult!
Click here for Part One of our X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST set visit!
I first met Wolverine under very unexpected circumstances—stuffing fattening foods in to his face. Apparently the day of our set visit just happened to coincide with Hugh Jackman's rare "cheat day" from his insane workout regimen and the actor was taking full advantage to enjoy meat pies, lamingtons and other Australian treats. Not only did Jackman live up to his reputation as one of the nicest guys in Hollywood, it was also clear he still loves the character of Logan and was legitimately excited to be playing Wolverine for the seventh time on film.
On the stunts and physical preparation:
I do a lot of my own stuff, except the stupid stuff like bashing your head against walls or crashing cars and all that jazz. But I did it the right way. I had a good amount of time to prepare, so I built slowly, I hit THE WOLVERINE and this movie without any injuries, which is was the first time – every time I've played Wolverine before I've carried some kind of injury because I've had to race to get ready. I did it slowly, I felt great, I felt great throughout. I felt tired, obviously, and it is harder, I'll admit that, but I felt really good. Physically for me, I feel better now probably than I did in the earlier films. So that's not an issue for me. Yet. (Laughs) It's all the meat pies! You guys saw the Wolverine diet…
On the story and scope:
I'm fully aware that people will hear the idea and think, “Ah, they've just come up with a way to bring everybody together,” right? And the great thing is, I don't have to sell it because I know the storyline is phenomenal. Any of the cynics out there, it's going to exceed their expectations by a million miles. Because it's a very strong, emotional story, which I think has always been the strength of X-Men—following the humane and difficult side and tortured side of these superheroes, but it's also intellectually very, very engaging and the action is ridiculous. I probably shouldn't tell you this, but it’s the biggest Fox movie ever outside of AVATAR, so it's a massive movie.
On working with director Bryan Singer again:
I just know fans are going to flip out at this. With Bryan, there's nobody better at handling multi-character stories. He showed it in USUAL SUSPECTS right through. They're always smart, they're always engaging and I think it's fascinating to watch him grow as a director. He embraces the emotional side of the story. And there's a lot of comedy in this world. He was worried in the first one about setting a new tone for these movies, which had been seen as too broad prior, and there really hadn't been after the Batman movies, the original series. He wanted to create a very realistic, very human, very emotionally rich dynamic. And he's just gone to another level on this. It's a very epic, very big, big, big movie.
You can see the evolution from X1 to X2. He's someone who loves that kind of complexity of story. He's a ridiculously smart guy. He understands and can hold so many characters. And it's gone to another level. Bryan's a fan of many things. I knew he was a Superman fan. He's a World War II freak, hence VALKYRIE. But he loves time travel movies. So for him, this is not just, "Oh we're going to travel through time." It's important to create the most incredible time travel movie of all time. Anyone who's even vaguely tempted to write a time travel movie… it's easy to pitch and very difficult in the details. Because every line, every action, everything—you have to set up the rules very carefully so the audience understands it—but you also have to pay it off in many ways. It's difficult as well as having 20 characters across that. So Bryan is in his element.
On the action sequences and the Sentinels:
You do see battling and I'll tell you, you see battling in the future and in the past. And not just me battling them, but all the characters. It's exciting after doing two Wolverine movies in a row to see how the X-Men work together, so I'm trying to give you a little something without giving you much, but they need to work together in order to bring down the Sentinels.
You've seen the past Sentinels. All I can tell you is that in the future, the Sentinels are formidable. They're formidable in the past, but in the future—it's a very dire situation for the X-Men.
On the evolution of Logan as a character:
Well, it very much follows on from THE WOLVERINE. You get the feeling that he's come to terms with who he is. I'm a warrior. I'm Wolverine and that's who I am. For better or worse, it's not gonna be pretty but here we go. And as you saw in the teaser he gets approached and it's all hands on deck. It doesn't matter which side you're on in terms of mutant politics, it's all hands on deck. It's about survival. So he's on board but he's very much in the center of it, in terms of the team. And then he's sent back to try and fix things. And as he says, "I'm the last person in the world who should be sent back on this mission. If you want someone to go back and take someone's head off, fantastic." But he's actually really got to go back and act as inspiration, as mentor, as guide. Because he can't do it all on his own, which is always his preferred method. To just do it himself. But he can't due to the nature of the story. So he has to not be a leader, but a facilitator for everyone to come together. Which is not his normal modus operandi. It's certainly not easy for him.
On getting another memorable F-bomb ala FIRST CLASS:
I'm gonna have to let that one go to another character in this one. I feel like if you can do a movie, say two or three words and one of them is the F-bomb, don't try and repeat that. Move on. I always feel weird about that because I didn't get paid for that [X-MEN FIRST CLASS cameo], but Fox very kindly made a charitable donation to my kid's school, so I thought it was very weird handing them a check. "Listen don't ask me how I got this…"
I think I may be the only person to be rewarded charitably and get a tax deduction for swearing on film.
On keeping up with the younger cast:
We do go out. Actually, when we're all out, it's sort of intimidating. Because we're very loud, quite often have parties where people end up singing and drinking a lot and so it can get a little intimidating, I think that's the way it seems. We don't get people coming up to us, you can tell people notice us but it is a very social cast. And let me tell you, that young cast… That's where I feel it physically! Next morning, Fassbender, Nick and James are, like, "Okay! Let's go!" And I'm (mimes looking rough). It's easy for me to be grumpy on those mornings. But a lot of the time I can't keep up with them.
On THE WOLVERINE vs. X-MEN ORIGINS WOLVERINE:
I feel better within myself and I think the team does in terms of what we created with THE WOLVERINE. This might look bad in print, but I don't feel the weight of that like I did after the first WOLVERINE. After that one, I felt we still hadn't created that movie. And I've been so lucky to play it and I always wanted to have that feeling in 30 years when someone says, "What movie should I watch?" and I’d say, "Watch this one." "What's the Wolverine?" and I’d say, "That's Wolverine." And I won't tell you now, but if someone asks what X-Men movie should I watch, maybe this one [DAYS OF FUTURE PAST]… But that's what motivates me.
On how long he’ll keep playing Wolverine and the future of the character:
I don't think about that. How long. I know 100% it'll come to an end and it should. I've said before, I always think the great parts outlive the actors that play them and that's a stage tradition, that goes back hundreds of years and it should be that way. I came off the bench to play this part and when people do that, they're even more reluctant to give it up! But I love playing it and I really love playing THE WOLVERINE and I was very motivated to do what I thought was a more definitive version of that character and being in this is a dream. There's no way I'd miss out on this opportunity, right? So to go on from there, here's how I think. It has to be more interesting than the last Wolverine if I'm going to a Wolverine movie, it has to be more compelling. And the same with an ensemble piece, whatever it's called, it would have to be the same thing. I don't know when that will be. Who knows? I don't know what'll happen. Obviously The Wolverine's still in theaters and this still has a year to go, so in a way I'm not even thinking about it right now, but that's always been my touchstone.
When I first heard about [DAYS OF FUTURE PAST], I said yes on the phone because this is a slam-dunk. And part of me was, 'Ah… I'm doing Wolverine, do I want to do it again?' But there was no way I was ever going to say no, without even seeing the script, with Bryan in a story with everyone involved. Who knows, this may be my last time playing it? And if it is, it couldn't be a better way to wrap it up.
Like any proper Scotsman, James McAvoy curses a lot. (Judging by our chat, I’m guessing he's the one that gets the F-bomb in this movie.) He's also got a wicked sense of humor, which was much appreciated considering he was our ninth interview at the end of a very long day. Read his thoughts on Charles Xavier's progression, Michael Fassbender in drag, and putting the blame on Captain Picard and Gandalf.
On how Charles Xavier has changed since X-MEN FIRST CLASS:
Charles is messed up. And he’s pretty louche. You know, he was kind of preppy. He was quite a cad in the last one, quite preppy and all that, in this one he's much more a child of the 70s and psychedelia and narcotics and he's a fucking mess. I look quite together right now, but we just tried to bust Magneto out of the Pentagon, so that’s why I’m trying to look okay. Generally, he looks a mess. His dialogue quite reflects that, really. His interactions with people reflect that.
On being the focus of the film:
It's a movie about all of the guys in the X-Men but I suppose the guy with the biggest journey is arguably me, because I change more than anybody by the end of the film. I wanted to make Charles quite extreme relative to who he's always been before. When I first took over the part I was only able to do that to a certain extent, because the film was really about Michael's journey, really. And as much as I had a great part and it was like a buddy movie and I really had some nice stuff to play, it was ultimately his narrative. And this one feels a little different. And I can go further with the extremity not just from what Patrick did but from what I did in the last movie. So you find him very different, not just because he's got long hair, but because where he is and how shaky his soul is. That's the key to him in this one.
His power which has always been his psychic ability or his great intelligence—or really what I think it is is his empathy—but he's lost the ability to empathize with other people because it's too painful for him. Why? Because he's been given all his own pain by Erik and Raven as well. And it's not just the loss of Erik, but it's also equally to do with his love for Raven and the fact that he was so abandoned at the end of the last movie by both of them. Not just abandoned, but also fucking horribly injured.
And then they're like "Hey dude, hope you get better. We're going to teleport the fuck out of here. Good luck dealing with the Russians and the Americans!" "Guys?!"
On acting opposite Patrick Stewart:
I don’t really do much that Patrick does. I do this [puts hand to his head], which he never did. Partly because it’s in the comic books a lot, but partly also because I thought it was helpful to give the audience a visual cue as to when exactly he was doing shit and when exactly he wasn’t doing shit.
We’re very different interpretations of that character, by nature of the fact that we’re at very different times in that character’s life. I once saw Patrick Stewart have to do Shylock to the face of David Suchet, another great Shakespearean actor. He was doing Shylock back. Because they basically sort of had a disagreement about—This was one some TV documentary. They had a disagreement about what the best way to play Shylock was. The guy who ran the RSC [Royal Shakespeare Company] says, “Why don’t we take one of the scenes and you can play Shylock, and then we’ll do it again and you can play Shylock, and we’ll see which is best?” And they Shylocked off, man!
It’s weird, because when I took over the role of Charles, I never thought that I’d be working with him. I never thought I’d give a similar performance to him. I certainly never thought that I’d be giving a very different performance to him to his face. Kind of going like, “Yo, what you got, man? Show me your big nose! We’ve got big noses together!” There’s like a profile shot with both our noses together. Conk to conk. I think he wins slightly, but they tell me that your nose grows with age, so by the time I’m his age I think I’ll be knocking the shit out of it in the nose wars.
It was my first day and their last day. We just did it. When you have two people who are the same person at different times of their life checking each other out you don't want to get in the way of it too much with too much talking and too much moving around. You just want to have it face to face. And not too get too Federation about it – to be in a Nexus. Almost a void in space. It's just people's faces. You just want to be studying each other.
On working with “Hugo Boss” and the rest of the cast:
I had a great time working with Michael on the last one. Weirdly, strangely, sadly, we've had less to do together on this one, which has been a great sadness for me.
A lot of my stuff is with Hugh and with Nick. With Hugh, we've started to call him Hugo Boss, because you can call somebody named Hugh Hugo… and he's the boss. So it's a very different dynamic. I'm very much the problem and he's very much the Charles Xavier, trying to fix me. And I'm very much the Logan, in that I'm angry all the time. I'm irrational and just want to fight all the time and then I want to disappear at the end of it all. And I've got stupid hair. I actually make fun of his hair in this movie.
If you went out with Hugo Boss, that might be different. Because he is, “I’M THE WOLVERINE, BITCH!” My favorite line from any fucking X-Men movie, “I’M THE JUGGERNAUT, BITCH!” You just get this whole idea of Hugh, that he’s constantly fucking in character. His wife is like, “You want a cup of tea?” “I’M THE WOLVERINE, BITCH!” And he's got his imaginary claws up.
On the tone of DAYS OF FUTURE PAST vs. FIRST CLASS:
It’s quite an intense film, isn’t it? I think all the X-Men films have been quite intense. I think FIRST CLASS was slightly less so. FIRST CLASS was quite emotionally intense at times, but it was more camp, and more sort of… I think it was more lighthearted at times as well. But other than that, I think a lot of the X-Men films have been quite intense and quite serious and stuff like that. That definitely happens in this. We’ve brought some of the levity and some of the, perhaps, frivolity from FIRST CLASS into this. You have to, I think, if you’re going to use that cast. You can’t just go, “That part of you guys that got you the job last time? We don’t fuckin’ want that.” And I think what Bryan’s done superbly and really… It’s a difficult job. He’s taken two very different casts, that have created two very different sort of esprit de corps, or tones, and he’s managed to meld that really brilliantly.
On becoming the future Professor X and losing his hair:
I think maybe toward the end of a third movie, if we make a third movie, the natural place for my character to go would be to become much more like him.
I don't think it should be that he just decides to shave his head. I think it should be for a reason. In the comic books, it was for a reason. He lost his hair as a result of something. It wasn’t just like gradual hair loss, do you know what I mean? Which would be so dull, in this world where people can control metal and fucking poison tongues and shit in THE WOLVERINE and all that. It’s like, “Hey, how did that mutant lose his hair?” “It just fell out.”
We obviously didn’t decide to do that in FIRST CLASS, and they obviously didn’t decide to do it in this one. We went the opposite way. But I think there’s got to be a reason. I had an idea for this movie, but they ultimately didn’t go with it, which I thought was fucking cool… I can’t tell you, because it might be in the next one. But it involved a lot of violent hair cropping.
On the massive expectations for the sequel:
It felt like it was time to change, with the last one. It felt cool, because it felt like we were trying to something new. If it didn’t work, big deal, and if it did work, bonus, you know? So with this one, with the size of the cast, with the names in the cast, and with the size of the bloody budget, you go, “I hope this works out.” But at the end of the day, as well, I always feel lucky just to be employed, and to be employed in jobs with a certain level of skill to them.
I kind of feel a big wave of expectation, but I kind of don’t as well. I don’t really care if it doesn’t work out. [laughs] No, but you go into it with the best of intentions, and that’s all you can do, you know? If this movie fails horribly, I don’t really think I’ll lose too much sleep over it. But don’t get me wrong. I’ll do everything I can to try and help make it a success. You gotta roll with the punches. You win some and you lose some. We’ve all lost some and we’ve all won some. So yeah, I don’t think I worry too much. X-Men will always be around, whether the movie’s made by Fox or whoever it’s made by. X-Men will always be around. It’s stuck around for years, for decades. There’s an endearing and an enduring quality to the material that I don’t think we could possibly screw up so much that it disappears.
One of the joys of having such a big cast – If this film was all about me, or if this film was all about Michael, or if this film was all about Nick or something like that, I would be like, “Yeah, if this goes down, it’s going down on my shoulders.” But there are 175 leading actors in this one! We share the burden. I’m like, “Captain Picard fucked up as well! It ain’t my fault! Fucking Gandalf fucked up that scene!” So you can spread the guilt, you know what I mean?
On punching Nicholas Hoult in the balls:
Did he tell you? He finally told somebody? Every interview he’s done, he’s like, “Shit, I forgot to tell them that you punched me in the balls!” I’m glad he finally got that out. It was a total accident. We were doing a shot on me, actually, and we were meant to be reacting to these bright lights and flinching at them, because they were meant to be explosions going off around us. It was like, “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” And I just noticed that the cameraman decided to pan over to Nick, and we hadn’t been warned that he was going to do that. I didn’t think that Nick knew the camera was on him. And he wasn’t flinching. So I thought, I’ll just smack him, but I was trapped under this truss, so I could only get through to him that way. So I decided to hit him to make him flinch or something like that, and I just went, boom! And I smacked him right in the balls. He thinks it was because I was angry at him, because the camera left me. Which I wasn’t.
On Matthew Vaughn vs. Bryan Singer:
Matthew is very, very free with bold ideas and taking it as far as you can. So for example, there was a scene that got cut, which I think is somewhere on the internet, of Michael dressed up as a tranny. You’ve seen that? It’s in the scene where we go to Zoe Kravitz, and she’s like, “Cool, Magneto, you can fucking pour champagne with your mind. What can you do?” That was the scene as it’s written. She’s like, “What can you do?” And then I put my fingers to my temples and I make her believe that he’s a transvestite, and he’s sitting next to me and he’s going, “What? What?” And I say, “You’ve never looked more right.”
But he was really cool at letting us go quite crazy. I would definitely say there was more of that in the last one. However, there is a workshop environment in this one where we’ll all sit around and talk about it and chat about it for days before. Like if we’ve got time on the weekend, we’ll sit and talk about the script and all that. There’s definitely room for improvisation on this one as well, but I’d say no more so than the last one. They’re quite similar in that respect. But with different outcomes, I think.
Bryan has a much darker, more serious kind of approach, whereas Matthew was looking to dress Michael Fassbender up as a tranny.
In a little over a decade, Nicholas Hoult has gone from the shy kid in ABOUT A BOY to a leading man in WARM BODIES, the upcoming MAD MAX sequel and the X-Men franchise. Not too shabby. We talked to British actor about putting on the Beast makeup again, his (onscreen) relationship with Jennifer Lawrence, and getting a shot to the nuts from his Scottish co-star.
On Beast’s new makeup and appearance:
It's become slightly smaller makeup, there's a bit more of my face underneath it. So yeah, it's a different design and slightly cooler than the last one as well in terms of heat.
What's happened up to this point is between the time of the last movie and this movie my character has created a serum which basically controls his mutation so his appearance is normal as long as he doesn’t get worked up. Any animal instinct or urges, that kind of brings him out. So yeah, he changes into Beast a few times throughout the story and they've done some great action sequences with him this time, particularly in the mansion flying around on these chandeliers and stuff.
It can be tough, it can be time-consuming. I did another big makeup job on MAD MAX as well, so it's one of those things where I seem to be doing a lot of it. And it's fun to be able to transform that much and you can play around with it a lot more and push the character in very different ways., but it is something whereby it's kind of trial and error. We'd be doing some scenes and then Bryan would be like, “Try and use the makeup more. Try and express.” And you have to do things that feel silly as well. You have to growl and jump around and do things which if you weren’t wearing the makeup would be completely ridiculous, but in the makeup luckily I think it's slightly more intimidating. And I've got a muscle suit on so it's maybe not as funny as me growling and roaring and stuff. But yeah, there's definitely a real “playing” element to it.
On working with the old cast:
When I was 11, I remember seeing the first X-Men movie, and I grew up with them, so the chance to be in one with the old cast and have some scenes with Hugh playing Wolverine… I remember the first day of shooting with him, I remember walking along and looking across at him and being like, “That's Wolverine!” who we've now nicknamed “Wolfie”. That's the strangest thing, doing a scene and then going to have a pee and he pulls up at your arm and you're like, “Wolverine, cool.”
On his on-screen romance with Jennifer Lawrence:
Can I talk about Beast and Mystique? I don’t want to give too much away about the story, but obviously from the last film as well there's a set up where Mystique, Raven—Charles has a very close relationship with her and then at the end of the last film she obviously heads out with Erik, Magneto, and kind of believes more in his method of what mutants should be in the world. So there's those two relationships and Hank's relationship with her, which is maybe the most pure and simple, but there's also the thing whereby he's not happy and comfortable in his blue form where she's becoming more at peace with hers and understanding. She's kind of maturing a lot quicker than him.
On fighting and filming action in makeup:
It's animal and athletic and gymnastic and fast and agile, basically. He’s very strong and throws people around a fair bit. Obviously, it's a seventies film and I would have loved to have more kung fu in it. That's something that Michael has been a big advocate of as well, getting some kung fu scenes in.
The makeup guys just tried to look after me as best as possible basically. They had fur falling off and sticking it back on. There's been fur ending up in lots of amusing places on this film. I’ve eaten quite a lot of the stuff. So yeah, that's just a maintenance thing that once we get going on scenes like that, because I sweat a lot as well, so it's coming off all over the place and they do a great job of keeping it ready for the film.
On seeing the Sentinels for the first time:
I thought it was amazing and that was the brilliant thing. I think it was in the studio just over here and Bryan was like, “Hey, come check this out.” And the size of it was something quite remarkable, but then just seeing all of the little details, the eyes, and the weapons they've got and everything. They're really- yeah, the scenes with those are going to be pretty epic. My favorite moment was we had a big scene where they were unveiling the Sentinels and one person in the crowd James and I heard, just as they were unveiled look at and go, “It's not as impressive as Optimus Prime.” And that was it. We pissed ourselves laughing.
On audience expectations after FIRST CLASS:
I think there is an element of that where that film had a great sense of humor, and the era and the history to it, and every character had a great arc throughout it. So it was a really made film and Matthew Vaughn did a great job of bringing it all togetherThere's that thing whereby you want live up to people's expectations. I think with that film people weren't really sure what to expect, but now obviously there is more expectation behind it. You kind of can't worry about that too much. That was something at Comic-Con I suddenly realized the enormity of it all. You see how much it means to the fans and you're suddenly like, “Oof, pressure.” And then it's like you can't be on set panicking about that and thinking about that, otherwise it would just completely mess with your head. So you just kind of get here and focus on your character and the story and try to do your best on the day of.
On getting punched in the balls by James McAvoy:
James hit me in my pelvic region during a scene one day. I don't think he was aiming there, but we were shooting a scene whereby we were meant to be flinching and things were blowing up above us and all this, and the camera panned to me and it was the first time the camera had been on me all day. And I was like, “Yes. Acting. Here I go.” I was into it. I was there, acting, and then I suddenly just feel [THWUMP] and doubled over in agony. It was a proper punch. He was like, “Oh I was just trying to give you something to act with. I thought I'd hit you in the leg and you'd flinch and it would look really good on screen, but I missed.” So that was a nice moment.
On MAD MAX: FURY ROAD:
Mate, honestly I can't wait to see it either. The stuff that I saw on set was phenomenal, it really was, it blew my mind. They're still working on it. It will be out next year, but I'm starting to hear whispers of people who have seen rough bits and bobs and they're very excited about it. I think it's going to be something pretty exciting. George Miller is a genius.
I feel like we finished ages ago. I mean, we only finished shooing in December and there's a lot of work to be done in terms of how much footage they've got and the amount they're trying to pack into the film.
On WARM BODIES 2:
I haven't been approached about anything with it. I think there is potentially- Issac Marion the writer of the book has thought about writing some sort of sequel or prequel or something. We're waiting to see. I don't think there's any plans for it at the moment.
Stay tuned tomorrow for Part Three of our set visit, featuring interviews with Bryan Singer, Simon Kinberg and others on the future of the X-MEN franchise!