Hugh Jackman Had Never Heard of Wolverine When He Took the Role

Philip Ellis
Photo credit: 20th Century Fox
Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

From Men's Health

Hugh Jackman might favor singing over superheroes these days, but for much of his career he has been synonymous with one of the most beloved comic book characters of all time: Wolverine.

20 years after making his debut as the cigar-chomping hero in the first X-Men movie, Jackman reflected on his journey playing Wolverine in a conversation with Marvel's creative director and executive vice-president, Joe Quesada. He admitted that he took the part with precisely zero prior knowledge of comic lore, and that some of his misconceptions surrounding the character actually ended up informing his performance.

"I knew nothing," he said. "I didn't even know a wolverine was a real thing. I remember going to an IMAX, watching a documentary on wolves, thinking Wolverine was part wolf. Some of that stuff I kept, actually; wolves are driven by their sense of smell, which is why they're always looking down... the director said 'you're doing something with your body, what's that?' I said 'it's cool, I've been looking at wolves.' He said 'why?' I said 'you know, Wolverine, there's something in the mythology.' He said 'no, it's a wolverine.' I said 'there's no such thing', he said 'yeah, go to the zoo.' That's how little I knew."

While Wolverine is notorious for his gruff demeanor and loner outlook, the ever-congenial Jackman revealed that they do also have some surprising similarities, and that helped him connect with the character in new ways each time he played him.

"On the surface you don't see that at all, but if I look back at who I am, every time my back's against the wall I get filled with rage," he said. "When I was younger, it was a blind rage. I would have a trigger. In that way, there is part of me, I know, that can lose it. I know that. I can feel it. I am not the brooding, dark, get out of my face, I'll do anything I want... part of me wants to be that. I'm a complete people-pleaser compared to Wolverine. But on some deep level, I get it, and probably wish I was a little more like that. That's a good combination to have."

"I also always approach Wolverine knowing that I could never know everything about the character," he continued. "I approached him with the seriousness and the intellectual curiosity as if I were playing Richard III, Macbeth, Hamlet. I always thought it was very Greek tragedy, like classical theater. He represents in all of us this fight between chaos and control, the animal and the human. It's a great archetype, the reluctant hero."

Jackman also explained his motivations behind leaving the X-franchise with the critically-acclaimed Logan, which drew a definite line under his tenure as Wolverine after 17 years.

"I had this feeling underneath that I hadn't achieved all I wanted to do with the character, that I hadn't done him justice, I wanted more gravitas, more complexity," he said. "I thought, this is it, all in. I need to take out the safety net of 'oh, I'll have another go.' I told everybody this is the last one. We didn't know what the story would be; I'm more interested in what it's like after the fight, and him finding it almost impossible to live with himself."

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