the wolverine samurai

The most iconic character in the X-Men universe embarks upon on an epic journey in modern-day Japan in ‘The Wolverine.’ Inspired by the celebrated Marvel comic book arc, Logan (Hugh Jackman), the century-old mutant known to the world as Wolverine, is lured to a Japan he hasn’t seen since World War II – and into a shadowy realm of Yakuza and Samurai. Suddenly finding himself on the run with a mysterious, beautiful heiress and confronted for the first time with the prospect of true mortality, Logan will be pushed to the physical and emotional edge – further than he’s ever been.

On a journey to rediscover the hero inside, Logan will be forced to grapple not only with powerful foes, mutant and human alike, but with the ghosts of his own haunted past, as well. As the Wolverine crosses his adamantium claws with Samurai swords, striking out through a maze of love, betrayal and honour, he will truly come to know the price of a life without end. Set for a July 25th release in the UK and a July 26th bow in the US, the cast also includes Hiroyuki Sanada (Shingen), Hal Yamanouchi (Yashida), Tao Okamoto (Mariko), Rila Fukushima (Yukio), Svetlana Khodchenkova (Viper), Brian Tee (Norubo Mori), and Will Yun Lee (Kenuichio Harada/Silver Samurai). James Mangold directs.

The source material and this story certainly allowed you to dive even deeper beneath the Wolverine’s indestructibility, and to illuminate his darkest aspects in a new way….

Hugh Jackman: Definitely. We walk into this world through Logan’s eyes. It’s so vastly different from anything we’ve had in the X-Men movies. Visually it’s different, tonally it’s different, the characters and the story-line is enigmatic – you’re not exactly sure who anybody is, whether they’re on your side or not. There’s this wall of history and tradition and manners that is just so the opposite of what Wolverine is about. In every way it feels different, and I love the title of this movie. It’s not ‘Wolverine 2,’ it’s not ‘X-Men 4,’ its ‘The Wolverine.’ The goal is to give the best character study of this iconic superhero that has been done. I want to see every part of, I want to see him at his lowest and his highest, at his strongest and at his fiercest, as badass as you could be. Wolverine is a tragic hero, he’s an anti-hero and a tragic hero… and that’s very much why I think we love him, that’s why he’s been around for so long. You want him on your side, you don’t want to piss him off (laughs). If you want to experience 120 minutes of the fiercest superhero of them, watch this one (laughs).  I think we truly made a movie that stands alone, with the X-Men movies and all other comic movies. It’s exciting.

And Japan lends itself to re-imagining Logan in a fresh guise: as a Rōnin. In feudal Japan, the Samurai belonged to a master, and a Rōnin is a Samurai who no longer has a master to serve….

Hugh Jackman: I loved that. Wolverine sees himself as a threat to himself and everybody. So definitely he’s a Rōnin. He’s lost purpose and he has no master. Many of the people who made Logan feel part of a cause are now gone. So, he’s essentially a lost man, capable of doing anything, with no mandate. That’s an iconography that American Westerns and Samurai films share and now we’re bringing a comic book character into it.

And taking Logan to Japan both haunts and changes him the more he engages with it….

Hugh Jackman: There’s many many surprises in the story. It’s complex, it’s full of layers of duty and honor and history and tradition. The atmosphere of Japan seeps through the movie. Without shooting in Japan I don’t think we could have achieved that. By being in Japan for me as an actor and for us as a crew…. and let me say for Wolverine in Japan, it seeps into you and you start to not only understand it but appreciate it for what it is. It’s an extraordinary country, a beautiful country and an unbelievable culture. It is inspiring to be around and I think that’s the same for Wolverine. I think the affect it had as an actor on me, hopefully that translates through to the character.

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For Logan it has the effect of wiping clean all his normal ways of interacting with people and reading situations. He has to start fresh. Japan is a fairly insular society with a very strong sense of its own culture and history, so Logan is really a stranger in this strange new world. He learns about the Samurai code, the training and the honor system. But he’s immediately distrustful of it, not dissimilar to when he first entered the world of X-Men. Yet, he watches and he adapts. He starts to gain respect for the idea of being a warrior, for the sense of service that they have. And he starts to become the better version of himself.

How was it was it exploring deeper the “outsider” element of Wolverine in this film?

Hugh Jackman: Wolverine is the ultimate outsider. Everything about him is distrustful of groups, of organisations. He marches to the beat of his own drum, and at the beginning of ‘The Wolverine’ he’s probably more isolated than you’ve ever seen Wolverine. The great battle with Wolverine is the battle within himself, and his real strength and power is from this bed of rage that really turns him into an animal – like a monster. It’s difficult for him to control and it’s almost impossible for anybody else to control (laughs), or combat. It’s that wonderful thing about X-Men where everybody’s power is also their flaw. That’s amazing to explore as an actor.

You’ve always been committed to taking Wolverine to new levels of physicality, but in this one I know you threw yourself into the most intensive and disciplined preparation regime you’ve undergone yet. Combining diet, physical training and intensive martial arts instruction….

Hugh Jackman: The script in this case gave me the opportunity to go emotionally further than I’ve ever been before. Physically, that was my job (laughs), so I started earlier – I started training a long time ago (laughs). We had the preparation time and I started eating very strictly a long time ago…. and I’ve had to continue that because of ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past.’ I think the results paid off though, because when I look at the screen for ‘The Wolverine’ I see Wolverine there. Wolverine the way I’ve always portrayed him is as a sort of animalistic street fighter, pub fighter. It’s not pretty and he doesn’t want to jab around and take awhile, he just wants to take your head off in three seconds and move on. So that’s what I was going for (laughs). His fighting style is not studied in any way. But one of the great things about this story is that when he comes to Japan, he starts to really take that kind of discipline and training to heart.

I’ve always loved playing this character but I have always had this thing of, “I wish I had gone a little bit further physically with him.” I think it’s important for him to be lean, to see veins, to be vascular yet very strong obviously. I’ve always wanted people to look at the screen and go, “Whoa!” The team at 87Eleven were fantastic. I was training every day and let me tell you, I thought the gym work was hard but training on the martial arts floor is ten times harder.

How was it teaming up with director James Mangold? What do you think he helped bring out of you for this

Hugh Jackman: My feeling is that everytime I play Wolverine I give 110%. I can look at this film and go, “This is the best version of Wolverine there is,” and that’s down to James Mangold. I can’t say I worked any harder than I’ve worked before, I feel like I’ve always given the same – I don’t know any other way of doing it. But James got more out of me. Jim pushed me…. every day (laughs). It wasn’t like he pushed me for the first month and then he was like, “OK, he’s in character,” it was everyday. When you watch him on set, his passion and his drive and his commitment to every take being the best is extraordinary. There is never a moment of, “It’s alright, we’ve got it. That will do.” He pushes everybody. He brought a darker tone but still kept the fun and kept the action elements. But it’s deeper and more intriguing. Jim knows how to make a movie that is fun, has incredible action, and yet also delivers all the finer elements of character and storytelling. He pushed me to go deeper, angrier, heavier, more berserk in every way and in every take.

Look out for a second interview with Hugh Jackman for ‘The Wolverine’ next week.