Jackman keeping claws in ; His X-Men alter ego may have a dark edge, but nobody has a bad word to say about Hugh Jackman. The Aussie star tells SHEREEN LOW about bulking up to play Wolverine again - and why there are some things an actor shouldn't tell his wife
HE'S known as one of Hollywood's nicest guys, and it seems Hugh Jackman lives up to his reputation. Before The Wolverine started shooting, the Oscar-nominated actor threw a sushi party for the cast and crew in Sydney, so they could all get to know each other.
The Australian star's generous gesture was to introduce his Japanese co-stars like Hiroyuki Sanada, who plays Yashida, and film newcomers Tao Okamoto (Mariko) and Rila Fukushima (Yukio), and welcome them into the fold. Sanada says it was a great night.
Jackman was also one of the reasons James Mangold decided to sign on as director. The Wolverine marks the pair's first reunion since 2001's Kate & Leopold.
I've got a great friendship with Hugh. I've worked with him once and love him dearly, says the Walk The Line film-maker.
Jackman, 44, returns the praise: Jim knows how to make a movie that's 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. Fortunately, there's no sign of Wolverine's darker side today. Jackman, sporting his full Wolverine beard, is suited and booted as he walks the red carpet at the film's UK premiere, hand in hand with wife Deborra- Lee Furness.
Gracious and affable, he takes time to speak to journalists, sign autographs and have photos taken with fans.
England's in my blood. I come here and I pull out my British passport, which is good, says the actor, whose parents were born in England.
But it's also a difficult time to be here, being Australian, what with the Ashes, Wimbledon, Tour De France and the Olympics, he jokes.
The father-of-two reprises his role as Logan and his clawed mutant alter ego Wolverine for the sequel, which is set mostly in Japan and comes four years after 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
The latest instalment, based on Chris Claremont and Frank Miller's Volume One of the Marvel comic book series, follows the events of X-Men: The Last Stand.
This story takes The Wolverine into a world that is vastly different from any seen before in the X-Men series, says Jackman, who was also one of the film's producers.
It's visually different and the tone's different. There are a lot of battles in this story, but the greatest battle of all is the one within Logan - between being a monster and becoming a human.
His immortal alter ego's more vulnerable than ever, he reveals. He's someone who's always marched to the beat of his own drum but at the beginning of our movie, Wolverine's probably more isolated than you've ever seen him.
He's disaffected with the world, because he was created as a weapon and he's rebelling against that, and he feels he's a danger to society. He's struggling with identity, with his reason to exist, and now he faces the choice of whether to embrace his true nature or not.
Jackman's quick to say this isn't a 'reboot' of the last film. The movie's been in the works since 2009, with Darren Aronofsky and former X-Men filmmaker Bryan Singer attached to direct at one point.
The reason it's called The Wolverine is because, I feel, this is the definitive movie about him. It doesn't matter if you haven't seen another X-Men or Wolverine movie, says Jackman.
This feels fresh, different, and I'm just really grateful to have the opportunity.
Jackman had to bulk up before filming, after losing weight for his Oscar-nominated performance as Jean Valjean in Tom Hooper's Les Miserables. He relished the challenge.
I've always loved playing this character but I've always felt like I wish I had gone a little bit further physically with him, he says.
This script gave me an opportunity to go further emotionally, and I wanted to do the same physically. I started training and started a very strict diet far in advance, and I think the results have paid off - because when I look at the screen, I see Wolverine.
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!' Even Mangold jokes: There's no CGI there.
And ladies, Hugh's hard work is on screen to see.
Jackman even turned to pro wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson for tips.
I rang him up and said, 'mate, what do I have to do?' and he gave me his diet. Let me tell you, it was brutal - and I only did half of what he does, he says, chuckling.
He gave me his training regime too and that was even crazier.
He also had to learn new fighting styles, a variety of ninjitsu and other Japanese martial arts.
I've always portrayed Wolverine as a street fighter and a pub brawler. His style is not pretty - he just wants to take your head off in three seconds and move on, Jackman says.
I was training every day. I thought gym work was hard but training on the martial arts floor is ten times harder.
The work paid off, although the actor was left with an injury after filming an action sequence on board a bullet train.
He's keeping rather tight-lipped about the details, but does reveal: That was pretty hairy. My wife was a little nervous wondering why I was home at four o'clock in the afternoon and I, of course, played it down.
There are two things you don't ever tell your wife about - serious action sequences mistakes and love scenes, he adds with a wink.
. ? The Wolverine is in cinemas now.
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