Over Hugh Jackman's 14 years as Wolverine, he's seen the X-Men rise and fall, and he's doing it again in X-Men:Days of Future Past. In our exclusive interview, Jackman explains what makes a good X-Men movie, his opinions on the new, younger group of mutants and the complex math behind delivering Wolverine's signature line "Bub."
Part One, of a two part interview. Minor spoilers ahead!
io9: You've been a part of this world for so long — seven movies — you're an expert by now. So what does it take to make a good X-Men movie?
Hugh Jackman: Actually I think that this [movie] is one of my favorites, so this is a good way to talk about this. Obviously the resources of this one are bigger than ever. It's the biggest movie of all. Biggest amount of cast, but that presents its own challenges, actually. Because it's very difficult to have to many characters and make them worthwhile and pay off.
I'm talking about character because that's at the core of X-Men, and has always been at the core of X-Men. Not just who's dating who, and who is having what problem, but really down to the core of who they are and what challenges them in life. As incredible as their superpowers may be, it's really about their vulnerabilities — how frail and human they are, the mistakes they make. That's why people relate to it, I think, so much. So, for an X-Men movie, no matter how many characters, no matter how big the spectacle, there is a very personal character arc. And also thematically at its core there are these ideas of tolerance, acceptance, of discrimination. There are very political things that are there, and if you don't address those, you're doing it a disservice as well. At the same time, as this emotion which you get out of the character [there has to be] some humor, it's gotta be fun. That Pentagon kitchen scene, to me, is so amazing. So cool.
And difficult to shoot, I imagine.
Jackman: Beyond difficult. And by the way, a lot of it is in camera. It's really brilliant, it's not all special effects. The bullets are, obviously — it's pretty incredible how they did that. And it took a long time to do. It was a brilliant conception… So, you gotta have something fresh, original and bold. As big as it gets, it's gotta be incredibly intimate.
It's amazing that this series can still surprise me. Quicksilver's scene in particular was great.
Jackman: I read a few comments and I didn't realize that people were like, "I think this whole Quicksilver thing is going to suck." I didn't realize that… because when we were filming, I remember going, "Okay, this character is going to kill. This is awesome."
Well, I think, it was introduced kind of poorly by the Hardee's commercial.
Jackman: Oh I see right, right.
What sort of place are we finding Wolverine in the future world? What head space is he in? Obviously a bad one because everyone is dying, but..
Jackman: Well, weirdly, he's more at peace in a way. Which I think we set up nicely in The Wolverine. He's more at peace with the fact that he'll never be at peace, so you feel a calmness about him. It's a great invention by Simon Kinberg to reverse the dynamic between him and Professor X from [the first movie]. It's almost exactly the same, only mirrored. Except that Wolverine doesn't have the patience or the ability of the diplomacy or wisdom, really, that Professor X has. It was really fun to play. And for me, as an actor, and I think for fans, it's nice to see another whole side to him which, for me, is a prerequisite of continuing to do it. I think we need to see different things, different situations. Otherwise it's boring for everyone.
Okay, so he's at peace while everyone is dying. So do you think that in the next Wolverine movie we can finally see your character at peace with who he is?
Jackman: My son said to me, "I've got an idea for the next one." He's 13, almost 14, and he goes, "I don't think you should ever fight in the next one. Maybe he's like a gardner." I was listening, going "that would be awesome" but I just don't think people are going to buy it for two hours.
But the best stuff is when you're with a bear, or when your claws come out and a cat licks it! Well, for me it is.
Jackman: It's true, he's such a great character. The beauty of this particular movie is I feel like, in many ways, the slate has been wiped clean. It feels like a fresh beginning. I got real goosebumps at the end of the movie.
Can we talk a little bit about the delicacy of delivering a line like "Bub" in these movies? You obviously can't say it all the time without sounding silly. Do you all sit down and discuss this, "I think we should say it now?" Does it happen organically, or is it all from the script?
You want the truth? I've never told anyone. I do it, I probably did it in about 12 scenes. Almost every scene where I thought it could be used. And Bryan [Singer] and I go "we know we're only using it once." And I said, "Bryan, you use it where you think it's best." So I used it in the scene with Nick [Hoult, who plays Hank/Beast], where I'm saying, "We're gonna be friends." And then I did one, "We're gonna be friends, Bub." BANG, punch him. Because I can see that really working!
It's such a great line. When I sign to kids I often sign, "Good on you, Bub" or something like that, "Stay cool, Bub." It's such a great thing for him. [Singer] ended up using that scene with Magneto, which was great. You can't use it too many times. But I get carried away and excited by it. I always throw it in, I'll say, "Give me one more!" And they'll say okay and I chuck the line it. When it's used it's got to be perfect. I haven't told anyone else that, by the way.
This is your first time, really, working with the new cast.
Jackman: Apart from the cameo.
Right, which was great. But what was it like for you? What did they bring to the table that made this mutants experience different for you?
Well first of all, I was so struck by their camaraderie and their bond. I thought we [the original cast] were really close, but they are just as close. And as famous and as massive as they are, that cast alone is incredible now, and powerful. They are very, very down to Earth. There are no egos amongst them. Magneto and Professor X were the spine of those movies. They really had to fulfill that, to feel like they are the younger versions of those actors, as well as make it their own. And I think they really did that. They just raised the bar another level.
This is just part one of our two-parter Hugh Jackman interview. The second, and infinitely more spoiler-y follow-up will be released next week!