Logan in Limbo
Though this marks the sixth time that Hugh Jackman has donned the persona of Logan -- the most times a single actor has ever played a comic book hero -- The Wolverine is like nothing that had come before. For one thing, as the film starts, Logan is unsure of what direction to turn as he heads to Japan.
"He's someone who has always marched to beat of his own drum but at the beginning of our movie he's probably more isolated than you've ever seen Wolverine," explains Jackman. "He's disaffected with the world, because he was created as a weapon and he's rebelling against that -- and he feels that he is a danger to society."
Jackman goes on: "You will see Logan more vulnerable, more at risk, and more of a monster than you've ever seen him before. He's struggling with identity, he's struggling with his reason to exist, and now he faces the choice of whether to embrace his true nature or not."
Jackman especially enjoyed taking Logan into Japan, which he notes "is like nowhere else on the planet," a place that both haunts and changes Wolverine the more he engages with it.
"The atmosphere of Japan seeps through the movie," Jackman observes. "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."
From the start, Jackman was committed to taking Wolverine to new levels of physicality. The meant throwing himself into the most intensive and disciplined preparation regime he has undergone yet, combining rigorous diet, hardcore physical training, and intensive martial arts instruction.
"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,'" Jackman confesses. "This script gave me an opportunity to go further emotionally than I've been and I wanted to do the same physically. I started training and started a very strict diet far in advance since we had the preparation time. And I think the results have paid off because when I look at the screen, I see Wolverine there. 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."
Learning new fighting styles was also paramount to the performance. "I have always portrayed Wolverine as a street fighter and a pub brawler. His style is not pretty, he doesn't want to hang around and jab at you, he just wants to take your head off in three seconds and move on. 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."
Jackman did the same, working closely with the leading stunt team 87Eleven to hone a variety of ninjitsu and other Japanese martial skills. "The team at 87Eleven were fantastic," he says. "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."
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