About the Production
The heady atmosphere of present-day Japan -- hyper-modern yet full of rituals and ghosts from the past -- is central to the story of The Wolverine, and Mangold was committed to shooting there right from the start. Ultimately, the film's ambitious 80-day shoot would journey between Japan and soundstages at the Fox Studios in Sydney, Australia.
"Japan is like no other country in the world. The culture, code and personality are unique. By shooting there, we were able to really get the vision of the landscapes, of the architecture," says the director. "And we were also able to capture something not often seen in movies: rural Japan. We think of Japan mainly as Tokyo or Osaka, but there are some of the most beautiful wild lands and tropical islands in the hinterlands. Both the bustle of the city and the incredible Zen of these beautiful lush forests had a huge effect on us. The chance to be in these places really inspired the filmmaking."
To capture it all, Mangold worked with director of photography Ross Emery, production designer Francois Audouy and costume designer Isis Mussenden -- who each contributed to a design that mixes together elements of noir cinema, Japanese folklore, graphic novel iconography and intense personal drama.
Emery worked closely with Mangold to give The Wolverinea look that is grounded and realistic, yet pushes reality to its bleeding edges. "The style of the film is really driven by the strength of the characters," says Emery. "And there are also so many real yet dramatic environments these characters move through: we have Tokyo at night, which is very much like a Blade Runneratmosphere and then we have the countryside which is a completely different kind of texture."
Shooting with the Arri Alexa digital cameras using anamorphic lenses, Emery attained maximum flexibility and cinematic crispness -- bringing the audience right into the grit and sweat of the action. "The combination of the camera and lenses really gave us that classic film look that Jim loves," says Emery.
Production designer Audouy further forged Logan's view of Japan with intricate set designs, which reflect both Logan's inner turmoil and his outsider's vision of Japanese culture. "Jim had some really interesting early ideas about the design for the movie," recalls Audouy. "He always described it as 'a fever dream of Japan' -- and he wanted us to create a kind of dreamy, stylized road trip for Logan. The idea was to put him inside a slightly magical, heightened reality, but one that is grounded and believable."
Audouy began early on by diving into the history of Japan -- its enduring traditions, meticulous art forms and unique architecture. "We fed all that research to Jim. Then he folded all those visual ideas right into the script," he explains. "It was a very collaborative and blended creative process."
Later, Audouy traveled numerous times to Japan to scout locations. "We knew we'd only have a limited amount of time to shoot in Japan so we really wanted to take advantage of those places we could never recreate on a backlot," he notes. "As Logan becomes completely immersed in this foreign world, we wanted the audience to be right there with him."
Throughout Audouy's designs, color was key. "We plotted out the color all the way through the film," he says. "When the story starts off in Canada, it's subdued and organic. Then there's this big visual pop that happens when we get to Japan with an explosion of texture and all the graphics of Tokyo at night. Then when we go into the Yashida compound, where it's beautiful and serene and sophisticated, and really designed to play against the Silver Samurai."
Several of the film's largest sets were later built on soundstages or on location in Australia, including portions of the opulent Yashida compound with its bonsai trees and koi ponds and the high-tech Yashida laboratory. One of the most complex creations is the Ice Village, which Audouy painstakingly recreated in Homebush, Australia based on three mountain villages he scouted in Nagano, Japan. "We used very accurate architecture from the mountain villages, and it was a lot of fun to build," says the designer.
On this film, Audouy also was involved in the creation of Wolverine's nemesis, the Silver Samurai, whose pose-able mechanical suit was built from the ground up. "It was completely detailed down to every single bolt head and wire -- and it was built by an incredibly talented crew over a span of almost five months here in Sydney," he explains.
Audouy continues: "The suit was made up of over 600 parts, each separately designed and modeled in a computer. It was a very ambitious build -- but everyone's jaws hit the ground when we unveiled it in the middle of the lab. When you read it on the page you think, 'Ah, of course it'll be CG.' But it was pretty cool that we got the opportunity to build a real 13-foot robot that kicks ass."
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