In 2000, the movie “X-Men” introduced the superhero Wolverine, and took the world by storm. He’d long been one of the most popular characters in modern comic books, but the movies brought his cool and savage persona into mainstream pop culture. He became the breakout hit of the “X-Men” movie series, and got his own trilogy spinning off from the main series, always played by the Australian actor Hugh Jackman to perfection.
Sadly, Hugh Jackman has said that the 2017 movie “Logan” will be his last time portraying the character, so he’ll be leaving the iconic hero behind him. With “Logan” getting critical acclaim and making big box-office bucks, let’s review some things you might not know about Wolverine in the movies.
15. THE FIRST CHOICE
Wolverine is Hugh Jackman. Hugh Jackman is Wolverine. It’s hard to imagine anyone else playing the role as the brooding mutant, but that’s where we’re going to start, because Hugh Jackman wasn’t the first choice to play the character in the first “X-Men” movie. He wasn’t even the second choice. Nope, Jackman was a distant third.
Director Bryan Singer’s first choice for Wolverine was actually Russell Crowe, famous for his roles in “Man of Steel” and “Gladiator.” Crowe turned down the role because of creative differences; according to Singer, he wanted to play Wolverine as completely bald instead of with peaked hair. Crowe actually recommended Jackman as Wolverine, but Singer turned to actor Dougray Scott, instead. Scott was all set to play Logan until the shooting of his other movie “Mission Impossible 2” ran over. Scott chose to drop out of “X-Men,” and Jackman auditioned for the role during filming. Jackman nailed it and went on to stardom.
14. HIS WIFE SAID NO
Wolverine has been an iconic role, and catapulted the relatively unknown Jackman into the A-list. At the time of “X-Men,” Jackman had only done small movies and TV shows in his native Australia. Afterwards, he was starring in big-budget pictures like “Swordfish” and “Van Helsing,” so there’s no denying that Wolverine made him a star. That’s why it may surprise you that Jackman almost turned it down because of his wife.
Jackman and Deborra Lee Furness met on the set of the Australian TV show “Correlli” and have been married for almost 20 years. She gives advice to him all the time, and Jackman has said she tried to talk him out of playing Wolverine. Apparently, while reading the script, Furness thought Wolverine was “ridiculous.” Fortunately for everyone, he decided to follow his heart, and the role paid off in a big way. In her defense, he says she’s been right about everything else.
13. HIS INSPIRATION
A dark and troubled loner who travels in an uncertain world dispensing justice. He only wants to be alone, and prefers to speak through violence rather than with words. That description certainly fits Wolverine, but he’s not the only fictional character who does. There have been other iconic loners in movies, and Jackman says he studied them to prepare for the role.
If you watch “X-Men,” you’ll see Wolverine didn’t have that many lines. In many of his scenes, Wolverine said only a few words or was completely silent. Jackman has said it was a challenge for him, because he needed to act more with his gestures, facial expressions and movements than his voice. To help with it, Jackman watched Clint Eastwood’s “Dirty Harry” movies and Mel Gibson’s “Road Warrior” (the first “Mad Max” film) to see how they acted using their bodies instead of their voices. Their grim and brutal characters also probably helped with his role as Wolverine.
12. TOO TALL
One of the things that defines Wolverine is his height. Logan is extremely short, only 5’3″ in the comics, which might explain some of his attitude. His shortness somehow makes him cooler, because he never seems self-conscious about it. On the contrary, he’s scrappy and fearless, attacking enemies many times his size including the Hulk and the gigantic robot Sentinels. He’s not always drawn that short in the comics, but the height is part of him. That became a problem with Jackman.
When Jackman got to the “X-Men” set, he faced a challenge that he might not have faced before; he was too tall. In real life, Jackman is 6’3″. The studio worried fans wouldn’t accept a tall Wolverine, so they tried all sorts of things to make him look shorter. During the filming, they shot him from the waist up and at high angles, and other “X-Men” cast members even wore platform shoes to give them height over Jackman. In the end, it turned out audiences didn’t really care about his height, and he’s been allowed to be a tall Wolverine ever since.
11. THE CAMEO
Marvel kicked off its shared cinematic universe idea with a cameo from Nick Fury in 2008’s “Iron Man,” leading to “The Avengers,” but it wasn’t the first attempt. In 2002, Sam Raimi directed the first big-screen adaptation of “Spider-Man,” and it was the launch of a new franchise for Sony. “X-Men” had been one of the first successful superhero movies two years earlier, paving the way for Marvel’s later success.
In an interview in 2013, Hugh Jackman revealed they had planned for him to have a scene in “Spider-Man,” which would have been a brief walk-on or cameo that tied the X-Men and Spider-Man universe together. It seemed like the time wasn’t right, though, because it never happened. Apparently, there was a dispute about where the Wolverine costume was at the time, and a problem with the rights. Fox owned the rights to Wolverine, and would have charged too much to Sony for the brief moment. Still, it would have been cool.
10. RATED “R”
2016’s “Deadpool” was a smash hit both critically and commercially, but it also broke new ground as an R-rated movie. Up until its release, Hollywood believed that an R-rated superhero movie wouldn’t make as much money. That’s why Wolverine had always been relatively toned down in the movies. It’s hard to get a rage-filled superhero whose power involved swinging razor-sharp claws to stay kid-friendly, but they tried.
“X-Men” was rated “PG-13,” and so was its 2003 sequel “X2: X-Men United,” but it was a close call. With “X2,” the movie-makers wanted to have Wolverine go into his infamous “berserker rage” and slash his way through a team of soldiers attacking the Xavier mansion. Apparently, that was too much for the ratings board, which slapped “X2” with an “R” rating. They had to cut some shots of Wolverine stabbing the soldiers to get the rating they wanted. “Logan” finally delivered the bloody Wolverine fans wanted, rated “R.”
9. MAGIC LOGAN
One of the big draws in “X2” was the answer to the mystery of where Wolverine came from. In the movie, it was revealed that Wolverine was created in a secret experiment by the mutant-hating scientist William Stryker. In flashbacks, we saw Logan submerged in a bath where he was infused with adamantium and exploded out of it. Afterwards, he stumbled through the corridors of the lab, covered in blood, dripping wet and naked, to burst out into the sunlight.
The moment proved to be a highlight, not just for the audience, but for the cast and crew as well. While filming the scene, Jackman was actually naked running down the corridor, so he asked for a closed set. In one take, Jackman rounded the corner to find all of the female crew waiting for him, waving dollar bills. In a panic, Jackman covered himself with his hands, forgetting he still wore metal claws on them. Fortunately for his wife, he just stabbed himself in the thigh.
8. THE ORIGIN
In 2001, Marvel released a six-issue miniseries called “Origin,” and changed Wolverine forever. Written by Bill Jemas, Joe Quesada and Paul Jenkins, and illustrated by Andy Kubert, “Origin” finally revealed the life story of Wolverine as James Howlett and how he came to grow to adulthood in 19th-century Canada. The series ended decades of speculation and contradictions about who Wolverine was and where he came from.
Some fans (and even some of the people who worked on the comic) felt that the series took away the mystery that so many people loved about Wolverine, but Marvel felt there wasn’t much choice. It turned out that there were fears within Marvel that Fox planned to create an origin prequel for Wolverine, and that if Marvel didn’t set out an official origin for the character, Fox would make one for him. Things worked out, because the miniseries turned out to be the inspiration for the opening of 2009’s “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.”
7. MOVIE VS. COMIC
With “X-Men Origins,” viewers saw the story of how Wolverine came to be and a lot of it came from the comics. However, it wasn’t a straight translation, as the movie took some liberties. For instance, in the movie, Logan is born in 1845 and is shown fighting through the American Civil War, World War I, World War II and Vietnam. That made him older than the comic version, where Wolverine was born in the 1880s.
One of the biggest changes came in the relationship between Wolverine and his archenemy, Sabretooth. In the comics, the two had a bitter feud with Sabretooth torturing and killing many of Wolverine’s greatest loves, including Silver Fox. The hatred between the two men goes back to when they both worked on a C.I.A. black ops unit called Team X. In “X-Men Origins,” Sabretooth became Wolverine’s brother, which added a much more personal dynamic to their fight.
6. MULTIPLE ENDINGS
The after-credits ending to “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” was okay, but it turned out the version most of us saw wasn’t the only one. Before the film’s release, director Gavin Hood revealed that they had filmed several secret endings to the movie, and claimed they would be puttting them into the prints sent to theaters, so different audiences would see different endings. That never actually happened, but the many endings were filmed.
The after-credits ending most saw in the theatrical run just showed Stryker walking down the road and being picked up by soldiers for the murder of the general he had killed. In another ending on the DVD, it showed Wolverine in a Japanese bar where someone asks if he’s drinking to forget, and he says he’s drinking to remember. In another version, we cut back to Three Mile Island, where Weapon XI’s head lay in the rubble. His hand began crawling towards the head while his eyes opened while saying “shhhhhh,” showing he was still alive. Creepy.
5. JACKMAN ALMOST DIED
One of the first publicity photos for 2013’s “The Wolverine” showed a shirtless Logan that shocked the Internet with his rippling muscles and bulging veins. Many accused the studio of photoshopping Jackman, but it turned out that shot was 100% accurate. In the actual movie, during the samurai sword fight, we saw Jackman looking more cut than we’d ever seen him before. It was impressive, but it turned out Jackman suffered a lot to get that way. In fact, it almost killed him.
In interviews, Jackman explained that days before key shirtless scenes, he would drink four gallons a water a day, then go 24 hours without drinking anything at all. That would dehydrate him and remove all the water under his skin, leaving his muscles looking more “popped.” That kind of dehydration left him dizzy and faint, and almost caused him permanent kidney failure. It also left him really angry, which was good for getting into character.
One of the key moments in 2013’s “The Wolverine” was the opening prologue, when Logan was held in a P.O.W. camp near Nagasaki during World War II. When the atomic bomb was dropped, Logan was freed by a Japanese officer, whom he rescues from the blast by covering the officer with his own body. That officer later turned out to be Yashida, who tried to transfer Wolverine’s rapid healing to himself.
The scene is a key moment for Wolverine, but also caused a problem with the marketing and release of the film. On August 9, 1945, the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki. In 2013, “Wolverine” was released in the United States on July 26, but wasn’t released in Japan until September 13, 2013. The studio was afraid that Japan would consider it insensitive if the movie was in theaters during the anniversary of the real Nagasaki bombing.
Throughout “The Wolverine,” Yashida and others call Logan “Kuzuri,” which the young Mariko claimed is the name of a Japanese animal. She described how her father told her he was saved from the Nagasaki bomb by a kuzuri, which had magic powers. As a child, she would get nightmares and imagined the kuzuri would come and protect her when she was afraid at night. That’s how the kuzuri became a legendary part of her family and childhood.
Her description makes the kuzuri seem like a mythical Japanese animal, which may have been how Yashida imagined Logan, who had metal claws and healed quickly from the firestorm of the bomb. In reality, “kuzuri” is just the Japanese word for “wolverine.” Yes, they have a word for wolverines in Japan. They aren’t native to the country, but there are wolverines found in Northeastern China and Mongolia, so the animals weren’t unknown to the Japanese.
2. THE MASK
Wolverine’s costume has gone through many changes over the years, but one thing has almost always stayed consistent; his mask. Wolverine’s mask was originally yellow with whiskers, but Gil Kane accidentally drew it with winged headpieces around the eyes. That become the standard look for Wolverine, but the movies are unique in that Logan has never worn a mask in them. That almost changed with “The Wolverine.”
In an alternate deleted scene for “The Wolverine,” Logan was given a case by his “bodyguard” Yukio. When he opened the case, he found it contained an armored version of his classic yellow gloves and winged mask. Unfortunately, the scene was cut and Jackman ended the movie series without ever wearing them. Jackman has said he and the producers just never felt the costume would fit the tone of the movies, which are more grounded in reality. Having Wolverine dress up in yellow spandex and a mask just didn’t seem right.
1. THE CLAWS
Filming Wolverine in the movies has always been tricky, because he’s supposed to be wearing razor-sharp metal claws, which is hard to do practically and safely. Trying to avoid the metal claws has never worked. In some scenes like in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” the claws have been created with C.G.I., but they don’t look quite real. That’s why Jackman has worn real metal claws during filming. This has caused major problems, because Jackman has stabbed multiple people over the years with his claws, including himself.
In the first “X-Men” movie, Jackman was shooting the Mystique fight scene in the Statue of Liberty with Rebecca Romijn’s stunt double when he accidentally stabbed her in the arm. He says he freaked out, but (far from being upset) the stunt double yelled, “Yes! I’ve been stabbed by Wolverine!” Later on, Jackman was more careful about hitting other people, but he has cut his own thighs on many occasions on the follow-through.
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