Director James Mangold’s The Wolverine is both a blockbuster comic book brawler and a hero’s journey cast in the mold of classic Japanese cinema. Star Hugh Jackman – whose commitment to the role is beyond reproach – and director James Mangold were both on hand at this weekend’s Comic-Con to talk up their adaptation of Chris Claremont’s classic take on Logan’s story. The pair commented on the importance of the Japanese setting and cast, the soul of Wolverine as a character, balancing drama and action, and addressed the concerns of one fan who had been slightly mislead by the film’s trailers.
Also starring Rila Fukushima, Tao Okamoto, Will Yun Lee, Famke Janssen, Hiroyuki Sanada, Brian Tee and Svetlana Khodchenkova, The Wolverine opens July 26th. Hit the jump to see what Jackman and Mangold had to say.
I’ve not only promoted movies there, but I’ve been there three or four times for vacation; my wife and I and kids love Japan, but we’ve never had the experience of working there for such a long period of time. We went to, not only Tokyo, which I’ve been to, I’ve been to the north to ski, we went to Kyoto, we filmed in Tomonoura which was four hours south of the bullet trains in Fukuyama. We went to places I’d never been to before, so I feel like I have a much richer, deeper understanding of Japan and its culture. My son and I climbed Mt. Fuji, which I’d been hearing about for years. In every way, my fascination and love of Japan has deepened.
Now, of course, this film is based on a famous comic book set in Japan. As we made this film, we were constantly thinking about how this film would feel to the Japanese people. We wanted them to be proud of how we show their country and customs and culture.
Jackman and Mangold on misleading trailers and Wolverine choosing to negate his healing factor:
Jackman: That’s a good question about trailers in general, I think. [laughter] It’s not that he chooses. I don’t want to give too much away but I think you’ve inferred something that might not actually be true. And of course that would make a big difference to you and I understand that might be upsetting.
Mangold: I think that you may be more satisfied with what you experience in the film when it’s now up-cut to two minutes and ten seconds.
Jackman: What is in the film, and I don’t mind saying, is … imagine being 200 or 300 years old and living with the fact that everyone you’ve known or loved has passed, and in the case of Jean Grey, the love of his life, he killed her as she’d become the Dark Phoenix. At the end of X-Men 3 [The Last Stand], he kills her and then roll credits. So finally in this movie we get a chance to live with what haunts Wolverine and what it’s like having that sort of immortality, being who he is and knowing that his strengths bring destruction, pain and loneliness. He questions the burden that is his life, but I’m not going to say he chooses.
I think that what I’m really proud of on the film and that we worked very hard to do is that we deliver intense action to the fans with Wolverine, but also deliver drama, deliver character work, deliver an actual movie which, between the set pieces of action, there are actual scenes of characters dealing with the ramifications of actions and where they’re headed. I think that was really a big goal for all of us when we got involved in this, both to just let the reins go and go further with intensity, and at the same time, carry an audience through scenes that are dramatic in nature and don’t need explosions.
Jackman on the success of Wolverine growing out of the X-Men to star in his own films:
I think what X-Men did was invent a way to make superheroes human: complex, flawed, interesting. That’s why they’re played by so many interesting and different actors, that’s why so many great directors take them on, because there’s an opportunity for something very human as well as something spectacular. When I was growing up, I loved Mad Max, I loved Dirty Harry, I couldn’t get enough of them. That’s who I thought was cool, that’s who I wished I was like … in a way, I think Wolverine fulfills that, that kind of archetype. He’s a bit of an anti-hero. Deep down he’s a good guy, but he’s never a nice guy. He’s conflicted and he is, in a way, flawed, but at the same time, he’s just the last person you want to piss off.