'The Wolverine' director: New film cuts deep into Hugh Jackman hero -- INTERVIEW

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There are a lot of rumors about possible X-Men characters turning up in this film. I’m going to let you off the hook there because we actually don’t want to spoil such surprises. But for those unfamiliar with the Claremont/Miller books, can you tell us what is in the film that brings Logan to Japan?

An old friendship. What brings him there is an old ally in Japan. We find Logan in a moment of tremendous disillusionment. We find him estranged. One of the models I used working on the film was The Outlaw Josey Wales. You find Logan and his love is gone, his mentors are gone, many of his friends are gone, his own sense of purpose – what am I doing, why do I bother – and his exhaustion is high. He has lived a long time, and he’s tired. He’s tired of the pain.

Sounds like you’re leaning hard on the despair of this character.

What I wrote on the back of the script when I first read it was “Everyone I love will die.” The story I’ve been telling, he enters it believing that. Therefore he’s living in a kind of isolation. He gets drawn to Japan by an old friendship and then finds himself in a labyrinth of deceit, caught up in the agendas of mobsters, of wealth, and other powers we come to understand.

Is there anything about the earlier Wolverine films that you want to avoid?

What I felt like I hadn’t seen as a comic book fan, was I felt I hadn’t seen Logan and his rage. That sense of darkness. Without getting into the [2009] Wolverine movie, which is an origin story, with the X-Men movies he’s part of a team, so he gets little scenelets, but they’re essentially team movies. The liberty I have making a film like this is I can find him.  I’m not cutting away to catch you up on any of the Thunderbird team members. It’s his emotional experience, his trajectory, his sense of loss, and his own ambivalence about his powers and talents.

You mentioned The Outlaw Josey Wales – one of my favorites – but I was also thinking of First Blood when you describe him alone, looking for a lost friend. The original Rambo was also a warrior who is lost, without a country.

You could say that. That sense of simplicity of story. There is a labyrinth of intrigue he enters, but the story is very simple, which is protecting those he loves from the kind of doom that seems to surround him. That’s a lot of what I’m really interested in.

You also talk a lot about his mutation – which is the power to heal instantly. That’s how it’s usually described, but you call it full-on immortality.

The thing Hugh and I try to explore in this one is the most interesting aspect of the character — the never-ending nature of his life. His immortality. The fact he can heal from anything. That is a kind of dream for us mere mortals. But it’s interesting to explore what a curse that is. Isaac Asimov did in The Bicentennial Man, a very different story, but a great story about a robot with a soul who has to watch as everyone he loves, including the woman he loves, grows up and dies – and he must go on for infinity missing her.

True, Logan can heal — but he still feels the pain.

That to me is so interesting, the pain. I mean, Wings of Desire – all sorts of great films have been made about what it is to live on the edge of humanity, watching humanity, but not being able to fully participate – because you’re forever.

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