Hugh, you're the only person to have appeared in all seven X-Men movies. That officially makes you the C-3PO of the franchise.
(laughs) I snuck into one of them. Is Threepio the only one?
Well, R2-D2 as well.
I like being in that club. I'm more an R2-D2 fan myself, but I like that. I'm not sure if we'd have a great night out or anything. I gotta tell you, it was a weird feeling, because the way they structured the filming, they did the future first, because of the availability of Ian and Patrick who were going off to do a play. We shot all that future stuff first so it was a literal reunion with Bryan Singer and everybody, and it was phenomenal. We had new players but we had the old gang. Then about a month in James McAvoy was the first to come in and do a scene - the scene with Patrick Stewart - and that was amazing. And then it was like this new movie, where Bryan and I were in a way outsiders. I had about three hours on that first movie, and they have a really strong bond, as did we. And it's a really close-knit ensemble. It was great. It does feel like everything is coming full circle.
Did you feel like the dad of the group?
|In terms of box office, yes of course it's the biggest movie and there is pressure. But this is where actors are selfish: we always say we don't care about the box office until it's really good.|
Not in the first bunch! I'm the kid and the dad. It was Ian and Patrick who led the X-Men. They set the tone. I've always said I was a huge fan of their work and always had been from studying theatre. I knew when audiences saw them it would be like seeing Pacino and De Niro in Heat, these two together. They spark off so well. I felt that they had big shoes to fill, Michael and James, and I thought that they did it so well and created an amazing dynamic. I love how that film centred on that relationship. But I was definitely the old man. At one point they were running around the park shooting BB guns at each other, and I was very close - I didn't say it, thank God - to saying, 'Come on, you lot, this is very unprofessional!'. But I didn't. I should have.
You'd only worked with McAvoy and Fassbender for half a day before that.
Yeah, but if you're going to be there for half a day, I had about as great an opportunity as you can have in terms of a cameo. I remember getting the call about that and I said, 'Does anybody else swear in the movie?' They said, 'No'. I said, 'I'm in. I'm totally in'. Both those guys are great, great actors and they have different styles, and they're good friends and they really play off each other very well. They bring a great intensity and it also gives them an opportunity to show more vulnerability. They're more three-dimensional in a way than what Patrick and Ian had.
Because Days Of Future Past is the biggest movie to date, does that up the pressure to deliver at the box office?
I don't know about that, mate. In terms of box office, yes of course it's the biggest movie and there is pressure. But this is where actors are selfish: we always say we don't care about the box office until it's really good. I think with Bryan it was more that we have an opportunity - who knows what will happen in the future of the franchise - but here we have an opportunity to come back for the first time in ten years. He created it, it's his baby and there was a time-travel element which is a genre in itself and I know that Bryan wanted to make the best X-Men movie that he's made. I heard him say at one point, I'm really into time travel and he was very pedantic about all the details. He said he wants to make the best time travel movie ever. There is pressure on actors and directors, but it's always put on themselves.
Was there disappointment when Bryan left X3 to direct Superman?
Of course. Bryan wanted to do it and he was on the picture. I totally understood why he wanted to do Superman. I always tell the story of him directing me. I was up on the Statue of Liberty set for X-Men 1 and he was on the loudspeaker going, 'It's just like that moment where Superman rips off the car door and pulls Lois Lane out of the car!' I go, 'Bryan, that was 1978, I haven't seen that movie in 20 years!' He goes, 'Stop the movie!' and he brings me to his trailer and shows me the movie. That movie was always an important movie for him and I got it.
Brett [Ratner] ended up coming in about three weeks before we started and did a great job. It probably wasn't ideal, but a lot of people love that movie and I know for the fans it's not their favourite, but I know people who aren't comic book fans who like it. I'm not going to sit here and trash it, but I think that Bryan established something that was growing and there's a sense with Days Of Future Past that he's completing the circle.
|X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)|
After X3, obviously you went off on your own as Wolverine, but did you think that The Last Stand would be the last X-Men movie for you?
Yep. I thought that was it. I can't remember what everyone else thought, but there was already talk about doing a younger version, I think. I was certainly talking about Wolverine and trying to drum up interest in that. I think the idea of another X-Men movie was done, so it was a surprise and a welcome one for us to come together again. It was not one person – everyone was really grateful to be back. Not one person was like, 'OK, I'll do it if I have to'. Everyone was really into the idea and it is a genuinely very good script and not just an excuse to get everyone back together. It is a phenomenal story and Bryan is as ambitious as I've ever seen him in terms of wanting to make a great movie.
When did you first hear about the movie?
|My son was born on X-Men 1. He was a week old when I took him to the reshoots and he just turned 13 while we were filming Days Of Future Past.|
Matthew [Vaughn, who was then-director] called me. When I first heard about it, it was from Matthew. There was no script then, just a synopsis. The idea was already really brilliant but back then there was no script and it was not 100% clear the size of the role I'd be playing. But I wanted to be involved, and it just felt like too good an opportunity in a way.
What was it like for you walking down the hallways to Cerebro once more?
It was pretty amazing. First of all it was so great. They built it exactly as it was. Cerebro was one of the first things I shot for X-Men. I immediately went back to how nervous and scared I was and how different it is now and how much comfortable and at home I feel. At the time, I was walking down those hallways with Nick Hoult and James McAvoy and this is where I felt like an old man. Nick was going, 'I was just six or seven or eight when I saw this and now I'm walking down it with Wolverine'. OK, I get it. Let's move on. It was funny and touching and amazing. Bryan could have made it differently but he's quite nostalgic himself and he recreated it exactly. That was a moment.
Who was your first scene with?
It was me and Ian and Patrick and underneath her suit Halle was three months pregnant. She had a belly, and you realise that all of us were friends and have stayed friends all along, throughout. My son was born on X-Men 1. He was a week old when I took him to the reshoots and he just turned 13 while we were filming. All of us felt an amazing sense of gratitude and know how rare it is to do more than one movie, and how even more rare it is to have the chance, after fourteen years, to come back together again and see how much we liked it.
You mentioned the scene that James and Patrick share. What was that like?
Seeing James McAvoy and Patrick Stewart do a scene together on James' first day of photography, and it was a really deep and important scene, I get goosebumps during those moments. It was wonderful.
You're in the scene, but you're out of shot. Did you watch it?
That's a very good question. I asked Tom Sigel [Director of Photography], 'How long am I on camera for?' He said 'About five seconds' so I counted to ten, opened my eyes and checked it out. For a long time you can just close your eyes and listen to those guys, and it's amazing. I said to James, 'That's an incredible scene, you have to come out of the gate day one to do that scene with Patrick Stewart'. It's an incredible scene and he's a very special actor. But there were many other moments. I've gotta tell you, it was a very unstressed environment. I can't imagine being the line producer on that show, because you've got so many different actors all with schedules. I was the only one they didn't have to worry about, except I was promoting The Wolverine for three weeks in the middle of it. It was a nightmare.
How easily can you become Wolverine now? Do you need to stub your toe in the morning?
|Wolverine was created in the '60s, but he feels like a '70s character in every way. More Dirty Harry, more politically incorrect, the hair, the mutton chops.|
Frighteningly I can switch it on. I've worked out a couple of triggers. I still take cold showers. Mentally I train in the morning before I film and when I'm in that place, I'm very quiet. I don't yell and scream, I'm more of an interior guy and it's easier for me to get into now. Frighteningly so for my children.
There's a feeling that the second you put Wolverine into an X-Men movie, the focus is on him. Is that the case here?
I do have as much screentime as anyone mainly because I appear in both timelines. But let's be clear, this is a sequel to X-Men: First Class and the heart of the movie is on Charles and Erik and Raven and to some extent Hank as well. That's certainly the focus.
It's an interesting journey for Wolverine because of where he starts the movie. He's a far more evolved character and he's going back in time to when he wasn't so evolved, or was very different anyway. He's being put into a situation where he has to do for Charles what Charles did for him in the first movie. Sending Wolverine on a diplomatic mission is not the done thing. His job is to bring people together. Wolverine's not the guy that does that. He's a really reluctant member of any team, let alone when he hates half the team already, and he knows he's going to go on to hate them and fight them for the rest of his life. It's a really interesting premise that he's thrown into.
How much did you know about the original comic book?
I had looked at it a little bit. I know it's one of the famous ones and I had looked at it in a make-up trailer, but I don't remember if I read it all. I think that the fans are going to love it. Bryan understands the mentality of the fan; he is one himself by nature. He understands that it's a great thing to honour it but it's also necessary to elevate it as well.
Really like the touch of grey hair on Future Wolverine, by the way. Very Mad Max.
Right, exactly. The grey hair is good and it reminds people that he may only look five years older, even if it is 70 years, but he's still slowly ageing. It means when I'm 80, I should be able to play the role. Or in 500 years. (laughs) I sometimes get people saying he's immortal. He's not; he's on a slower road than the rest of us. As a sidenote, I just remembered that Darren Aronofsky [original director of The Wolverine] had a great idea which we tried and couldn't quite pull off, it kind of illustrates Wolverine's thing. When you're a human and you get a wound, you get a scar for the rest of your life. So he said why wouldn't Wolverine? Even though he heals, he'd be completely covered in scars and he had this image of Wolverine being completely disfigured. I thought that was a great idea.
How much fun was it playing Wolverine in the 70s?
First of all, if there's an era for Wolverine, it's the '70s. His hair style, everything, stopped in the '70s. He was created in the '60s, but he feels like a '70s character in every way. More Dirty Harry, more politically incorrect, the hair, the mutton chops. We even play up on it when I get into the car, and yeah, this is a car. [Note: this scene has subsequently been deleted] Everything about Wolverine seems more at home in the 70s. You can smoke cigars everywhere and it's just who he is.
In terms of the body, we played it a little bit but if you follow it through there's not that much of a difference. One of the cool things about him is that he regenerates. But if you look closely you can see that they even shaved a little bit of my chest hair back, to make me look younger, and they were colouring in my beard frantically. The future scenes were easy - that's the real me.
This Logan doesn't have adamantium claws, which must make his relationship with Erik interesting...
|Wolverine, Batman, Superman: these parts are bigger than the actors playing them. This part existed before I was born and he will go on long after.|
Yeah, this is playing prior to Weapon X. This is prior to him having the adamantium. He's not as controllable by Magneto and they have a really interesting relationship in this. Wolverine has the whole history and he comes to this relationship where the other person has no idea who he is. So he can pick and choose what he wants the relationship to be, and what he wants to tell them or not about the future. It's a powerful place to be for Wolverine. Obviously he's got his agenda, but every relationship is unique. One of the things you realize about Wolverine and Magneto is that they have a lot of similarities, actually.
And you mentioned earlier that Logan has to do for Charles what Charles once did for him, because this Xavier is a broken man.
100%. You're seeing him unhinged. You're certainly seeing that character lower than he's ever been before. You see his troubles, and James is a consummate actor. I'm so impressed with him. It makes so much sense ultimately about what Patrick does. There was a wisdom to Charles and a leadership quality too, and a worldliness and an empathy and finally you see he's been to hell and back. One of the things that unites the X-Men is the emotional trauma that they've gone through. You really see that played out here for him. James has brought that to another level and Bryan's not afraid to delve into that.
Could you handle seeing someone else play Logan?
Oh yeah, sure. Absolutely. I'd get slightly sweaty palms. I'd probably be overly generous. 'Ah, he did a great job!', but I'd be fine with it. It's a great part. Wolverine, Batman, Superman: these parts are bigger than the actors playing them. This part existed before I was born and he will go on long after. I feel unbelievably blessed to have played it [seven times], which someone told me the other day equals even Sean Connery's record. I love that character and will always be proud, but there's a time when it's better for everyone to move on.
If anyone does replace you, they've got their work cut out for them.
Thank you for saying that. Whoever they hire will be like, 'Oh good, now I can do what's meant to be done with this character. 6'3" Aussie? Get out of here!'