X-Men Origins: Wolverine press conference

Hugh Jackman makes a spectacular entrance to the recent Q&A for Wolverine…

Wolverine press conference

After making my way on a dreary Thursday afternoon in the UK to the five-star hotel in Knightsbridge where Fox are hosting the first part of the Wolverine press conference, I can’t help thinking what they have in store for us all. We’ve all heard that Hugh Jackman (Wolverine himself) is set to do a death-defying stunt somewhere in London and that the location has been kept so secret that to tell us would make our faces melt. I’m excited (not about my face melting but about the stunt!)

I was ushered into a posh lift by the Fox representative and told that I was the first one to arrive and “how refreshing it was to have a member of the press arrive early”. I was now in her good books, so perhaps I could get a scoop, I thought?

On entering a room that was just about big enough to swing a rather small cat in, I was eventually greeted by my other press colleagues. After about an hour of us all waiting around eating some fabulous green biscuits (and drinking some rather weak tea), another Fox representative said it was time for us to watch some pieces from the movie. We were treated to an “exclusive” laptop presentation because they couldn’t seem to be able to work the wide screen TV (how are these people able to make movies, I thought?), but what we saw impressed me, to say the least. It was now time for the coach to take us to the secret location for the Wolverine stunt! Now I’m really excited!

What started out as excitement soon turned to boredom as we were weaved in and out of the backstreets of London for an eternity on what seemed like a poor man’s Easter egg hunt. By the time we reached the location, the only thing that rescued us all from sleep was the figure of a woman – I pointed out to everyone – that was wearing what seemed to be a rather weird-looking woollen Spider-man outfit (that looked far too small for her, though it was raining and may have shrunk!), complete with white trainers and socks. I commented that Sam Raimi must be pretty gutted that his budget for Spider-man 4 had been cut in half (though I myself would welcome a movie about Peter Parker’s alter ego battling woollen villains, because, let’s face it, even that would be better than having to sit through Spider-man 3 again, right kids?) We all agreed that this alone was worth the journey.

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We got off the bus and were taken to the coffee area until the stunt was ready to begin. We waited for what seemed another age until were taken outside in the rain to see the man in action. We were told he was going to abseil down a building to rapturous applause. What a hero! I want to be Wolverine and abseil down a building, I thought.

But I soon changed my mind as, once again, excitement turned to frustration as we waited in the pouring rain for about 40 minutes only to witness what seemed to be various press and movie executives time after time scaling down the walls in suits pretending to be a superheroes. Good for them… bad for us. We were cold, wet, becoming more miserable by the second and wishing that Hugh Jackman, Wolverine, or whatever he’s calling himself today, would hurry up and do the damn thing. I was not the only one to comment on this.

Finally, he did it, he abseiled down the building. It was fantastic, it was amazing, it was magical, it was dream come true…well, for him it must have been because he came down the side of that building so bloody fast that none of us had a chance to get any decent footage! Either that or he had been pushed by someone at the top.

I was told he did this for the Help For Heroes charity that is backed by The Sun newspaper, which is in aid of British soldiers who have been injured in various conflicts and who generally need our help and support once they arrive back home. The forgotten heroes to some, but to others like me, they represent the true meaning of the word “superhero”. I’m sure Jackman agrees.

After a group of women had then drowned him in the usual affection, it was time for the eagerly awaited press conference!

We were escorted into another small room (complete with Wolverine posters) and we took our seats and awaited the man himself! Hugh Jackman entered the room; he and the director Gavin Hood both seemed to glance at my red hair and wondered who had let the freaks in.

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He is quite a handsome fella is our Hugh, though I could plainly see that he felt threatened by this suave, debonair guy staring back at him. But back to reality!

The first question was put to the director, Gavin Hood, about his feelings regarding taking on such a major task after the previous X-Men movies and was he at all apprehensive about taking on the job…

“No kidding,” he replied with a nervous grin, “I didn’t know why Hugh called me as I hadn’t done a comic book conversion before and I hadn’t read any of the comics, but Hugh said that he hadn’t read any of them before he started, but he went away, read them and became a geek and so told me to do the same, which I did and I’m glad I did it”.

The next question was aimed at Hugh and concerned the character of Wolverine being indestructible, yet was afraid of flying. Did he himself have any fears such as a flying?

“No I kinda love flying,” he said, and then proceeded to explain the reasoning as to why he wanted Wolverine to have a fear of flying, which isn’t a trait for the character in the comic books.”I think ever since I saw the Indiana Jones movies and he was scared of snakes, it always seemed a little abstract, and I kinda loved the idea of someone with that kind of vulnerability who is quite animalistic who probably wouldn’t appreciate being out of control in the air.”

Does he perform his own stunts or does a double always stand in for him?

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“A lot of it is me,” he said, to which he then asked if we had all seen the movie, and presuming that we all had, he proceeded to talk about the amazing scene where Wolverine jumps an enormous height from a speeding car to a helicopter which he then pounds and attacks with his claws.

“I only did the one take of me jumping from the hummer to the helicopter, because I found after the one take I was a little…” with a chuckle he confessed all, “No, I’m joking that wasn’t me at all, it was special FX.” It seems that this Hollywood star is not without a sense of humour…continuing on…

“I love doing the stunts, I come from a sports background and even though I was never great at it I enjoyed it so for me stunts, fighting and choreography I really enjoy doing, and I also think that audiences are smart and they have worked out when you use a double and so it helps when you can do them yourself so they can get into it.” What a trooper! He’s a nice guy and does his own stunts; don’t you just hate him already?

Asked about how much pressure was on him, not only as the star of the movie but as producer, for him to do something different with the character and movie, he showed his dissatisfaction about those seeing this as a “spin off” from the X-Men trilogy as he said…

“Both Gavin and I know that there have been queries from some people about what this movie actually is. Is it X-Men 4 in disguise, what is it? I hate the term spin off because this is not what it is, expectations were high in areas such as the story, the character, the emotions, and the action so we had to try and exceed everyone’s expectations, which I think we achieved.”

Then the question that comes up in every super hero press conference, what special power would you like to have if you could choose any? Gavin Hood went for the obvious, and slightly disappointing…

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“FLYING! I always wanted to be able to fly since I was a little kid,” said he excitedly, “That was my fantasy, the idea of escaping.”

Hugh’s answer was a little more entertaining,

“Mine was always to swim like the Man From Atlantis,” said Jackman.

(*For our younger readers this was a hit TV show in the 1970’s starring Patrick Duffy of Dallas fame who was a man from the mythical underwater world of Atlantis who swam like a man who had glued his arms and legs together and looked more like wobbly jelly than a sub mariner, but who became friends and helped those above the ocean. There is a big-budget movie planned too by the way!) .

Back to Hugh…”I used to spend hours in the water wondering why I couldn’t swim like him.” This seemed to strike a chord with all in the room.

How did both Gavin and Hugh cope with a movie that wasn’t able to reply on characters from the other three movies? We wanted to know.

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Hugh joked, “Well, it was hard for me to come to terms with not having Halle Berry on set, it took me months to get over that.” Continuing on a more serious note he proceeded, “Having been involved in the other three movies playing a character who didn’t know who he was, where he was from and how old he is, with the exception of knowing that he probably had died, it was great to be able to make a movie and have those blanks finally filled in.”

Liev Schreiber who has been in such movies as The Omen, Scream 3 and The Manchurian Candidate, amongst others, plays the character of Sabretooth, not an actor most would have picked for this part, nonetheless, both Hugh Jackman and Gavin Hood were quick to defend him…

“He was the first person I wanted to cast in the film”, said Jackman. “I’ve worked with him before and he is a friend and is incredibly strong and I knew he was more than capable of fulfilling this part. He also has that menacing look to go with it, and who knows how to play the villain better than you guys, the English, and I’m very proud of him…” Gavin Hood supported this decision for Schreiber… “He worked very hard, we needed someone who was physically believable next to Hugh and being around 6’4″ he worked well. We also needed someone with dramatic power to act as the half brother to Wolverine, which wasn’t initially touched upon in the other three movies.”

For those who don’t know, there is a dispute between hardcore fans regarding this, some saying that Victor Creed isn’t Wolverine’s half brother, whilst others say that of course he is, as his character, Dog, in the Origins story goes through the same process as Wolverine and becomes Sabretooth. But Gavin has a message to all the fans out there explaining why he chose this controversial route by supporting the half brother theory…

“I wanna say to all the fans that doing the research I was stuck in this dilemma, and I absolutely chose to go with the version that Sabretooth is Wolverine’s half brother, why? As a dramatist you’re looking for emotional conflict, and we all know that the greatest emotional conflicts are within families.”

So there you go – sorted!

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So, what attracted Hugh Jackman to the role of Wolverine in the first place?

“I liked the idea of someone at war with himself, the human and the animal within, part of him wants to retreat and be on his own whilst the other part of him wants to connect and fall in love, and both of those are exciting areas for me to explore as an actor. Also, these dualities are something that you look for in a role; I never thought I’d find this in a comic book character! Even though I had no choice when I was given the role of Wolverine originally, I have to say that he is really one of the more interesting characters in the comic book series.”

The leak on the Internet of an unfinished rush of the movie not only upset Fox the filmmakers, but also it was reported that Hugh Jackman and Gavin Hood weren’t amused either. What were their official thoughts about this? Gavin let the star handle this one…

“Well, you see all the people working on the movie, some going without sleep to bring the fans and movie goers an experience to be seen on the big screen, which is what it is meant for, and it’s heartbreaking. What was leaked was months old and that’s like a Ferrari without an engine to me…then we saw a big rally by the online community and from the fans and that was very heartening and very encouraging, so that made us put this behind us, so now we’re looking forward to the movie coming out and we’re pretty confident the fans and public will be into the movie and will want to see it on the big screen, because, as I say, that’s what it was made for.”

After leaving the press conference, it was back to the coach for another exciting adventure back to our hotel, but what a day it had been; we’d been subjected to an abseil by anyone who had arms and legs, (oh, and Hugh Jackman had a go too!)

And I’d got to see the new woollen Spider-man costume complete with those chunky white trainers…. Marvel…I love you!

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Wolverine is out in the UK on 29th April.