Director James Mangold, who’s probably still hard at work in perfecting the movie, The Wolverine, took some time out to answer questions for Entertainment Weekly, and it seems he had a lot to say about Wolverine and what this recent film will be about for the character Logan.
On adapting the 1982 Chris Claremont/Frank Miller story arc, Wolverine:
It’s definitely more. A lot of that story and a lot of beats from that saga are in there — and a lot of characters. Without being religious about it, I think it’s a very admiring adaptation. Obviously when you’re adapting anything you make some changes. But all the characters are there – Yukio, Viper, Mariko, Shingen, and Logan obviously. The whole cast of characters that exist in that world exists in our film.
On the choosing the setting for The Wolverine in regards to X-Men: The Last Stand:
It’s set after X-Men 3, but I wouldn’t call it a sequel to X-Men 3. You have a choice the second you enter a world like this with a huge amount of comic books, backstories, three movies, a Wolverine origins movie … You have decide where you’re going to exist in relation to all these other things, particularly if you’re working with an actor who actually played the character in other films.
I felt it was really important to find Logan at a moment where he was stripped clean of his duties to the X-Men, his other allegiances, and even stripped clean of his own sense of purpose. I was fascinated with the idea of portraying Logan as a ronin – the definition of which is a samurai without a master, without a purpose. Kind of a soldier who is cut loose. War is over. What does he do? What does he face? What does he believe anymore? Who are his friends? What is his reason for being here anymore? I think those questions are especially interesting when you’re dealing with a character who is essentially immortal.
It was only to my advantage to set it after the X-Men films because the X-Men had effectively ended at that point. A lot of the key characters had died. There was a sense if I’m locating this film not five minutes after the other movie, but a period of time after that last X-Men movie, I can find a Logan who is living separate from the world. He is no longer a member of some superhero team.
On the freedom of the movie being independent of the X-Men films:
I felt the most liberating thing about coming after the other movies is you don’t have to hand it off or end it in some way that meets up with a previous film. For creative freedom, I didn’t want to have to, essentially, land this film in Wichita because that’s where the next one takes off from. It helped me to be really free, and in some ways be more loyal to Claremont/Miller, without having to be tied to other films.
On his reasons for directing The Wolverine:
I have a long friendship with Hugh Jackman. [They made the 2001 romantic comedy Kate & Leopold together.] And I’m a huge comic book collector. When I was a kid, I had both Marvel and DC. I was my own librarian. I made card files. I had origin stories of all the characters, and cross-referenced when they appeared in other comic books. I was full on.
Because of my bond with Hugh, because of the amount we talked about it, I very much knew what I was bringing to it, and that he was amenable, and that the gigantic change of scenery – which Japan offers – gave us a kind of license to make the tone we wanted, as opposed to continuing another tone that may have existed. For me, the tremendous advantage and attraction of this material was working with an actor I admire. I felt we could both make demands on each other and take it someplace the other hasn’t gone.
For me, the idea of making a film with hardcore action, with physical action like I grew up reading in the comic books, but also with a heart – and this character has great heart – to me, it’s no different from making a western. Or a cop film.
On Logan and what brings him 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.
… 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.
On Wolverine’s mutation and humanity:
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.
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.
It really does seem that both he and Hugh Jackman have thought long and hard about what exactly a good movie on Wolverine should be. Hopefully it plays out well for the audience. I’m very interested in seeing where his character goes in this and that we will be able to witness his berserker rage as well as his humanity, and yet still get some good action, too!