Hugh Jackman has a Band-Aid on his nose. This is a good thing: His doctor spied a bit of basal cell carcinoma on his nose. “It is a skin cancer, but if you’re going to get it, it’s the kind you want,” he says. It was actually found while Jackman was checking up on an earlier bout of the disease from six months ago. It was bound to happen: “I grew up in Australia. I have English parents and English skin.” It’s changed everything for him. “I went down to Australia this summer. It’s a whole different thing for me to actively try to stay out of the sun.”
But he’s supposed to be talking about super-strength. Jackman is in town to promote “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” based on the beloved 1981 two-issue run, which finds the Wolverine jumping to 1973 to change a bleak dystopian future. It’s Jackman’s sixth bout as easily-riled mutant Logan, aka Wolverine (seventh if you count a cameo in “X-Men: First Class”). In person, Jackman is as far from his most famous screen incarnation as possible (which is to say very approachable and talkative). And he’s not tired of him, even after 14 years.
What is it like staying with the same character for so long?
I’m weirdly enjoying it more than ever. I think the movies are getting better, the scripts are getting better. This one is based on the comic book, but it felt really organic in the way it celebrates the whole series. I love that it’s part comic book movie, part time travel movie. It reminds me of “Back to the Future.” And I’m the only one lucky enough to play both time periods, so I got to work with everyone.
Logan’s much more calm in this one, especially compared to how volatile he was in “The Wolverine.”
He’s been around. He’s come to a certain pace in himself, about his position, about his past, about who he is. It’s more about the team now. It’s taken him a long time to get to that point. I think it’s been well-earned, and I think after “The Wolverine] it feels natural. He gets to play a mentor/diplomat/guide/wise old sage role and not just have him flying off the handle every five seconds. I’ve been around long enough to know that this is a rare thing: to be able to play a character you love after all these years and still feel like it’s relevant, and not just old hat.
Where do you see him going in the future? Any surprising directions?
My son just saw the movie. He loved it; he just turned 14. He said, “Dad, I’ve got an idea for the next one. I think he should not be in any fights at all. I think he should just be a gardener, and he’s kind of cool but he’s really at peace.” And I said, “Now hang on: Good idea, but I think the Wolverine fans around the world want to see one little fight.” He said, “No. I think we’ve seen enough. I think he should just be calm.” [Laughs]
This was made soon after “The Wolverine,” too.
I did “Prisoners” in between. That had complications, because Denis [Villeneuve, “Prisoner”’s director] didn’t want a neighborhood father — who was supposed to be kind of an everyman — being completely jacked. And I was training every morning, a lot. I was training for this while I was shooting that. I never really told them. They kept looking at me when food was being delivered every two hours — all these chicken breasts. They had the sense to not even ask me. But Denis did cover me up. If you notice I’m always in long shirts. There were no tee-shirts. I complained about it after awhile, but it’s easier to stay in shape than to get into shape. That’s an old Will Smith quote. And it’s true.
Jackman was a newbie to most when he was cast as Logan/Wolverine in the first “X-Men” from 2000. But he was already an established star of musicals, including playing Curly in “Oklahoma!” in London starting in 1998. Throughout he’s made a point at being versatile, doing dramas and epics and brainier thrillers, like “The Prestige.” One thing he’d like to do — or at least do more of — is romantic-comedies. “I did one, with ‘Kate & Leopold,’ a long time ago. I’d like to do that again.”
Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge