Wolverine thinks he used to be a really bad Wolverine. Hugh Jackman, who’s held the Wolverine monicker for the past 17 years at the helm of 20th Century Fox’s X-Men franchise, admitted at the Producers Guild Awards on Saturday that he used to be really bad at his job.
“I was kind of struggling, to be honest,” Jackman said of his work in 2000’s X-Men. “It was the first movie I had ever done in America. I was pretty tight. I was nervous. I was average, to be honest, at best. No one was saying anything and I sort of thought I was getting away with it, but I wasn’t.
Tom Rothman, a 20th Century Fox executive, apparently had a sit-down with Jackman about a month into filming and told him that he’d had a “gut feeling” about his being Wolverine from the beginning. But when Rothman viewed Jackman’s daily work, he apparently told Jackman it “was like watching someone put a lampshade over a light.”
The comment doesn’t seem too far off. Jackman’s Wolverine often felt stunted during most of X-Men, and, while a couple of reviewers at the time were all too happy to blame that on the performance, most placed it on the film’s script. In fact, reviewers found Jackman’s portrayal kind of charming, taking a shine to his gruffness like Rogue to Logan.
Entertainment Weekly called Jackman’s performance “arresting” at the time, and Rolling Stone claimed that “Jackman energizes X-Men with power doses of fire, flashy humor and sexual heat.” The New York Times said that Wolverine was “well played by Mr. Jackman.” The Chicago Tribune heavily noted “Jackman’s unusual resemblance to the young Clint Eastwood, squint and all” while still tearing the film apart.
Reviewers, overall, seemed to genuinely like Jackman when the film hit theaters on July 14, 2000. So, what was up with Rothman’s comments and Jackman’s talk at the Producers Guild Awards this year?
There’s something to be said for constructive criticism. If Rothman were one of the people believing in Jackman from the beginning, then a softened “this kinda sucks, bro” could have gone a long way at the time. X-Men, while never a killer film, was the beginning of a multi-million dollar movie franchise and acted as the launching pad for some of Hollywood’s biggest stars to date.
And so, 17 years later, Jackman has had some time to settle into his role, proving to the world that he is, in fact, the de facto Wolverine.
Logan, which premieres March 3, will be Jackman’s ninth and final time playing Wolverine onscreen, and it will, undoubtedly, be the grittiest and most artistic Wolverine film to date. Ryan Reynolds — the mind and body behind Deadpool — has even said he thinks Logan might have a solid chance at an Oscar award.
Just the thought has to be veneration for Jackman’s self-admitted rocky start.