Hugh Jackman’s career took off after being cast as Wolverine in the Marvel film X-Men. But Jackman was surprised that X-Men, of all films, was the catalyst for his stardom.
Hugh Jackman was told to book another acting gig before ‘X-Men’ because the film was predicted to fail
Not many in the film industry saw the impact the 2000 movie X-Men would’ve had on Jackman’s career. Perhaps even Jackman himself. Jackman was a modestly known Australian actor with a few theater and television credits to his name. When the Oscar-nominee nabbed the role of Wolverine, he didn’t expect his status in the film industry to change.
“If you’d asked me to play a game of – ‘Okay, you’re going to have a Hollywood career. What would be the movie that would break you?’ This would be a million miles away from what I would have — I never in a million years would have guessed it would be this,” he once said in an interview with Paul Fischer.
There was such lack of faith in the first X-Men movie that Jackman was told not to get his hopes up.
“I knew I was onto something good. But nobody knew what would happen with the series. Nobody. I mean, I remember several people saying to me, ‘Make sure you book another gig before this thing comes out.’ You know, try and use it, the leverage to get another job. Because the word on the street is, it’s probably not going to do great business,” he added.
Jackman thought that another more dramatic feature he starred in would’ve been his true breakthrough.
“If I was a betting man, I would have thought something like The Fountain would have done more for my career than when I first did X-Men,” he said.
Hugh Jackman almost had to turn down ‘X-Men’
A lot of luck played a significant part in Jackman obtaining Wolverine. There were a few hard choices he had to make to do the film. Jackman contemplated doing an Australian movie instead of X-Men due to a scheduling conflict that resolved itself. But it was a decision he credited to his gut instincts.
“I think you go with your gut on things. Some things work out for you, some things don’t work out for you,” he said.
The actor was also deep in his theatrical career at the time, already starring in a play titled Oklahoma!. But his commitment to his theater work might have nearly cost him the part of X-Men.
“I almost lost the possibility of that job back then because I didn’t get cast until six months later,” Jackman once told Evening Standard. “At my first audition they said, ‘We love you and want to bring you to America’. I said, ‘I can’t I’m doing a show’. They said, ‘Just take a show off’. I said, ‘You don’t understand — you can’t just take a show off, not for an audition!’
But fortunately, those behind the film were very accommodating and understanding of Jackman’s situation.
“They said fine — we’ll send you on Concorde. I remember being so thrilled,” he said.
Hugh Jackman almost quit being Wolverine after ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’
Earlier in his career, Jackman seriously considered stepping away from the role of Wolverine for good. 2009 saw the actor starring in his first solo project as the mutant anti-hero in the feature X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The movie acted as a sort of spin-off of the original X-Men films, exploring Wolverine’s backstory as its title implies.
But the film wasn’t as well-received as other prior X-Men films, and a majority of critics gave the movie negative reviews. In a 2017 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Jackman confided that the negative backlash almost made him call it quits.
“I couldn’t see what the next thing was,” he said. “I don’t know what else to do. I don’t know where to go.”
Darren Aronofsky, who was supposed to direct the 2013 movie The Wolverine, stopped Jackman from quitting the X-Men. The Wolverine would later be directed by filmmaker James Mangold. But many of Aronofsky’s ideas for Wolverine was kept for Mangold’s take on the movie.
“It can be as simple of an idea as that, that all of a sudden makes me go, ‘Oh, there’s a whole other way to do this character. There’s a whole other way to get into it,’” Jackman said about Aronofsky’s ideas.