Director James Mangold Shares his Approach to 'The Wolverine'

Monday, 31 October 2011 09:19 Written by  Jordan DeSaulnier
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Director James Mangold Shares his Approach to 'The Wolverine'

Though it was a hit at home and abroad, 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine was not hugely well received by critics or fans.  For the follow-up The Wolverine, 20th Century Fox has been looking to adapt Frank Miller and Chris Claremont's much-loved Marvel comics arc which finds the adamantium-infused mutant finding love and trouble in Japan.  After numerous setbacks this, the project is set to begin shooting in several months under new director James Mangold, making his first comic book-based picture.  There have been no shortage of rumors and rampant speculation about The Wolverine, but Mangold has gone on the record to discuss his approach to the material, including details on recent extensive rewrites to the screenplay.

Mangold recently conducted a telephone interview with The Playlist in order to promote the Blu-ray release of his 1997 feature Cop Land, and he spoke extensively about making a movie centered on the least merry mutant.  While X-Men Origins: Wolverine inadvisedly told the life story of a character whose appeal is largely predicated on his mysteriousness, The Wolverine will be unburdened by origins, and that was part of what interested Mangold.  He said,

“You could actually just tell a story about this amazing character from the start, just the way they do when you really read a comic.  You don’t have to spend the first hour saying how they were born; you can actually just find them in an emotional space, in the middle of action, and what happens is you’re not crowded with cutting to nine other action heroes. You can really make a movie about this dude.”

In addition to eschewing elaborate backstories, the new tale will take full advantage of its exotic setting, providing a tone that should be different from the standard superhero movie with which we've all become familiar over the last decade.  Mangold explained,

“It’s a kind of adventure following such a unique character also in a really unique environment.  I mean, the fact that half of the characters in this movie speak Japanese, this is like a foreign-language superhero movie that’s as much a drama and a detective story and a film noir, with high-octane action as it is anything like a conventional tentpole film.”

Mangold also established that, unlike other films in the X-Men franchise, The Wolverine will feature more personal stakes rather than a threat of global catastrophe or another fight atop a nuclear cooling tower, saying,

“I think part of the reason I’m doing this picture has been because it isn’t to me a conventional superhero movie. It isn’t an origin story, so I’m freed from that burden, and it also isn’t a save-the-world movie, which most of them are. It’s actually a character piece; I actually think it has more in common with ‘The Outlaw Josey Wales’ and ‘Chinatown,’ what we’re doing, than the conventional, ‘Will Wolverine and his compatriots save the world from this thermonuclear device’ question.”

For months, Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky was developing the film with a screenplay by Oscar-winning The Usual Suspects writer Christopher McQuarrieAronofsky bailed back in March, and Mangold, who last directed the actioner Knight and Day, was selected as his replacement this summer.  Though the studio was reportedly quite happy with McQuarrie's take on The Wolverine, we learned in September that Live Free or Die Hard scripter Mark Bomback had been brought aboard for extensive rewrites.

Mangold mentioned that he has discussed the film with Aronofsky, and went on to explain the extent of the rewrites he conducted with Bomback:

“Mark Bomback and myself have done a tremendous amount of writing on the movie. There’s not a page that hasn’t been worked and reworked and rethought and story-boarded. So it just is what it is; I mean, kind of the part of connecting to the movie and developing the scenes and finding the locations and devising the action is all about not only making it good, but also in the process making it your own.”

Mangold, an Oscar nominee for his work on the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line, said that he wasn't too interested in this project initially, but what drew him to it, in addition to work again with Kate & Leopold star Hugh Jackman, were certain thematic elements of Logan's character.  He said,

"I think more than anything, it’s a character piece, asking really interesting questions that are what pulled me in about what it means to be immortal. What is it to live forever, when you lose everyone you’ve ever loved? Either you watch them get killed, or you just lose them by attrition. What is it to feel the burden of saving mankind through all of its mistakes, over and over and over again. What’s the toll it takes on you as a living being that is somehow living this Frankensteinian, eternal life? And there’s a lot of interesting dramatic questions we’re going to deliver on as well as some really inventive action.”

Jackman is set to begin production on Les Miserables with The King's Speech director Tom Hooper, but once he concludes work on that musical, The Wolverine will be able to get underway in early 2012 for an unspecified release date.

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