Opens July 26

By Tim Stack
Updated April 12, 2013 at 04:00 AM EDT

The Wolverine

  • Movie

Hugh Jackman enjoys playing Wolverine, but he’s way less fond of the training required to get into superhero shape. For The Wolverine, the Marvel character’s second solo spin-off, Jackman went full-force with his exercise routine. ”I’m 44, so unfortunately it gets harder and harder,” says the actor. ”I started doing two workouts a day, which I had been adamantly against. So I did two hours in the morning and then an hour later, so it’s like doing three hours a day. There’s no more shortcuts!”

Unfortunately, there were no shortcuts when bringing The Wolverine to the screen. The film, which finds the clawed X-Man battling ninjas and the yakuza in Japan, was originally scheduled to begin production in April 2011, under Darren Aronofsky. But that March, the Black Swan director dropped out. ”It was frustrating for me as an actor,” admits Jackman, ”because the better part of a year was spent thinking I was going to shoot, so I was dieting, training, getting ready to go.”

That same month, a devastating earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, one of the film’s main locations. James Mangold (3:10 to Yuma) came on board in June, but the project didn’t come together in time for Jackman to complete it before shooting last year’s Les Misérables. The extra prep time was a blessing in disguise, though, allowing Mangold to refine the script — and perfect the film’s aesthetic. ”I wanted more night scenes, more rain scenes. I wanted everyone a little sweatier, the air a little heavier, the light a little darker,” says the director, who drew inspiration from classic Japanese cinema and even Clint Eastwood’s The Outlaw Josey Wales. ”I wanted it to be very visceral, physical.” That’s where Jackman’s two-a-day workouts came into play. ”One of the looks we wanted was this sense of what Hugh’s trainer calls ‘vein-iture,’ like feeling his veins bulging,” Mangold says. ”There’s a kind of rawness and almost animalistic quality to his physicality, and he worked very hard to make that happen. It’s not Photoshopped.”

Episode Recaps

The Wolverine

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 136 minutes
  • James Mangold