Friday 27th September 2013
The most iconic character in the X-Men universe embarks upon on an epic journey in modern-day Japan in The Wolverine. Inspired by the celebrated Marvel comic book arc, Logan (Hugh Jackman), the century-old mutant known to the world as Wolverine, is lured to a Japan he hasn't seen since World War II - and into a shadowy realm of Yakuza and Samurai.
Suddenly finding himself on the run with a mysterious, beautiful heiress and confronted for the first time with the prospect of true mortality, Logan will be pushed to the physical and emotional edge - further than he's ever been. On a perilous journey to rediscover the hero inside, Logan will be forced to grapple not only with powerful foes, mutant and human alike, but with the ghosts of his own haunted past, as well. As The Wolverine crosses his adamantium claws with Samurai swords, striking out through a maze of love, betrayal and honor, he will truly come to know the price of a life without end.
"This story takes The Wolverine into a world that is vastly different from any seen before in the X-Men series", says Hugh Jackman, who also serves as a producer on the film. "It's visually different and the tone is different. There are a lot of battles in this story, but the greatest battle of all is the one within Logan between being a monster and a becoming a human being".
The Wolverine first emerged in 1974, when the character made his premiere appearance in the very last panel of an issue of The Incredible Hulk -- one that foreshadowed his joining the band of mutant heroes known as The X-Men. He would soon be world-renowned for his adamantium claws, his powers of self-healing and his primal "berserker" rages - all of which would serve to forge The Wolverine into a superstar of the superhero realm.
In the 1980s, The Wolverine truly came into his own - in a four-issue miniseries created by "X-Men" writer Chris Claremont and the legendary graphic artist Frank Miller (The Dark Knight, Sin City). In the series, the character makes a solo journey to Japan, only to be lured into a maelstrom of crime, betrayal and honor, in the midst of which he is forced to confront both his terrifying strengths and his undiscovered vulnerability. Trying to maneuver in a world he can barely understand, The Wolverine, for the first time, finds his inner sense of justice.
Long a favorite of fans of Wolverine, the arc had also been an inspiration for Oscar®-nominated actor Hugh Jackman, who has embodied the character in six blockbuster X-Men movies (and is currently before the cameras in a seventh film). Jackman saw in this untold part of the character's history a rare chance to dive even deeper beneath The Wolverine's indestructibility and to illuminate his darkest aspects in a new way.
That desire got a boost when Jackman teamed up with James Mangold, who had previously turned the story of Johnny Cash into a riveting account of love and rebellion in Walk the Line and re-jiggered the classic Western 3:10 to Yuma into a contemporary cat-and-mouse game set around mythic themes of friendship, duty and destiny. He was the right choice to bring a new view to The Wolverine and to take the character outside the usual conventions of the X-Men storylines.
"Jim Mangold knows how to make a movie that is fun, has incredible action and yet also delivers all the finer elements of character and storytelling", says Jackman. "He pushed me to go deeper, angrier, heavier, more berserk in every way and in every take".
From the start, Mangold wanted to break the mold of the comic book-based film. Explains the director: "What interested me about The Wolverine was doing something quite different from the standard superhero movie, where it's about stopping a villain's diabolical plot. In this story, the action and suspense are built more on character and are woven into a world that makes for a completely different kind of experience, one that you haven't seen before".
Though characters from Wolverine's past are brought into the mix and there are allusions to what he has gone through in his previous adventures, the focus is on an alternate track from the X-Men movies.
"When you're making a movie about a team of people like The X-Men, there's only so much you can get inside their heads", notes Mangold. "But this film is able to really get inside Logan, to explore who he is and the sources of his rage. He's someone who has been used by the Defense Department, by the government, by enemies, by villains, even by loved ones. And over time his anger at that has grown, only to be multiplied by his natural, preexisting feral quality. Yet, within this story, he begins to he learn how this rage might be able to fuel and empower him".
Ultimately, Mangold began to see the story more as an unflinching thriller about a man with a dark past searching for his future identity, than as something from a fantasy comic-book universe. "I think one the things that will most surprise people about this film is how real it is, how much you completely lose yourself in this world, in the action, the drama and the romance", he comments.
Mangold was especially drawn to the uncertain junction where Logan finds himself at the beginning of this story: he's been down many dark roads, feels he has lost or damaged nearly everything he loved and is unsure if there is any path left to redemption. The one thing he has going for him is his immortality. But even that may be more of a curse than a blessing.
"One thing I find particularly interesting about Wolverine is his immortality, the fact that with his healing factor he can go on forever like a god and because of that he also experiences the loneliness of a god. Even when Logan loses those he loves, he knows that he will keep going on", Mangold observes. "He's been going on for a century now, through wars and battles and deaths of his loved ones and he's come to a point of great weariness. It's a classic theme - the man who can live forever but suffers because of it. Logan is a damaged hero and this story is very much about him looking to reclaim something he's lost in himself".
Mangold embraced the opportunity to take Logan directly into the heart of present-day Japan, which is as full of sleek, high-tech modernity as it is rife with deep traditions and hidden codes of honor. "This story takes Logan into a kind of fever dream of today's Japan, full of Yakuza, Ninja, Samurai, Industrialist crime, mystery and mysticism", the director explains.
The Japanese setting allowed Mangold and Jackman to re-imagine Logan in a fresh guise: as a Ro-nin. "In feudal Japan, the Samurai belonged to a master and a Ro-nin is a Samurai who no longer has a master to serve. So, he is a kind of a warrior without a purpose, without a cause", Mangold explains. "Many of the people who made Logan feel part of a cause are now gone. So, he's essentially a lost man, capable of doing anything, with no mandate. That's an iconography that American Westerns and Samurai films share and now we're bringing a comic book character into it".
Juxtaposed with the beauty of Japan are intense action sequences, ranging from accelerating bullet trains to the towering menace of The Silver Samurai. But here, too, Mangold wanted to explore beyond the usual boundaries. "We were always thinking about pushing the envelope with the action and the visuals", he says, "but doing so in a way that you never lose the sense that what is happening is very real".
The entire production team was excited to be doing something unusual with a character that has become so beloved. Joining Jackman as producers on the film are Lauren Shuler Donner, who has been a vital part of X-men movie history from the very beginning and Hutch Parker, who worked together with Donner to support Mangold's vision.
"This really is the quintessential Wolverine story", sums up Parker. "It takes him on a deep journey. It mines the essential conflicts within him. It challenges him, both physically and emotionally, in ways that we have never seen. It takes us into a Japan that is very real yet alien to us".
Parker sees Mangold's approach as a strong fit with the material. "Jim has built on what has come before in his own way", he concludes. "He wanted to make this world viscerally real and was willing to not just show Wolverine's rage but to answer the questions of why".
Though this marks the sixth time that Hugh Jackman has donned the persona of Logan - the most times a single actor has ever played a comic book hero -- The Wolverine is like nothing that had come before. For one thing, as the film starts, Logan is unsure of what direction to turn as he heads to Japan.
"He's someone who has always marched to beat of his own drum but at the beginning of our movie he's probably more isolated than you've ever seen Wolverine", explains Jackman. "He's disaffected with the world, because he was created as a weapon and he's rebelling against that - and he feels that he is a danger to society".
Jackman goes on: "You will see Logan more vulnerable, more at risk and more of a monster than you've ever seen him before. He's struggling with identity, he's struggling with his reason to exist and now he faces the choice of whether to embrace his true nature or not".
Jackman especially enjoyed taking Logan into Japan, which he notes "is like nowhere else on the planet", a place that both haunts and changes Wolverine the more he engages with it.
"The atmosphere of Japan seeps through the movie", Jackman observes. "For Logan it has the effect of wiping clean all his normal ways of interacting with people and reading situations. He has to start fresh. Japan is a fairly insular society with a very strong sense of its own culture and history, so Logan is really a stranger in this strange new world. He learns about the Samurai code, the training and the honor system. But he's immediately distrustful of it, not dissimilar to when he first entered the world of X-Men. Yet, he watches and he adapts. He starts to gain respect for the idea of being a warrior, for the sense of service that they have. And he starts to become the better version of himself".
From the start, Jackman was committed to taking Wolverine to new levels of physicality. The meant throwing himself into the most intensive and disciplined preparation regime he has undergone yet, combining rigorous diet, hardcore physical training and intensive martial arts instruction.
"I've always loved playing this character but I have always had this thing of 'I wish I had gone a little bit further physically with him,'" Jackman confesses. "This script gave me an opportunity to go further emotionally than I've been and I wanted to do the same physically. I started training and started a very strict diet far in advance since we had the preparation time. And I think the results have paid off because when I look at the screen, I see Wolverine there. I think it's important for him to be lean, to see veins, to be vascular yet very strong obviously. I've always wanted people to look at the screen and go, whoa".
Learning new fighting styles was also paramount to the performance. "I have always portrayed Wolverine as a street fighter and a pub brawler. His style is not pretty, he doesn't want to hang around and jab at you, he just wants to take your head off in three seconds and move on. His fighting style is not studied in any way. But one of the great things about this story is that when he comes to Japan, he starts to really take that kind of discipline and training to heart".
Jackman did the same, working closely with the leading stunt team 87Eleven to hone a variety of ninjitsu and other Japanese martial skills. "The team at 87Eleven were fantastic", he says. "I was training every day and let me tell you, I thought the gym work was hard but training on the martial arts floor is ten times harder".
Surrounding Logan in his journey to Japan is a cast of characters whose motives are initially unclear but whose codes of honor are new and intriguing to him. In casting the film, as with all the other elements of the production, James Mangold looked to underscore the film's grounding in realism.
To play the vital role of Shingen Yashida, the leading industrialist who is not only the leader of a vast criminal empire but the father of Wolverine's new love Mariko, he fittingly chose a man who is himself a legend of Japanese film. Taking the part is Hiroyuki Sanada, who started acting as a child in the 1960s and went on to become an action hero, an acclaimed dramatic actor, the first Japanese man to perform with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the star of dozens of Japanese and Hollywood films including Twilight Samurai, Ring, The Last Samurai, Danny Boyle's Sunshine, Rush Hour 3 and Speed Racer.
Sanada's well-honed skills in the Samurai fighting style also benefited other cast members as he shared his broad knowledge of martial arts action, including with first-time actor Rila Fukushima, who plays Yukio. "I had a sword fighting scene at the beginning of filming and Hiro helped me so much. I mean if he wasn't there, I can't really imagine like how I would have done it", says Fukushima. "He's amazing to watch and we were all really honored to work with him".
Although The Wolverine takes place away from the X-Men team, there are key appearances from figures in Logan's past, including Jean Grey, the telekinetic mutant and Logan's lost love, portrayed once again by Famke Janssen.
Janssen embraced the opportunity to return to the X-Men universe and, especially, the chance to reunite with Jackman. "Hugh and I have a wonderful history playing these characters", says the actress. "We've worked together on three previous movies, in which there was a flirtation between Logan and Jean and I think a lot of 'X-Men' fans had hoped to see them together again".
A bonus was the nature of their joint scenes in The Wolverine. "Our scenes are dream-like, beautiful, intimate and perhaps a little disturbing", Janssen hints.
"Jean Grey is central to this journey Logan is on to battle the demons of his past", adds Hutch Parker. "Jean and Wolverine had a complex relationship and now Jean is a kind of guide who challenges him. It really helps to connect the unique experience of this story to the rest of the X-Men mythology".
Logan's journey through Japan also involves two other powerful women, each of whom has her own light or dark fascination with him. Tao Okamoto plays out Mariko's complicated love story with Logan and Rila Fukushima, takes on the role of the fiery, sword-wielding bodyguard Yukio. Both were cast from auditions that won over the filmmakers with their naturalism.
"Tao and Rila are both natural actresses and they're both amazing looking in their roles as well", says Mangold. "Both women are incredibly beautiful and each has tremendously palpable energy and yet they couldn't be more different".
Okamoto was drawn to the background of her character as the daughter of a powerful industrialist who was never there for her and has arranged a marriage for her to a man she does not love. "Mariko could never be a normal woman", Okamoto observes. "But all along, she was hiding her dreams. At the start of the story, she is someone very desperate. Then she meets Logan and she starts to realize what she wants in life and she begins to change. That transformation was very interesting to me".
Jackman was impressed with how organically Okamoto took to the character. "She has that ability to let the camera go deep within her. When Wolverine gets to Japan, he doesn't want to be involved with anyone or anything -- but in Tao's performance you see how he could not help but be drawn into her vortex".
Tokyo native Rila Fukushima says it was Yukio's colorful intensity that intrigued her. "What interested me were her physicality and her ruthless nature", she muses. "I was really excited to have the chance to do such strong action sequences - but I also saw great potential for humor with her".
Fukushima threw herself into the high spirit and trials of the role. "It was an amazing, challenging journey for me", she says. "I trained with our terrific stunt team, learned all the physical stuff, including sword work, kick-boxing and fighting and also did lots of weight training. I'd never done anything like this before, but it was great fun".
Another powerful and complex woman is brought to life by Svetlana Khodchenkova, who takes on the green-eyed Viper, a cunning and treacherous mutant. Khodchenkova, who hails from Russia, is best known in the West for her recent breakout role in the acclaimed spy story Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, as the Soviet operative Irina.
Taking the role of Shingen Yashida's father, Lord Yashida, who tries to make a shocking bargain with Logan, is Japanese actor Haruhiko Yamanouchi -- who could not resist the larger-than-life character. "Lord Yashida is such a big character he made me think of Shakespeare", he says.
Yamanouchi drew on the history and personalities of real Japanese industrialists to get to the heart of Yashida's ambition. "He's one of the engines of the Japanese economy and I think such people have both a strong sense of responsibility and a strong identification with the destiny of Japan", he explains.
Rounding out the principal cast is American-based actor Will Yun Lee as the Black Hand ninja, Harada. Lee, who is known for his roles on TNT's "Witchblade" and as the villain in the James Bond film Die Another Day, was drawn to Mangold's approach. "I've always been a fan of this genre, but knowing James Mangold's movies, I knew he was going to bring an interesting twist to this", says Lee. "And then when I read the script, I loved the way Harada is written as such a mysterious character".
His character's twisting background as the illegitimate son of Shingen Yashida led Lee to the core of his character's ultimate dilemma. "Harada was basically raised by Yashida and he later led what's called The Black Clan, a centuries old cadre of ninjas whose sole mission is to protect the House of Yashida", Lee explains. "But in the course of the movie, Harada realizes that what is happening around him doesn't seem to line up with his warrior code. So he has to make some crucial decisions towards the end of the movie on whether or not he chooses to live by that coda.
To bring his fight scenes to life, Lee devoted himself to training. "Having to learn skills that go beyond martial arts was my biggest challenge", he says, "and they really put me through the ringer. I was training for three hours a day every day, but it paid off".
The heady atmosphere of present-day Japan -hyper-modern yet full of rituals and ghosts from the past - is central to the story of The Wolverine and Mangold was committed to shooting there right from the start. Ultimately, the film's ambitious 80-day shoot would journey between Japan and soundstages at the Fox Studios in Sydney, Australia.
"Japan is like no other country in the world. The culture, code and personality are unique. By shooting there, we were able to really get the vision of the landscapes, of the architecture", says the director. "And we were also able to capture something not often seen in movies: rural Japan. We think of Japan mainly as Tokyo or Osaka, but there are some of the most beautiful wild lands and tropical islands in the hinterlands. Both the bustle of the city and the incredible Zen of these beautiful lush forests had a huge effect on us. The chance to be in these places really inspired the filmmaking".
To capture it all, Mangold worked with director of photography Ross Emery, production designer François Audouy and costume designer Isis Mussenden - who each contributed to a design that mixes together elements of noir cinema, Japanese folklore, graphic novel iconography and intense personal drama.
Emery worked closely with Mangold to give The Wolverine a look that is grounded and realistic, yet pushes reality to its bleeding edges. "The style of the film is really driven by the strength of the characters", says Emery. "And there are also so many real yet dramatic environments these characters move through: we have Tokyo at night, which is very much like a Blade Runner atmosphere and then we have the countryside which is a completely different kind of texture".
Shooting with the Arri Alexa digital cameras using anamorphic lenses, Emery attained maximum flexibility and cinematic crispness - bringing the audience right into the grit and sweat of the action. "The combination of the camera and lenses really gave us that classic film look that Jim loves", says Emery.
Production designer Audouy further forged Logan's view of Japan with intricate set designs, which reflect both Logan's inner turmoil and his outsider's vision of Japanese culture. "Jim had some really interesting early ideas about the design for the movie", recalls Audouy. "He always described it as 'a fever dream of Japan' - and he wanted us to create a kind of dreamy, stylized road trip for Logan. The idea was to put him inside a slightly magical, heightened reality, but one that is grounded and believable".
Audouy began early on by diving into the history of Japan - its enduring traditions, meticulous art forms and unique architecture. "We fed all that research to Jim. Then he folded all those visual ideas right into the script", he explains. "It was a very collaborative and blended creative process".
Later, Audouy traveled numerous times to Japan to scout locations. "We knew we'd only have a limited amount of time to shoot in Japan so we really wanted to take advantage of those places we could never recreate on a backlot", he notes. "As Logan becomes completely immersed in this foreign world, we wanted the audience to be right there with him".
Throughout Audouy's designs, color was key. "We plotted out the color all the way through the film", he says. "When the story starts off in Canada, it's subdued and organic. Then there's this big visual pop that happens when we get to Japan with an explosion of texture and all the graphics of Tokyo at night. Then when we go into the Yashida compound, where it's beautiful and serene and sophisticated and really designed to play against the Silver Samurai".
Several of the film's largest sets were later built on soundstages or on location in Australia, including portions of the opulent Yashida compound with its bonsai trees and koi ponds and the high-tech Yashida laboratory. One of the most complex creations is the Ice Village, which Audouy painstakingly recreated in Homebush, Australia based on three mountain villages he scouted in Nagano, Japan. "We used very accurate architecture from the mountain villages and it was a lot of fun to build", says the designer.
On this film, Audouy also was involved in the creation of Wolverine's nemesis, the Silver Samurai, whose pose-able mechanical suit was built from the ground up. "It was completely detailed down to every single bolt head and wire -- and it was built by an incredibly talented crew over a span of almost five months here in Sydney", he explains.
Audouy continues: "The suit was made up of over 600 parts, each separately designed and modeled in a computer. It was a very ambitious build - but everyone's jaws hit the ground when we unveiled it in the middle of the lab. When you read it on the page you think, 'Ah, of course it'll be CG.' But it was pretty cool that we got the opportunity to build a real 13-foot robot that kicks ass".
Mangold wanted The Wolverine to feature the most realistic action he has yet been seen in. That's why he brought in 2nd Unit Director and stunt coordinator David M. Leitch and his team from 87Eleven to choreograph the action and train the cast. "One thing that's different about this film is that 90 percent of the action has been done entirely by our actors", notes Mangold. "We wanted to bring a kind of down-to-earth action to this, because I think there is something amazing and visceral about fighting battles on that person-to-person level".
Long before production began, Leitch began training with each cast member and honing every sword flick, high kick and adamantium slash for the film's ambitious battle sequences.
"One thing we really tried to do in this film was make sure that the Japanese aesthetic of ninjitsu and martial arts comes out, but we also dashed it up with a flavor of fantasy", says Leitch. "There are gymnastics and acrobatics that you wouldn't expect and at the same time, the clean lines and the minimalism of the Samurai movie comes through in the choreography. We tried to come up with something fun, cool and different".
Leitch was especially excited to reunite with Jackman, with whom he worked on Van Helsing and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. "Hugh is one of the most physically talented actors in the business", he comments. "He learns choreography really easily. You can do long pieces of uncut action because he can pull it off; and you can change things on the day because he can pick it up immediately and that's all very rare for actors. He's as good as any stunt man that we have in our company in terms of memorizing choreography. What's even better is that he brings the emotional weight of the character to that action and that's what makes him so compelling".
The Japanese world that beckons to Logan in The Wolverine was an exciting challenge for costume designer Isis Mussenden - who worked very closely both with Mangold and Audouy to craft the film's disorienting but visceral mood. Mussenden was excited by the chance to journey into Japan, past and present, traditional and post-modern.
"Researching Japanese culture, Japanese traditions, Japanese clothing, kimono, yukata, Ninjas, Aikido, Kendo, Yakuza, street looks, Harajuku - all of that opened up a whole new world", she says.
It would also spark a whole new approach to Wolverine himself. "Logan is not the same person that he was in the previous stories, so we really ran with that idea to give him a fresh look, appropriate for this story", explains Mussenden. "In Japan, he's a real fish out of water".
Although Logan might only have five or so outfits, Mussenden's team made close to 100 individual pieces for Jackman to take him through all his primal, fabric-destroying adventures. "Hugh had to constantly change outfits to accommodate different levels of fighting, for harnesses, to deal with bullet holes and slash marks", she says.
While Logan appears mainly in earthy, raw "harvest colors", the women he encounters in Japan don bolder and more mysterious palettes. "Yukio is in red. Viper's obviously green which is based on her look in the graphic novels and Mariko is in a serene blue, since she is our ingénue", Mussenden notes. "There is also a lot of black in the film, as there is a lot of black in the Japanese palette, but that is then set against intensely beautiful textures and colors".
Mussenden notes that she had to learn the intricate rules of wearing kimonos, the rituals of Japanese funerals and the traditions of Ninjas. But she found it especially fun to work with Viper's latex suits and Yukio's Japanese manga-inspired look. "Viper's costume at the end is a big, showy costume and Yukio is a hip, cool kind of character and it was very satisfying to design for that", she says. "With Yukio, we were inspired by the Wolverine graphic novels, by lots of manga girls and by Rila Fukushima, who looks beautiful, tough and hot, all mixed into one".
Producer Hutch Parker expects that this new world for Wolverine will be equally compelling to audiences. "From the production design to the costumes to the locations, Jim Mangold and his team have steeped this story in the kind of detail that makes it all come alive", he comments. "The whole design creates a wonderful interplay with the Wolverine's psychological journey".
A distinctive journey that brings audiences more directly into Wolverine's experience is exactly what James Mangold hopes to have created. "I hope audiences will find that they have landed, like Logan, in a world they've never seen and become completely immersed in something new and exciting", he sums up.
Golden Globe® and Tony Award® winning performer Hugh Jackman (Logan/Wolverine) has made an impression on audiences of all ages with his multi-hyphenate career persona, proving that he is as successful on stage in front of live crowds as he is on a film set. From his award-winning turn on Broadway as the 1970's singer/songwriter Peter Allen, to his metal claw-wielding Wolverine in the lucrative X-Men franchise, Jackman has proven to be one of the most versatile actors of our time.
The Australian native made his first major U.S. film appearance as Wolverine in the first installment of the X-Men series, a role he reprised in the enormously successful X2 and X-Men: The Last Stand in 2006. Most recently in the franchise, he played Wolverine in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which serves as a prequel to the popular series and grossed an outstanding $85 million domestically in its first weekend of release in May 2009. In 2014 the X-Men team will reunite once more for X-Men: Days of Future Past.
Jackman starred in the much-anticipated film adaptation of Les Misérables, directed by Tom Hooper (of The King's Speech), co-starring Anne Hathaway and Russell Crowe, based on the popular stage show originally created from Victor Hugo's famous novel of the same name. The ambitious musical featured singing captured live on set (as opposed to pre-recorded in a studio), making it one of the first films ever to successfully attempt this method. Jackman's standout performance as protagonist Jean Valjean earned him a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Comedy/Musical as well as Screen Actors Guild® nominations for both Best Ensemble and Best Male Actor in a Leading Role. The film also garnered him his first Academy Award® nomination for Best Actor.
Forthcoming for Jackman is Warner Bros.' Prisoners, where he plays a man who kidnaps the person he suspects is behind the disappearance of his young daughter and her best friend. The film co-stars Viola Davis, Melissa Leo and Jake Gyllenhaal and is expected to arrive in theaters later this year. Earlier in 2012, Jackman lent his vocal talents to the DreamWorks family holiday adventure, Rise of the Guardians.
Jackman made his return to the Big Way in his one-man show "Hugh Jackman - Back on Broadway" in the fall of 2011. Backed by an eighteen-piece orchestra, the revue, which previously opened to rave reviews during its limited engagements in San Francisco and Toronto earlier that year, was comprised of both Broadway hits and a selection of some of his personal favorite standards. Although the show ran only until the end of the year, Jackman's continued dedication to the Broadway community was feted at the 2012 Tony Awards, where he received a Special Award from the Tony Awards Administration Committee, recognizing his accomplishments both as a performer as well as a humanitarian.
In the fall of 2009, Broadway-goers could see Jackman in the Keith Huff penned A Steady Rain. Co-starring Daniel Craig, the play tells the story of two Chicago cops who are lifelong friends and whose differing accounts of a few traumatic days change their lives forever.
On February 22, 2009, Jackman took on the prestigious role of hosting the 81st Annual Academy Awards. Live from the Kodak Theater in Hollywood, he wowed those in attendance and helped ABC score a 13% increase in viewership from the previous year. This wasn't, however, Jackman's first foray into Awards show hosting. Previously, Jackman served as host of the Tony Awards three years in a row from 2003 - 2005, earning an Emmy® Award for his 2004 duties at the 58th Annual ceremony and an Emmy nomination for his 2005 appearance at the 59th Annual ceremony.
Additionally, Jackman has starred in Shawn Levy's Real Steel, Baz Luhrmann's Australia, Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain, Christopher Nolan's The Prestige and Woody Allen's Scoop. In addition, he lent his voice to the animated features Happy Feet and Flushed Away. Other films in which he has had leading roles include Deception, Someone Like You, Swordfish, Van Helsing and Kate and Leopold, for which he received a 2002 Golden Globe nomination.
For his portrayal of the 1970s singer-songwriter Peter Allen in The Boy From Oz, Jackman received the 2004 Tony Award for Best Actor in a musical as well as Drama Desk, Drama League, Outer Critics Circle and Theatre World awards. Additional theater credits include Carousel at Carnegie Hall, Oklahoma! at the National Theater in London (Olivier Award nomination), Sunset Boulevard (MO Award - Australia's Tony Award) and Disney's Beauty and the Beast (MO Award nomination).
Jackman's career began in Australia in the independent films Paperback Hero and Erskineville Kings (Australian Film Critics' Circle Best Actor award and The Australian Film Institute Best Actor nomination). In 1999, he was named Australian Star of the Year at the Australian Movie Convention.
Hiroyuki Sanada (Shingen) first became famous in 1982 as an action star with his role in The Shogun's Samurai. He then won the Japanese Academy Award and became one of the most talented and highest regarded stars of his generation in Japan.
Sanada recently completed The Railway Man, an epic true story based on Eric Lomax's book. Sanada and Colin Firth play two men haunted by their experiences on the notorious Death Railway in WWII; decades later, Lomax's wife, (Nicole Kidman), risks everything to bring these former adversaries together for a devastating final confrontation. Hiro plays Nagase, the soldier at the Japanese prison camp during WWll where Eric Lomax, played by Colin Firth, is held prisoner. The film is based on Eric Lomax's autobiography about his real life experience. The screenplay adaptation was done by Andy Paterson and Frank Cottrell Boyce and directed by Jonathan Teplitzky. Lionsgate International backed the U.K. Australian co-production for producers Chris Brown, Andy Paterson and Bill Curbishly.
Sanada will next been seen opposite Keanu Reeves in 47 Ronin, an epic fantasy action film for Universal Pictures based on of the most celebrated true stories in Japanese history about forty-seven disbanded samurai or ronin that take on a mythical army in order to avenge their master's wrongful death in 18th century Japan. In 47 Ronin Sanada will play Oishi, the chief samurai of the Asano clan, as one of the swordsmen; the group and their master are revered in Japan for their revenge attack on Dec. 14, 1702.
The film tells a stylized version of the story, mixing fantasy elements of the sort seen in The Lord of the Rings pics, with gritty battle scenes akin to those in films such as Gladiator. Carl Rinsch who garnered critical praise for his short film, The Gift, which debuted online, directed the film. Chris Morgan, who co-wrote Wanted and The Fast and the Furious for Universal, wrote the script. Scott Stuber produced with Pam Abdy through his Stuber Productions banner.
Sanada is most known in Japan for his leading role in the original Ring film and its sequel. He won the Award of the Japanese Academy for his role in The Twilight Samurai where he played a mid-19th century low-ranking samurai employed as a bureaucrat. Poor, but not destitute, he still manages to lead a content and happy life with his daughters and senile mother. Sadly, through unfortunate turn of events, the turbulent times conspire against him. The film was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Sanada was also nominated for an Award of the Japanese Academy for his role in Aegis.
Sanada first made his mark with American audiences in Ed Zwick's The Last Samurai opposite Tom Cruise and Ken Wantanabe. He then starred alongside Ralph Fiennes, in James Ivory's The White Countess; set in 1930s Shanghai, a blind American diplomat develops a curious relationship with a young Russian refugee who works odd -- and sometimes illicit -- jobs to support members of her dead husband's aristocratic family.
Other film roles include playing Kaneda, a genius scientist on a desperate mission to keep the sun from dying in Danny Boyle's Sunshine alongside Chris Evans, Mark Strong and Cillian Murphy. Sanada also played a villainous racecar team owner in The Wachowski's Speed Racer alongside Emile Hirsch, Susan Sarandon and Christina Ricci.
In 2007, he joined the Rush Hour blockbuster franchise playing Kenji, the main villain and brother to Jackie Chan's character in Rush Hour 3. Brett Ratner directed him opposite Chan and Chris Tucker. Sanada had a starring role in The City of Your Final Destination with Anthony Hopkins and Laura Linney, which reunited him with director James Ivory.
Hiro recently did an arc on the hit ABC freshman series, Revenge where he plays Satoshi Takeda, Emily's (Emily Van Camp) mentor and spiritual advisor who offers to her the manual to life but explains to her the caution that comes with it. Though requested, Hiroyuki was unavailable to return for more episodes.
Famke Janssen (Jean Grey) is a multi-award-winning actress, who recently made her directorial debut with Bringing Up Bobby, which she also wrote. The movie stars Milla Jovovich, Bill Pullman, Marcia Cross, Rory Cochrane and Spencer List.
Janssen originated the role of Lenore in 2008's action thriller Taken, which she reprised in last year's Taken 2. She top-lined Jonathan Sanger's 100 Feet, which shot in Budapest; Jean-Paul Salomé's The Chameleon; and the drama Down the Shore alongside James Gandolfini. She starred opposite Jeremy Renner in Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters for Paramount.
Janssen starred in the independent film The Wackness, opposite Ben Kingsley, which premiered at the Sundance Festival in January 2008. She played the character of Jean Grey in three blockbuster X-Men films. The first two were directed by Bryan Singer and the third by Brett Ratner. The films' all-star casts include Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, James Marsden and Anna Paquin.
Janssen received a Saturn Award for best supporting actress forX-Men: The Last Stand. She was awarded with Special Jury Best Actress Prize at Hamptons Film Festival for her work in Turn the River. In 2006, Janssen appeared in the independent film The Ten, which premiered at Sundance in January 2007. That same year, she filmed the independent film The Treatment opposite Ian Holm.
Janssen was awarded with the Golden Starfish Award for Career Achievement in Acting at the Hamptons Film Festival and the Susan B. Anthony 'Failure is Impossible' Award at the High Falls Film Festival. Janssen had a recurring role on the FX original drama series Nip/Tuck, for which she received a Movieline Breakthrough Award.
Janssen starred in Hide and Seek, a psychological suspense thriller, opposite Robert DeNiro and Dakota Fanning; Eulogy, which premiered at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival; and opposite Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson in I Spy for director Betty Thomas.
She starred in Gary Fleder's thriller Don't Say a Word opposite Michael Douglas and in Jon Favreau's Made. Janssen earned critical-acclaim for her star-making performance opposite Favreau in Valerie Breiman's Love and Sex, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2000.
Previous credits include William Malone's House on Haunted Hill opposite Geoffrey Rush, Robert Rodriguez's The Faculty, John Dahl's Rounders opposite Edward Norton and Matt Damon and Woody Allen's Celebrity, opposite Kenneth Branagh and Leonardo DiCaprio. Additional credits include Stephen Sommers' Deep Rising for Disney and Robert Altman's The Gingerbread Man, in which she starred opposite Kenneth Branagh and Robert Downey, Jr.
Janssen played a lower-class Irish-American Bostonian in Ted Demme's Monument Avenue opposite Martin Sheen and Billy Crudup. She starred in John Irvin's City of Industry opposite Harvey Keitel.
Janssen's big screen breakthrough came when she starred as the lasciviously lethal assassin, Xenia Onatopp, in the James Bond mega-hit GoldenEye. Born in Holland, Janssen moved to the United States, where she now resides. She majored in writing and literature at Columbia and studied stagecraft with Harold Guskin.
Will Yun Lee (Harada) is an incredible talent on both the big and small screens and is rapidly establishing himself as an action movie star.
Lee was seen starring as Captain Lo, the villain in the MGM feature Red Dawn, sharing the screen with Chris Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson. The movie, directed by Dan Bradley, tells the story of a town in Washington State that awakens to the surreal sight of foreign paratroopers dropping from the sky as the town becomes the initial target of a U.S. invasion. Determined to fight back, a group of young patriots seek refuge in the surrounding woods, training and reorganizing themselves into a small band of guerilla fighters. Inspired by their high school mascot, they call themselves The Wolverines as they band together to protect one another, liberate their town from its captors and take back their freedom.
Lee was also just seen in Sony's Total Recall reboot with Colin Farrell and Kate Beckinsale, in Lionsgate's 3D dance feature Cobu 3D and on CBS's hit series Hawaii Five-0. Additionally, Lee has completed the upcoming video game Sleeping Dogs -- an open-world "cop drama" set in Hong Kong. The game puts players in the boots of Wei Shen (Lee), an undercover police officer fighting through the seedy criminal underworld of the sprawling city. The cast involves high calibre actors, including Emma Stone, Tom Wilkinson and Lucy Liu. Sleeping Dogs is under the Square Enix banner (Tomb Raider, Final Fantasy, Hitman) of United Front Games.
Lee's additional feature credits include the Marvel/Fox action flick Elektra, James Bond's Die Another Day and Torque for Warner Bros. and the independent features 5 Star Day with Cam Gigandet, Inferno's King of Fighters with Maggie Q, the Chinese feature Far Away Eyes, Oka Amerikee! and Where the Road Meets the Sun with Eric Mabius. Lee also starred in the critically acclaimed HBO/BBC film Tsunami: The Aftermath alongside Tim Roth, Sophie Okonedo, Toni Collette and Chiwetel Ejiofor and in the Emmy nominated F/X mini-series Thief.
Will Yun Lee was born in Arlington, Virginia. Raised by extended family and parents who emigrated from Korea, Lee found himself moving all over the U.S., from the tough Bronx streets to the idyllic Hawaiian beaches. Training in San Francisco under his father, a Tae Kwon Do Grandmaster, Lee also became an accomplished martial artist and won an athletic scholarship to the University of California at Berkeley. While there, Lee began studying acting, as well as working at the East Bay Asian Youth Centre, where he taught at-risk teens, a cause which continues to be important to him.
After landing a role in Nash Bridges, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting full time. Guest-starring roles in series such as Profiler and Brimstone led to lead roles in The Disciples for UPN, What's Cooking and TNT's hit series Witchblade.
Rila Fukushima (Yukio) is a Japanese fashion model and actress. Originally attempting to secure a position as a model agent at a Tokyo agency, she was instead persuaded to model and Rila's early career consisted of bookings for various commercial and editorial clients in Tokyo. After Rila made the big move to relocate herself to New York in 2003, she signed with Trump Models and the booking for the S/S 2004 D&G campaign immediately launched her career to the international level and has since modeled for multitude of labels and high-end brands in various print and motion media advertising campaigns. Rila has also starred in several music videos, notably in Lenny Kravitz's Where Are We Runnin' and Ben Taylor's Wicked Way videos.
In 2011, Rila turned her attention to acting and moved back to Tokyo. Rila still highly popular in the fashion scene, runs a fashion blog selected as one of the five fashion icons in Japan reporting the current fashion trend/news on Ultrabloggers.jp
Tao Okamoto (Mariko) is a Japanese native, born in the Chiba prefecture in Japan. She made her debut in modeling at 14 years old and studied high school in the UK.
Okamoto's modeling career took her to Paris in 2006 and then in 2009 she made the move to New York to focus on her runway career where she captures the spotlight from the world-wide fashion industry. In November 2010 Okamoto was awarded the Vogue Nippon 'Woman of the Year' and is currently the only Japanese top model to represent Japan in the fashion world.
Okamoto actively participates in charity and after an East Japan earthquake she offered her support from New York City, contributing to holding a charity bazaar with all proceeds contributed to grief-stricken areas. The Wolverine is Okamoto's first feature film.
Svetlana Khodchenkova (Viper) was born in Moscow. After high school, she enrolled at the Institute of Economics, where she was a top student. After finishing her second year of courses, she left to pursue an acting career and entered the Higher Theatre School. During her first year there, she drew the attention of the casting director for the famous Russian director Stanislav Govorukhin.
Invited to audition with Mr. Govorukhin, she was cast in the lead role of his feature film Bless the Woman, based on the novel by Irina Grekova. The movie was immensely popular and she earned a Nika Award (Russia's Academy Awards equivalent) for her performance. Ever since, Ms. Khodchenkova has remained one of Russia's busiest actresses, starring in films and television and working in the theater.
She soon reunited with Stanislav Govorukhin for another feature, Not by Bread Alone. She has since starred in such films as Waldemar Krzystek's Little Moscow, for which she was named Best Actress at the 2009 Polish Film Festival; Pavel Sanayev's Kilometer Zero; the two hit Love in the City movies directed by Marius Balchunas; Sarik Andreasyan's Office Romance - Our Time; and, most recently, Karen Oganesyan's Five Brides.
Among her miniseries credits are starring roles in Last Reproduction and Sergej Popov's The Icon Hunters. Also for television, Khodchenkova has played the lead roles in the series Talisman of Love and Method Lavrov.
Haruhiko Yamanouchi (Yashida) is one of the most experienced cast members, with a strong background in Japanese and American film, television and theatre. He was born in Tokyo, Japan on 20 April, 1946 and graduated from the University of Foreign Affairs in his home town, specializing in Anglo-American language and literature.
Yamanouchi's skills in acting, mime and dance were developed during his time at university and in London, where he lived from 1973-75. He studied mime with Jack Trager, Ronald Wilson and Lindsay Kemp and Indian dance with Surya Kumari before joining The Red Buddha Theatre directed by Stomu Yamashta and performing at the Round House, Piccadilly Theatre and touring Europe. In 1975 he settles in Rome, Italy and continued his career in performance as mime, then actor, choreographer, film-actor, dubbing actor, director, acting trainer. Yamanouchi became an Italian citizen in 1992 and currently his main activities are acting in films, dubbing, translating books and writing essays.
Career highlights have included roles in feature films Life Aquatic (2004) directed by Wes Anderson and Peter Weir's The Way Back (2010).