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The Real Reason Hugh Jackman Left Wolverine

When director Bryan Singer cast a then-mostly unknown Australian-Brit named Hugh Jackman to play the critical role of Wolverine in his 2000 X-Men movie, fan reaction was — putting it nicely — not so good. The actor's towering physical stature and conventional good looks seemed a poor match for the diminutive, brutish mutant, and even Jackman's wife thought the role was "ridiculous" and tried to dissuade him from taking it.

When X-Men finally arrived in theaters, audiences were treated to a snarling, intense portrayal that honored the character's mental and emotional wounds, and Jackman would continue to deliver the goods across eight films, even in uncredited cameos or when the overall picture around him wasn't great. Years later, Jackman's performance in the X-Men film franchise still stands, in an era in which a whole bunch of people have now played on-screen superheroes, as one of the most beloved in any cinematic comics adaptation.

Logan, released in 2017, served as a period on the end of that particular sentence — and while many were sad to see Jackman leave the Wolverine role, it seemed a fitting send-off. Now, in a new interview with The Daily Beast, the actor has opened up a bit about why he left Wolverine's adamantium skeleton behind — and what might have convinced him to stay.

Hugh Jackman's mutant memories

Apparently, landing the part in the first place was no walk in the park for Jackman. He tells The Daily Beast that it took him a full nine months to be offered the role, after auditioning with literally thousands of other hopefuls. X-fans will also remember that the producers only settled on Jackman after original choice Dougray Scott departed the project to work on Mission: Impossible 2, and after Russell Crowe turned it down. In the interview, Jackman seems — charmingly, as is his wont — as flummoxed as anyone that it all worked out the way it did.

So, why did he walk away from Wolverine? It seems he just felt things had run their course. 

"I knew it was the right time to leave the party — not just for me, but for the character," he told The Daily Beast, "It's kind of like, you're on your way home and your friend rings you and goes, 'Oh, dude, a new DJ just came on and the music is awesome, are you going to come back?' And you say, 'Sounds good but... no.'" 

This jibes with his previous statements on the departure, in which he even credited comedian Jerry Seinfeld with telling him to walk away while he still had "something in the tank." It didn't hurt that Jackman's final project in the role was Logan, a film he has previously cited as deeply personally important to him.

The X-factor that might have made a difference

While it does seem like Jackman is entirely comfortable with his decision to sheathe his claws and leave the X-Men franchise behind, there is one thing that, had it transpired earlier, might have convinced him to stay. Asked about the merger between Disney and Fox – which saw the former take control of the latter's film properties, including the X-Men license, and opened the door for the appearance of the world's most famous mutants in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — Jackman waxed wistful. "Honestly... if seven years ago that had happened I'd be like, 'Oh yeah,'" he told The Daily Beast, immediately setting off a wave of regret in a fandom that might have relished the chance to see Jackman go toe-to-toe with the MCU's murderers' row of on-screen talent.

Instead, we'll have to wait and see what new face Kevin Feige will find to fill Jackman's sizable shoes. There's little doubt that plans are being percolated to introduce mutantkind into the MCU, since the X-Men remain some of Marvel's most popular properties, and since doing so might trigger an explosion of fan enthusiasm and box office dollars big enough to make Thanos' snap look like a mild breeze. Feige himself has already been dropping hints that he's planning on it, teasing at the end of his San Diego Comic-Con 2019 presentation, "There's no time left to talk about mutants."

Whither Wolverine?

So, who has the X factor (see what we did there?) to take up Wolverine's yellow spandex? Since the merger, fans have been doing plenty of their own casting, with names like Tom Hardy and Taron Egerton being tossed around. Actor Scott Eastwood of Suicide Squad has expressed interest, telling ScreenRant in 2018 how much he loves the character. There's also the possibility that Dafne Keen could pick up where she left off in Logan, carrying on Jackman's legacy by portraying not the original Wolverine but his genetic daughter, X-23.

Whoever does appear as part of the MCU's X-Men integration will have the full power of Marvel Studios behind them, but will certainly also have a lot to live up to given Jackman's popularity and iconic status. For his part, the actor appears on board with whatever becomes of the character, telling The Daily Beast, "Somebody else will pick it up and run with it. It's too good of a character not to."