LOS ANGELES - Liev Schreiber knew he was going to have to be at his best to stay in step with Hugh Jackman while making “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” And not just as an actor. Both men went on a high-protein diet to add the bulk they needed for the comic-book movie.
Jackman returns to the snarling role of Wolverine that he has played in three previous “X-Men” movies. Schreiber takes on the role of Sabertooth, mutant brother and foe of Wolverine.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston, Will.i.am, Ryan Reynolds
(Fox; US theatrical: 1 May 2009 (General release); UK theatrical: 29 Apr 2009 (General release); 2008)
“X-Men Origins” reunites Jackman and Schreiber, who starred in the 2001 film “Kate & Leopold.”
“Believe it or not, I think I actually was bigger than Hugh in those days,” Schreiber says during an interview Saturday on the 20th Century Fox lot. He and Jackman are seated in front of a huge water-tank prop from the film. “Things have changed over the years. He’s grown substantially as an actor and as a human being in general. The first agenda was getting bigger.”
It wasn’t just the acting voice in his head that told Schreiber he needed to add some muscle mass - the fans let him know. They were almost unanimous in suggesting Schreiber needed more muscle if moviegoers were to believe he was Sabertooth.
“I started working out with Hugh and doing the high-protein diet. Between the two of us, I think we wiped out a whole gene pool of chickens,” Schreiber jokes.
Getting back in fighting shape wasn’t the only concern for Jackman. Not only did he have to take on the role without his familiar “X-Men” co-stars around him, he also had all of the concerns of being a producer of the new movie.
Jackman often found himself asking the cast what they thought of the movie.
“I was nervous about it. In that way, I feel it’s more personal to me. It’s more my baby. I asked all these actors and Gavin Hood, the director, to come on board. So obviously I’m more attached to it. It feels more personal,” Jackman says.
Jackman also faced the dilemma of how to play a character that has already been seen in three movies. That solution started with the script: “Wolverine” traces the character’s life from his pre-Civil War birth to an ill-fated love affair, which gave the character more emotional material.
Jackman wanted to make sure Wolverine had plenty of physical punch. He was told by fans that Wolverine was a little soft in the third “X-Men” movie.
“I agree with them there. What fans love about Wolverine is his more uncompromising approach to life. He’s not always a nice guy. He’s got edge. He’s an anti-hero. And, there’s also a vulnerability in there. There is conflict and battles going on in there,” Jackman says. “I had the chance to explore that more. It’s a little darker. A little rawer. A little tougher and maybe even a little more human.”
Cranking up the emotional elements of the characters was no problem for the actors. Schreiber says anger is the easiest emotion to play. It’s also an easy emotion to leave at the set at the end of the day.
Jackman says playing Wolverine is great therapy.
“You get to exorcise a lot of your demons,” Jackman says. “And then go home feeling very relaxed and happy.”