Any true X-Men comic book aficionados will know that Wolverine has donned a vast number of costumes over the years. Yet the getup most associated with him is, of course, that yellow and blue ensemble and its accompanying mask. But when it came to the live-action movie series, the character played by Hugh Jackman never sported this legendary suit. And it turns out that there was a very important reason for this decision.
You might struggle to imagine it nowadays, but there was once a time when Wolverine wasn’t totally associated with Hugh Jackman. In fact, people were skeptical when the Australian was first announced as the person who’d bring the character to life. The actor, it was claimed, was taller than he should’ve been. Jackman was also apparently too good-looking for the role, according to the Goliath website.
But all the cynics were put firmly in their place when X-Men reached theaters in 2000. Jackman’s performance was a hit – ultimately ensuring that he’d continue to play Wolverine for almost 20 more years. Yes, 2017 would see him perform the role for the final time in Logan.
Taking into account all the cameo appearances he’s made, Jackman has shown up as Wolverine in 11 different films. Yet across all these movies, he was never once seen wearing the famous costume from the comic books. Naturally, some people felt let down by this, but it wasn’t a decision taken lightly.
Logan was the last chance to see Jackman wear the yellow and blue costume. But the film didn’t even come close to letting that happen. Behind the scenes, though, it turns out that the filmmakers really had given it some thought. Though unfortunately for comic book fans, they decided to keep the character out of his colorful spandex.
In addition to Jackman, perhaps the most important creative force behind Logan was James Mangold. As the film’s writer and director, he knows better than anyone why Wolverine didn’t show up in the costume. Mangold has spoken publicly about this decision, and even though some people found it disappointing, his reasons do arguably make sense.
The character of Wolverine has a long and complicated history. He was brought to life by artist John Romita Sr. and writer Len Wein for Marvel Comics. The pair envisioned a man with claws jutting from his knuckles, who could quickly recover from any wounds he sustained. The character was then developed and appeared properly for the first time in the 181st issue of The Incredible Hulk comic in 1974.
The character of Wolverine – or Logan, as he’s otherwise known – is from Canada. This wasn’t an incidental decision, but nor was it a particularly artistic one, either. No, the then-head of Marvel had simply wanted to increase comic book sales in the North American country.
Wolverine was characterized as a fearsome individual – a person who could prove deadly to his enemies. Yet this ruthlessness wasn’t necessarily expressed through his brightly colored yellow and blue outfit. Even so, it was definitely an eye-catching costume. And it’s still instantly recognizable decades after it first appeared in print.
Over the years, various Marvel comic books have fleshed out Wolverine’s story further. In the late ’70s we learned that Logan possessed a power that allowed him to recover from injuries quickly. It was this ability that led to his skeleton being covered in adamantium – an unbreakable metal that we can see jutting from his knuckles.
At the turn of the 1980s the comics then started to explore other aspects of Wolverine’s past – paying particular attention to his connection to Japan. A series known simply as Wolverine hit the shelves in 1982, and it followed the character’s exploits in the Asian country. They were also designed by Frank Miller, who is one of the most acclaimed comic artists of his generation.
Then in the early ’90s we finally learned exactly how Wolverine’s insides came to be coated in adamantium. This was a part of a storyline called “Weapon X,” which was released in 1991. This popular tale gave us a greater sense of the character and the things he’d endured.
Of course, the X-Men didn’t just stay confined to the pages of comic books. Cartoon TV shows eventually started to come out – with perhaps the most famous being X-Men: The Animated Series. Among other things, the Fox Kids Network show cemented the image of Wolverine dressed in yellow and blue spandex in many people’s minds.
Later came word that we were going to see the X-Men in a live-action production. This initial eponymous film was set for release in 2000, but its success was far from assured. After all, this was a different era – a time when superhero movies weren’t the lucrative, popular works that they are today.
But any doubts about X-Men turned out to be misplaced, as the film was successful by any metric that mattered. It made money, was loved by audiences and many critics endorsed the flick. Naturally, there were several aspects of the movie that could be highlighted, but perhaps the most important was Hugh Jackman’s performance as Wolverine.
As we know now, Jackman would frequently appear as the character over the years. After X-Men came a couple of sequels – plus a number of Wolverine-focused spinoffs and a few cameos, too. Hugh Jackman and the character had become inseparable from one another. But what you might not know is that things could have turned out very differently.
Jackman actually came close to missing out on the role that would ultimately come to define his career. Somebody else had originally been cast as Wolverine, but things hadn’t worked out. So, the filmmakers ultimately had to look elsewhere – despite the fact that X-Men’s production had already begun, according to Cinema Blend.
But which actor had been offered the role of Wolverine originally? Well, it had actually gone to Mission: Impossible 2 star Dougray Scott. But unfortunately for him, he had picked up an injury while filming the franchise’s second instalment. This worried the X-Men producers, as it suggested he wouldn’t be able to perform the stunts necessary to play Wolverine.
So, the filmmakers opted to look for someone else. And as fate had it, they eventually crossed paths with a relatively unknown Australian actor named Hugh Jackman. Around that time, he had been doing a made-for-TV production of Oklahoma! But despite his extensive experience of stage acting, his movie resumé was otherwise quite thin.
It’s hard to imagine now, but at that time Jackman might’ve seemed like an unlikely choice for Wolverine. In fact, the actor himself hadn’t expected to land the role after he’d auditioned for it. In August 2020 he spoke to Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show to explain what happened.
Jackman remembered, “When I walked into that room, I was pretty sure that I wasn’t playing the role. It was a weird audition because Dougray Scott had the role, and then he got caught up in Mission: Impossible 2. But everyone thought that would get sorted…” He went on, “I think the entire audition was about 20 seconds. It wasn’t much longer.”
Jackman must have made quite the impression during those 20 seconds, though, as he ended up landing the role. And there was no looking back from that point. The character of Wolverine would, of course, turn Jackman into a global superstar. Yet this would’ve been difficult to predict before X-Men first came out.
As Jackman explained to Fallon, “In Hollywood, a mate of mine said to me – who was quite high up in the business – he said, ‘Dude, the word on the street is not good about the movie. No one watches comic-book movies, they’re like dead, that thing’s gone forever. Book another movie before it comes out, just so you’re the lead in a big movie…’”
According to Jackman, people at the time underestimated how popular superheroes were becoming. He said, “No one understood it was the beginning of, like, Comic-Con was a 50,000-person thing. The internet was really just beginning. No one really understood. What they thought was like, a subculture. Comic books [were] actually mainstream, but no one knew that.”
Today, so many of the major releases coming out of Hollywood revolve around brightly dressed, spandex-wearing superheroes. But at the turn of the new millennium, the X-Men producers were wary of presenting characters wearing outfits like that, according to Screen Rant. The worry was that it might have put off mainstream audiences from ever going to see the film.
So, the X-Men appeared in the movie dressed in plain outfits – quite far from how they were illustrated in the comics. In fact, there’s even a scene that references this decision. Wolverine, unhappy with his costume, asks, “You actually go outside in these things?” And Cyclops replies, “What would you prefer? Yellow spandex?”
Well, it turns out that some of you really would’ve preferred Wolverine to wear yellow spandex in the X-Men movies. But across nearly two decades of releases, we were always left disappointed. With the release of Logan, Jackman retired from his role and extinguished all hope of seeing Wolverine in the costume.
There were times, though, when the idea of the character donning the famous outfit was actually considered carefully. And there was even a scene filmed for 2013’s The Wolverine in which we get a glimpse of the mask and gloves. This, sadly, wasn’t a part of the finished movie, but it appeared on the extras of its home release.
The clip shows Jackman’s Wolverine being presented with a case by Rila Fukushima’s character Yukio. He opens it up – revealing the famous mask and gloves that fans had been waiting so long to see. Disappointingly, though, we never actually get to see Wolverine put the gear on.
The next film to feature Wolverine was 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past. And yet again, fans of the yellow costume were disappointed by the character’s getup. Despite the deleted scene from The Wolverine that teased the outfit, it never showed up again. And to add insult to injury, the last movie to feature Jackman’s character didn’t have any superhero apparel at all.
As the writer and director of Logan, James Mangold has accepted responsibility for not allowing Wolverine to wear the classic outfit. In 2017 he spoke to film website Screen Rant about the decision. And though his perspective might be frustrating for some people, it at least shows that he gave it careful consideration.
Mangold reflected, “I always feel a certain contingent of fans who are yearning for [the classic costume]. But the biggest block I’ve had – I’m willing to take the heat for it – is that, I can never get past, being a writer for these movies as well, that Logan is the least narcissistic of all the superheroes, any kind I can think of – Marvel, DC or anywhere else.”
Mangold went on, “What I mean by that is, who puts a special branded outfit on when they do good deeds? And why? The only reason you do it is so you can have some sort of trademarked claim and get credit for what you did. Nothing seems less Wolverine-like than the desire to put on a trademarked outfit – particularly canary yellow – and kind of prance about doing good deeds and have people go, ‘Oh my God! It’s The Wolverine!’”
So, Mangold believed that the yellow costume would’ve contradicted Wolverine’s character as he appeared in the movie series. He said, “I somehow feel that if somehow we ever put Hugh [Jackman] into one of those outfits, people would not be happy. Essentially, it’s something that lives on the page and I’m not sure [it] could live anywhere else.”
But what are Jackson’s thoughts on Wolverine’s classic costume? Well, he offered his two cents on the matter during a 2017 interview with Entertainment Weekly. The star revealed that discussions had taken place regarding the costume, but it ultimately never felt right. He asserted, “I never really thought it was a possibility. I had no idea how the hell it would be done.”
Jackman went on, “It certainly came up in discussion, like, ‘Can we do it? Is there any way?’ Jim [Mangold] always doubted it. In the end, it was a ‘no.’” So, for the sake of the character, Jackman’s tenure as Wolverine ended without the yellow costume ever making a proper appearance.
For his part, though, Jackman is sympathetic to those who were left disappointed by this. He said, “I get what they’re saying and if you could find a really cool way to do it. We flirted with it at one point with The Wolverine – the last one – but we just couldn’t find a way to do it and be in keeping with the tone of the film. Sorry, guys.”
In any case, Logan was a resounding success – demonstrating that superhero movies don’t necessarily require colorful costumes to resonate with audiences. So, will that have an impact on any future releases featuring Wolverine? And if he comes back with another actor playing the role, will he still be dressed in an understated way?
Regardless of how he dresses in future, it does seem certain that Wolverine will eventually return to our screens. That, after all, is part of the superhero cycle these days. Even Jackman seems confident of this, as we can see from a 2017 interview in The New York Times. He said, “The character will go on. Someone else will play it, for sure.”
We’ll just have to wait and see how Wolverine dresses in this yet-to-be-created production. Will the filmmakers opt to keep the character adorned in more realistic clothes? Or will they finally have Wolverine wearing the classic yellow costume? Well, Jame Mangold predicts the latter. Speaking to CBR.com, he said, “I’m sure the next incarnation of the Wolverine will go there.”