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When it comes to superhero and comic-book movies, most actors get a free pass with regard to physique. Christian Bale may be pretty lean, but let's face it, most of the muscles are in the Batman suit. The same holds true for Henry Cavill's Man of Steel, as the newest incarnation of Superman now comes complete with a suit sporting a six-pack of latex abs and enhanced biceps. In almost all cases, whether it's Andrew Garfield as Spiderman, Robert Downey, Jr as Iron Man, or Chris Evans as Captain America, it's the suit that makes the physique, not the other way around.

And then there's Wolverine. In the films that feature the most celebrated character in the X-Men universe, Hugh Jackman is on his own when it comes to bringing the big-time muscle and ripped silhouette. At best, his "suit" consists of a skimpy sleeveless tank. Often, he's wearing no shirt at all. Fortunately for Hugh, the man is his own special effects show. In the newest big screen installment in the X-Men canon, The Wolverine, due in theaters on Friday, July 26th, Hugh Jackman's commitment to keeping it real is more in evidence than ever before.

Amazingly, despite his rare musculature, Jackman always sees room for improvement. He has appeared on the big screen six times as Wolverine, and for this most recent performance, he has redoubled his commitment to embodying the conflicted, raging, mutant superhero as a raw, and very real, physical presence.

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"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 has said.  "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."

Hugh Jackman has spoken to us here at ProSource before about his rigorous workout regimen and strict approach to diet. And he has been very honest about the fact that it doesn't always come easily to him, saying, "For me it's hard to put on a lot of muscle, so I have to lift very, very heavy weights, be very careful, and do a lot of stretching." That dedication to fitness and capacity for overcoming adversity have resulted in plenty of well-defined muscle and a ripped-to-the-bone physique, while earning him a large fanbase among bodybuilders and athletes who appreciate his efforts.

A Purely Physical Approach to Hand-to-Hand Combat

Another aspect of Hugh Jackman's Wolverine that distinguishes him from the typical superhero is his approach to hand-to-hand combat. Wolverine may have his impressive metal-alloy adamantium claws bonded to his human skeleton, but his fighting style is very realistic and physically punishing. You won't find Wolverine hovering in mid-air, dispatching villains with heat-ray vision or binding them up in webs. Indeed, until recently, Wolverine's technique could be described as purely no frills and back-to-basics. For this newest blockbuster entry in the Wolverine series, Jackman has revised his philosophy a bit, while maintaining an emphasis on physicality.

"I have always portrayed Wolverine as a street fighter and a pub brawler," Jackman says.  "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 Wolverine 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."  

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James Mangold, the director of The Wolverine, echoes Jackman's commitment to bringing maximum realism to the screen. "One thing that's different about this film," Mangold says, "is that 90 percent of the action has been done entirely by our actors. 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."  

Second unit director and stunt coordinator David M. Leitch (who previously worked on X-Men Origins: Wolverine) is also lavish in his praise of Jackman. "Hugh is one of the most physically talented actors in the business," Leitch says. "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."

The Workout Warrior's Most Eagerly
Anticipated Movie Blockbuster of the Summer

The big-screen debut of Hugh Jackman's The Wolverine has been circled in red on the calendars of dedicated bodybuilders for months already. The guys in the batsuits and capes, blue tights and web-festooned fashions, have had their time in the spotlight. Now it's time for a different kind of superhero to take the stage with big guns provided by countless hours in the gym, not a wardrobe assistant. Look for The Wolverine in theaters everywhere on Friday, July 26th!

What was YOUR favorite blockbuster movie of the summer? Let us know in the comments below!

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