Wolverine is dead, long live Wolverine.
According to Hugh Jackman, he’s completely done with playing Wolverine. As he has long promised, Logan is his swan song – and a fitting one it is – and he’s off to put his body through considerably less strain for more pleasant roles. The world of comic book movies is a poorer place for his loss, and there will be some – including his Logan director James Mangold – who believe he shouldn’t be recast at all.
Luckily though, Fox aren’t complete idiots. They may have struggled to make a good Fantastic Four movie three times and some of their X-Men releases have been patchy at best, but they know the strength in the Wolverine brand. They know he is their blue chip commodity, and dropping him from the bill would be like Warner Bros putting Batman on ice. It’s just not going to happen.
So what happens next? Does the studio set about trying to find someone who will be able to perform as Hugh Jackman playing Wolverine, for the sake of a smoother transition? Do they go bold and cast against type and reimagine the character? Do they simply promote X-23 to the leading role? (They shouldn’t, she deserves her own movies).
What everything boils down to now is one over-arching, massively important question. Who replaces Jackman as Wolverine?
12. Iwan Rheon
Obviously, the Inhumans casting is rather unfortuitous for anyone who wants to see Game Of Thrones’ best villain Iwan Rheon going berserk as Wolverine, but it might not be entirely fatal. Marvel villains have a habit of dying off, after all, and there’s no saying he’s even necessarily tied in for multiple seasons of the show.
Without all of those logistical issues, Rheon would make an exceptional candidate for Wolverine, provided fans can shake off the ghosts of Ramsay Bolton. He might find himself cast as villains for a while after doing so well in that show, but it’s worth remembering that he started in a more heroic role on Misfits, and experience counts.
It would be far more interesting to see a new Wolverine with more ambiguous morality than Hugh Jackman’s staight-laced grump could really offer once he was moved into his leadership position, and having Rheon’s darker influence in there would offer an entirely different dynamic.
11. Ben Foster
There’s a good case for Ben Foster being the most talented, under-appreciated actor currently working in Hollywood: he is a genre-hopping chameleon, adept with comedy, horror, villainous roles and heroic ones, and he comes with a ready made bubbling fury that is a fundamental part of Wolverine’s genetics.
Like all of his fellow candidates here, he works remarkably well with more intense roles, he’s familiar with dark-sided characters and he has enough charm to keep Wolverine’s anti-heroism just the right side of good. He’d arguably be the best candidate if Fox decide to introduce Wolverine as an antagonist first and then face turn him later. And he deserves an opportunity for a meatier leading man role.
He’s already been in an X-Men movie, of course, but he was horribly miscast – and even more horribly under-used – as Angel in X-Men: The Last Stand. For that alone he deserves another shot as a mutant.
10. Kristofer Hivju
With most of Game Of Thrones’ cast probably coming to the end of their contracts very soon, studios would do well to put them to work to try and capture some of the fandom’s affection for the character roles they’ve just left.
One of the more intriguing figures on the Westeros cast is Kristofer Hivju – Tormund Giantsbane in the show – who could either disappear into Scandinavian dramas for the rest of his career and make a solid living, or play supporting level villains in Hollywood (as he is in the new Fast & Furious). It sounds cruel, but Hollywood knows how to typecast his breed of actor, in a way that will reduce his obvious talent to something like the level of a Jason Statham.
But he could do so much more: his Wilding wildman in Game Of Thrones is a low-key fan favourite, and beyond mighty facial hair, he also boasts the right sort of intensity, physical power and mischievous charm that could make Wolverine the interesting side character he should be relaunched as initially.
9. Jack O’Connell
Having kicked off his career in the excellent British show Skins, Jack O’Connell has gone about cementing his status as one of the UK’s brightest rising stars (even if Money Monster wasn’t quite as good as he would have hoped). His true break-out came with Starred Up, a brutal portrait of modern prison corruption from behind bars.
You can almost see Wolverine’s back-story in Starred Up’s victim-creating: O’Connell’s Eric is as much a prisoner of his own vulnerability and emotional turmoil as he is the cage that holds him. He’s a monster, defined by violence and hewn for its inevitability, but he carries dark mysteries, just as Wolverine does.
O’Connell has proven himself to be particularly adept at that sort of frenetic, intense performance, and if Fox look to cast young, he would make as impressive a candidate as Iwan Rheon.
8. Rory McCann
His relationship with Arya while it lasted was as uneasy and as perversely patriarchal as Wolverine’s relationship with Rogue, and his predilection to violence, despite being surprisingly eloquent given the opportunity could easily have been modelled on Logan.
McCann would be a completely different prospect to the majority of the others on this list, chiefly because of his massive size, but he’s basically already proved that he can play the character, so he’s got to be worth an outside consideration.
7. Aaron Taylor-Johnson
After appearances in both Avengers: Age Of Ultron and two Kick-Ass flicks, Aaron Taylor-Johnson qualifies as something of a veteran of the genre, but he’s never had a role he can get his chops into as well as Wolverine.
Though the Englishman started with more clean-cut roles (even in a film as outrageous as Kick-Ass), he has blossomed into a more interesting character actor more recently, taking on more challenging roles. And you can see from his recent work – particularly in Nocturnal Animals – that he suits darker, more explosive material.
He’d suit an agenda by Fox to introduce a more leading-man-type Wolverine while simultaneously catering to the demons of the character in a darkly charismatic way.
6. Walton Goggins
Anyone even remotely familiar with Walton Goggins’ work will know that he is at his best with intense material that allows him to channel his wilder side. He plays great villains, but he has a sort of off-kilter charisma that works well for anti-heroes too – as The Hateful Eight proved.
He’s also a very gifted actor, perhaps limited more to genre roles because of his look and his predilection for grander characterisation, with a lot of interesting work coming up (not least Three Christs with Peter Dinklage and History series SIX). The physical requirements might appear to be beyond him, but he has some previous, and he’s just stepped into Joe Mangianello’s boots for SIX playing a Seal team leader, so he’s obviously got something about him.
Goggins would be a particularly good choice if Fox decide to introduce Wolverine as a villain initially, and he’d definitely fit the requirement to not have him strong-arm his way into a leadership role again.
5. Trevante Rhodes
Now that Moonlight has picked up a surprising but heart-warming Best Picture victory at the Oscars, all of the talent involved should see their profiles sky-rocket. Barry Jenkins, Naomie Harris, and Mahershala Ali already won’t be shy of offers, but the newer cast members are likely to find their agents are far busier than they’ve ever been.
Trevante Rhodes has now leapt firmly into the Rising Star bracket, with both The Predator and war drama Horse Soldiers (for newcomer director Nicolai Fuglsig) coming in 2018, and there is definitely something in the intensity in his performance as Chiron that suggests he’d translate well to powerful, action-heavy performances.
Fox should steal a march on the other comic book film-makers who will no doubt come sniffing, and strike a blow for progressive characterisation by completely changing Wolverine. No better way to distance themselves from Jackman than to make Wolverine a black man.
4. Jake Gyllenhaal
Gyllenhaal has come a long way since he auditioned to play Christopher Nolan’s Batman. Even then he would probably have come across as too refined and too light-weight to play the character (Christian Bale’s American Psycho history made him the most interesting candidate), but he’s an entirely different actor now.
He’s quietly gone about ascending the Hollywood ladder, making a string of great films since Batman Begins with Brokeback Mountain, Jarhead, Zodiac, Brothers, Source Code, Prisoners, Enemy, Nightcrawler, Southpaw and Nocturnal Animals all wowing. And the thing that keeps improving as he does is his flair for intense roles with a hotline on emotion.
He’s also proved himself able to bulk for roles, and he would suit the wiry, skinned dog look Jackman was sporting at his physical peak for The Wolverine. He might not quite have the cocky charm, but there have been flashes of the necessary bravado before (and it’s not like stage musical star Jackman had a great deal of specific experience when he stepped into the role).
3. Norman Reedus
As he’s so expertly proven in The Walking Dead (and probably Boon Dock Saints too), Reedus has a particular flair for outsider types with the kind of cool that fans lap up. Even when the material hasn’t been up to much, Reedus has fashioned a cult mythology about himself that would suit a new take on Wolverine too.
Imagine him playing Logan as a brusque, cold drifter – the image we were fed of him initially in Bryan Singer’s X-Men – rather than the more heroic leader he would later become in the movie franchise. Wolverine needs to channel his nastier genes again, and that would only work in the hands of an actor who could blur the lines of villainy and still remain likeable.
In the absence of Jon Bernthal thanks to The Punisher, Reedus is the actor most qualified for that particular angle.
2. Joe Mangianello
He might already be ear-marked for Deathstroke in The Batman, but that is absolutely not a certainty at this stage, given the well-publicised issues with that production. Who is to say that Matt Reeves won’t want to start his own story, and that screen test will ultimately end up the only time Mangianello even gets to put the costume on?
Arguably what makes the Magic Mike actor such a good prospect for Wovlerine is the same as why he’d make a good, charismatic Deathstroke: he has the hulking size, he has disarming charm and he has a sort of snark that suits both characters. Though he has superhero good looks, there’s no way he could play a boy scout hero: he’s got anti-hero written all over him, and they don’t come more credible or more challenging than Wolverine.
1. Tom Hardy
Seriously though, who better?
There’s a pretty compelling argument that Tom Hardy could play any comic book character on screen and nail the role. He’d be an intriguing Batman, a psychopathic Joker, an eloquent, violent Riddler, a charming, twinkle-eyed Superman… He’s a transformative actor, after all, whose performances are far more complex than the mumbling hulk he threatened to become around the time he played Bane.
Most interestingly for fans of Wolverine, Hardy has an intangible otherness – a manner like Michael Keaton’s that suggests he’s not quite of this world – which he combines with a Bondian refined accent and mischief in his eyes that would fit Wolverine’s cult anti-hero status. And he’d also fit the size requirements: reclaiming Wolverine’s bulk after Jackman slimmed down somewhat for his later roles.
Obviously he’d look silly in yellow spandex, but so would everyone else on this list, and the most compelling case for his employment as the new Wolverine comes down to his irresistible screen presence, his charisma and his likeability factor even when playing killers. Someone at Fox needs to get the ball rolling on this one immediately.