WHILE THEY WERE shooting Logan, the third solo Wolverine film — following X-men Origins:
Wolverine (2009) and The Wolverine (2013) — the cast had a group outing to see X-men:
Apocalypse. There, Stephen Merchant got his first look at his character, Caliban, on the big screen — but played by another actor, Tómas Lemarquis. “I don’t know how that will upset or offend the die-hard fans who might be frustrated it’s not the same person,” muses Merchant. “He’s more villainous in Apocalypse. He has a German accent there, I think, so whether I’ll end up dubbed into a German accent, I will have to see.”
Since Logan is set some 40 years after the events of Apocalypse, perhaps the character has just evolved. But there’s no question that Merchant’s Caliban is a very different figure. While an ageing Logan (Hugh Jackman) attempts to carve out a living as a limo driver, Caliban is the one who stays in a desolate location, catering to the needs of an ailing Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and hiding away from a hostile world where not a single new mutant has been born for a quarter-century.
“Logan and I snipe and growl at one another quite a lot,” says Merchant, “and I felt it was quite important to show we do sort of care about one another, too. So there’s this idea that I’m cooking and there’s a discussion about what I should be cooking, and I think I’m ironing clothes in another scene, so I’m essentially the housemaid. I’m Wolverine’s housemaid.” And that’s certainly not a job description we ever expected to be filled.
The disparity in Caliban’s characterisation may indeed irritate the more pedantic wing of X-fandom, but it reflects the determination of all involved in Logan to do what felt right for this particular film, without paying too much attention to the series’ increasingly tangled timeline. By setting the film later than even the ‘Happy Mansion’ coda to Days Of Future Past, director James Mangold and star/producer Jackman have given themselves space to tell a very different Wolverine story.
“Jim very much wanted to carve out his own version of things,” is how Merchant puts it. “What intrigued me about this is that it feels like a different flavour. I kept on wondering if James was going to ask me to do some comedy of
some description, but it was never something he encouraged and I was more than happy to not go down that road. We kept Caliban feeling like a world-weary character whose life seems to have been one tough slog.”
Merchant’s biggest challenge, as it turned out, was the character’s baldness. “It was terrible!” he sighs. “I thought there was going to be mollycoddling and some nice ladies would give me a cup of tea and talk me through it like I was having a boob job. Instead it was just two men with some razor-clippers. They sat me there on an old, hard wooden chair and just clipped my hair off. It was all pretty shocking, to be honest. Making this movie has been just an endless string of new experiences for me.”
Old Wolverine, new tricks.
Stephen Merchant goes full cueball as mutant loner Caliban.