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.

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