This might be the last stand for the X-Men, but it's only the beginning for Wolverine.
With X-Men: The Last Stand, the third and presumably final installment in Marvel's blockbuster mutant trilogy, on track to be one of the biggest films of 2006, 20th Century Fox is finally ready to sink its teeth into its hugely anticipated Wolverine spinoff.
Earlier this week, Hugh Jackman surprised conventioneers at the Cine Expo international exhibitors conference in Amsterdam by sending a videotaped message touting plans to reprise his role as Logan, the brooding razor-clawed antihero, in his own adventure projected to hit the big screen in 2007. (Jackman sent the tape from his native Australia, where he recently returned for Nicole Kidman's wedding last weekend.)
Fox, however, has since reined in those expectations--a studio rep says the film is in the early stages of preproduction and, due in part to Jackman's busy schedule and the lack of a director, won't likely unspool until 2008.
The Wolverine project has been gestating at Fox since 2004, when the studio inked a seven-figure deal with Troy scribe David Benioff to write a screenplay based on his pitch to studio executives, X-Men producer Lauren Shuler Donner and Marvel Studios chief Avi Arad. Fox is hoping the film will launch its own franchise.
Before he gets ready for another go-round as the hirsute cigar-chomping comic book character that made him famous, Jackman will first star with Kidman in Baz Luhrmann's Gone with the Wind-style Oz-based romantic epic scheduled to begin shooting Down Under early next year.
The Tony winner is also attached to play a young boy's imaginary friend in the musical fantasy If You Could See Me Now.
Jackman, 37, recently lent his voice to Wolverine for Activision's X-Men: The Official Game. It's one of several vocal roles for the actor, who plays Roddy the mouse in DreamWorks and Aardman Animation's upcoming feature 'toon Flushed Away and Memphis the Penguin in Warner Bros.' CGI comedy Happy Feet.
Aside from his cartoon work, Jackman will appear in two other films slated for this year. He will face off against rival magician Christian Bale in Christopher Nolan's period drama, The Prestige, and play an aristocrat who gets hot and heavy with Scarlett Johansson in Woody Allen's latest, Scoop.
X-Men: The Last Stand, billed as the last chapter in the X-Men saga (a surprise clip at the end of the credits leaves open the option for another sequel), grossed $120.1 million domestically when it opened over the Memorial Day weekend. Its total North American ticket sales are approaching $225 million, making it Fox's biggest hit of the summer, and likely the year.