Hugh Jackman says The Wolverine will support local world-class film industry
Actor Hugh Jackman says The Wolverine will support and maintain Australia’s world-class film industry after the federal government granted the production approximately $26 million to shoot in the country – more than any other Hollywood film in history.
“I think on the balance sheet side of things it’s a win-win,” Jackman said at Sydney’s Fox Studios Australia, where The Wolverine set is being constructed. He was supported by director James Mangold and Australian prime minister Julia Gillard.
“What you can’t quantify is the skills, is the confidence, is keeping Australia as world-class as we are in filmmaking. Not just in acting but as crews… any industry we can really nurture or encourage – which is about knowledge, is about skills – I think is terrific.”
The production, which is shooting from late-July to the end-of-November, is expected to generate $80 million in local expenditure and create 720 jobs for NSW-based cast and crew, along with opportunities for up to 1200 extras.
While The Wolverine qualified for the 16.5 per cent Location tax offset, the government topped that up with a further grant of $12.8 million in order to secure the production. The total government subsidy of about $25.6 million is the equivalent of an approximate 30 per cent subsidy – the level that the film industry has been lobbying for.
Prime minister Julia Gillard said she recognised the importance of increasing the level of the Location rebate, which is being considered by Arts minister Simon Crean.
“Hugh has certainly spoken to me about the importance of this for getting these big movies – these blockbusters here in Australia,” she said. “It’s something that Minister Crean is working his way through as he deals with our cultural policy.”
The strong Australian dollar has eroded the lure of the 16.5 per cent Location rebate. However, the prime minister said The Wolverine’s $12.8 million grant would help keep highly-skilled people in Australia. “We are at risk of the skill-sets being dispersed around the world and importantly not bringing the next generation through. One thing that is definitely happening here – I’ve met some young people, they are getting to hone their skills, their craft, because this movie is here.”
The federal government is directly paying for $1 in every $3 spent by The Wolverine in Australia. Unlike local films which qualify for the 40 per cent Producer Offset tax rebate (which must pass the significant Australian content test), The Wolverine will not depict Australia to the world (it is largely set in Japan) and has not been created by key local personnel. The production is being made by US studio 20th Century Fox.
Jackman said the typical foreign movie made in Australia spent $100 million in the country and $20 million goes back into tax revenue. “By having them here we really can train so many people within the industry,” he said.
The actor, who first played Wolverine some 12 years ago in X-Men, said the comic-book character remains close to his heart.
“When I saw the script for this and Jim and I got on board – for me I feel like a golfer always looking for the hole in one – and I thought this was the best script we’ve had and this was our chance to make the definitive movie.”
Director James Mangold also rejected recent reports that Jessica Biel was set to play The Viper, but pulled out at the last minute, disrupting the production.
“The story couldn’t be more of a fantasy frankly in terms of what I was reading so it’s kind of, nothing more than a list of people we're considering and still are.”