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Quitting a longtime job is often a complicated process, but giving up an iconic role that you have spent almost two decades of your life inhabiting is something else altogether. However, that is precisely what Hugh Jackman did when he left the X-Men franchise after the release of James Mangold's Logan, and it sounds like the decision to walk away gave him the jolt of artistic energy and enthusiasm that he needed to make it work. In fact, Jackman recently opened up about the moment he made his decision and explained:
The moment I had the thought, I was super charged, super excited, absolutely sure I wouldn't play it again and very nervous, because it's 17 years.
A significant portion of Hugh Jackman's decision to leave Wolverine behind stemmed from his desire to exit the X-Men franchise with some creative gas left in the tank. The actor has spoken about his talk with Jerry Seinfeld prior to making the decision, and the comedian's advice to him about quitting was rooted in the belief that it is better to walk away before overstaying your welcome in a given project. The folks behind Seinfeld ended that series on their own terms, the way they wanted to conclude it, and Hugh Jackman similarly used Logan to give Wolverine the creatively satisfying and energizing ending that he wanted to see for his beloved anti-hero.
Elsewhere in his appearance on Variety's Actors on Actors show (alongside Aquaman actor Willem Dafoe), Hugh Jackman explained that a big part of his decision to walk away from Wolverine involved envisioning a dark and grim movie in the spirit of The Wrestler or Unforgiven. The actor recounted a conversation he had with his wife after deciding to leave and explained:
I went home and I said to Deb on my way home in a cab, I said, 'This is the last one.' She goes, 'What?' I said, 'I just know this is the last one.' And I woke up the next morning with this very strong idea, which Jim Mangold and I had been working on, of treating it not like a comic book movie in any way. Treating him not like a superhero, but as a human being who's lived a life of violence. And let's make a movie about the ramifications of violence.
If you have seen Logan, then you already know that the movie does not shy away from every aspect of violence in its creation of a hard-R world. The film looks like it may be poised to become an instant classic in the superhero movie genre, and it seems safe to say that Hugh Jackman went out on a high note.