Saying Goodbye to the Superhero Celebrity

By  · Published on March 3rd, 2017

A look back at some of the more memorable fan encounters during Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine run.

This weekend, Hugh Jackman will pop his claws for the very last time in the standalone Wolverine movie Logan. With supporting performances from longtime costar Patrick Stewart and newcomer Dafne Keen, Jackman is all set to say goodbye to his beloved character, passing off the rubber knuckle knives an pointy hair tufts to the next generation of superhero actors. It’s a bittersweet moment for most fans; over the course of both good and bad Wolverine movies, Jackman has earn the trust and admiration of anyone who once doubted he was the wrong actor for the part.

Of course, there are plenty of reasons why Jackman might enjoy being retired from the character, too. No more Twitter wars with Ryan Reynolds. No more treating carbohydrates like they’re a dirty word. No more press junkets where every conversation is inevitably steered towards questions about his upcoming X-Men sequels. No more having to run your schedule by 20th Century Fox every time you want to spend a few months on Broadway. And, most importantly, no more unwelcome fan encounters.

Well, alright, that last one probably won’t happen, but at least Jackman can cross his fingers for a marked decrease in fan encounters going forward. By all accounts, Jackman is one of the good ones, an actor who has embraced both his legacy as Wolverine and the legions of comic book fans who helped carry him to the top of Hollywood. But with great power comes great approachability, and flipping through nearly two decades of Jackman interviews and articles shows that there has been no shortage of oddball encounters with people who loved his take on Wolverine. Here are a few of my favorites:

– In 2000, before his participation in the ­X-Men movie had even been finalized, Jackman was confronted with the type of fandom that would dog him for the next seventeen years. Jackman told the Victoria Times-Colonist about an over-zealous TSA agent who put the entire customs process on hold until Jackman had signed an autograph. When Jackman made a joke about not jinxing the audition, the agent was firm, and the actor eventually signed just to finish the customs process.

– That same year, Jackman described an awkward roundtable interview with science-fiction writers to the Cincinnati Post. According to the actor, Jackman sat down and introduced himself, only to be met with a wall of silence. “And a guy goes, ‘Uh, we know. We’re sorry, but we’ve waited 30 years to meet Wolverine. You’re Wolverine,’” Jackman recalled. “And they all had this look on their face. It was spooky.”

– In 2002, after the success of the first film, Jackman knew he had made it to the top of Hollywood when strangers would ask for his autograph despite clearly not knowing who he was. Jackman had spent the holidays in New York City that year and was suddenly mobbed by a group of tourists. “I heard people say: `Who is he . . I don’t know . . . just video him,’” Jackman told Australian publication News Limited. “People came up asking for my autograph: `Sign this . . . who are you?’”

– Perhaps the best encounter came from a 2006 interview in The Daily Mirror. Jackman recalled the first time he went to Bobby’s Restaurant in New York City and was told by a waiter that the matre d’ was a huge fan of the films. It took the man a few minutes to work up the courage to approach Jackman, but when he finally did, Jackman was shocked to discover the man had a Wolverine tattoo across his entire back. “I say, ‘Oh, you’re a fan?’ Jackman recalled, “He goes, ‘Fan?’ and takes off his top in the middle of the restaurant.”

– In 2013, a chance encounter with Hugh Jackman in New York City led Inc. editor Jeff Haden to write an entire article on the psychology of first impressions. In the article, Haden recalls the time that Jackman had flagged a taxi for him outside Central Park and why it had turned the author into a fan of his for life. Jackman hadn’t tried to put on a false charm, Haden noted, but had instead “acted as if, for those three minutes, I was the most important person in the world.”

– Of course, not all fan encounters were harmless or positive. Also in 2013, a woman was arrested for confronting Jackman in his New York City gym and throwing a razor of her own pubic hair at the actor. According to TMZ, this was not even the first time that this woman had approached Jackman, previously confronting the actor “at his home and his daughter’s school.”

– Some fan encounters have even been folded into the marketing for Jackman’s solo films. Just this past month, The Hollywood Reporter covered the story of Clayton Spencer, a North Carolina native who happened to bump into Hugh Jackman at a Quizno’s in South Korea. When Spencer shared his encounter with Jackman on Reddit, the studio took notice, flying Spencer out to New York City for the premiere of Logan and a quiet sit-down with Jackman himself.

So there you have it. Being one of Hollywood’s most recognizable superheroes does come with the occasional odd encounter, and now that Jackman is back to just being a regular actor and occasional Broadway star, he might actually be able to wander the streets of New York without being the subject of awkward interactions and articles. But it’s worth noting that we aren’t just losing Jackman’s take on the character, we’re also – very much so for the better – losing Jackman’s relevancy as a blind item. Logan might prove that being a superhero isn’t just a young person’s game, but being a superhero celebrity? There’s no shame in leaving that particular burden to the Tom Hollands of the world.

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Matthew Monagle is an Austin-based film and culture critic. His work has appeared in a true hodgepodge of regional and national film publications. He is also the editor and co-founder of Certified Forgotten, an independent horror publication. Follow him on Twitter at @labsplice. (He/Him)