"I always like to say that Logan is a good guy, but he's never a nice guy, and that's always refreshing for me," said Jackman, who spoke with the Daily News on Wednesday.
It's Jackman's sixth go-round with the "X-Men" character, and he's working with director James Mangold, his collaborator years ago on the very un-Logan-like "Kate and Leopold."
"Kate and Leopold?"
If Jackman had any doubts about Mangold, they were erased when the director tossed him the "Wolverine" script, scrawled with the words "everything I know dies." Mangold then went on at length to talk about how he wanted to model the movie after "The Outlaw Josey Wales," the story of a man who, like Logan, loses everything he cares about, and looks for a reason to go on living.
"We wanted a real break from the other 'X-Men' movies. And this is something tonally that's completely different, something that is its own, stand-alone movie, and something that is way more intimate. It's much closer to the vision I had of the character 13 years ago."
Jackman was a huge Eastwood/Wales fan, so he loved the idea, and of course, like Mangold, he's aware of the affinity between the Western and the samurai movie (Hollywood has a long tradition of turning movies like "The Seven Samurai" into "The Magnificent Seven").
"The Wolverine" draws loosely from a venerated Chris Claremont/Frank Miller comic book story line that finds Logan in Japan, where much of the movie was shot, but it ditches many of the other mutant "X-Men" characters for a simpler story arc, focused on Logan.
As Mangold has said elsewhere, when you're making a Clint Eastwood movie, you don't need more than one Clint Eastwood.
It begs the question, though, as to whether the changes will be too radical for the die-hard fans who form the base of the franchise.
"I think people are going to love the fact that we draw from those samurai-movie traditions, that we make so much visual use of the Japanese setting. It's a visual medium, and it makes for a thoroughly new experience. I think the fans in the end will like that," Jackman said.
There's plenty of action, he said, but it's handled differently in "The Wolverine."
"In the great samurai movies, so much of what makes the action scenes so special is what happens before the violence - those moments of elongated tension as the fuse is burning down. And, by the way, that's always the way I've played Logan, as the burning fuse, the coiled spring, always about to explode. That's why I think this is such a great juxtaposition," he said.
And the continuation of a pretty good year for the versatile Jackman, coming off the critical and commercial success of "Les Miserables."
"It's been a pretty amazing year. I waited a long time for 'Les Miz,' and it finally happened, and I've been with this character for 13 years, and I'm as happy with the experience now as I've ever been," he said.
Pretty weird, though, going from "Les Miz" to Les Mutants.
"You know, the characters are actually similar in some ways," he said. "Very much haunted by the past, living with the weight of the past on their shoulders."
And, I offered, they want nothing more than to be left alone. That must surely be an easy emotion for Jackson to play, since he has to routinely go on TV to answer nosy questions about his personal life.
"There is a certain amount of wish fulfillment there," he laughs. "I'm really much more of an introvert than people imagine."
His next co-star, Philadelphia native Maria Bello (in the forthcoming "Prisoners"), is not so much of an introvert.
"Wow," Jackman said, brightening. "She's a straight shooter, that one. But just adorable, and of course a brilliant actress. You should all be proud of her there."