Hugh Jackman Beat Me Up in 'X-Men': Stuntman Recalls Long Hours, Swollen Hands and Director He Called "God"

Kevin Rushton spent long days on the set for the 2000 film to get Wolverine's introduction to the world just right.
Kevin Rushton (left) and Hugh Jackman in 'X-Men'

Stuntman Kevin Rushton has performed in dozens of films, but will forever be tied to a pair of crucial scenes in 2000's X-Men that introduced an unknown Australian actor to the world. The scenes saw Rushton and Hugh Jackman's Wolverine go toe-to-toe in a cage fight, and it was almost as painful to shoot as it looks. With Logan, Jackman's ninth and final appearance as the character, hitting theaters Friday, Rushton is looking back on the memorable scenes.

It took about five or six auditions. The scene was originally going to be a lot bigger, with six or eight stunt thugs in the fight with Wolverine. Then it got whittled down, whittled down, whittled down. They cut it down to just one guy with him in the cage. The day of the final audition, I had kidney stones. I was in so much pain, I thought, "Maybe I won’t get it." 

A week or two later, I'm on set in Toronto, fighting Hugh Jackman. It was me and him the whole time. He didn't have a stuntman in those scenes. We were pretty sore. Our hands were swollen like crazy. There was one point when our hands collide — and our hands were the size of balloons by the end of it.

They were long days.

When we got to the bar scene, we started adding in the claws. We were there 15 hours, just trying to get that one piece, where he's pinned me against the pole and pulls his claws out the first time and then cuts the shotgun in half.

I remember director Bryan Singer, we used to call him God. He’d have the microphone and we’d hear him from the speakers. We didn’t see him very often. Sometimes, he’d walk out and you realize he's this little guy, this kid. While we were shooting the fight, he'd yell, "Hit him harder. Hit him a little harder! I want your hands exploding!"  

It’s hard to keep your composure, or keep happy during long days. Which is another thing I found when you are with Hugh: He was just happy the whole time. He trained really hard for it. It was one of his first big films. When I saw him five years later when we were doing X-Men: The Last Stand, I thought "Holy crap man, you never stopped!" He was huge.

For The Last Stand, we were in Vancouver and he went, "Hey! I know you!" and gave me a hug. He was a big star by then, but he was the same person that I’d met in Toronto the first time we stepped through every minute of our fight. I was on The Last Stand for almost two months, and he was just a gentleman to everybody. We had some long nights and long hours and miserable weather — and he never teetered off of being the nice person from day one. It was a highlight for me in my 30 years.

On my last day on the first X-Men, he signed an autographed picture for my kid. He said, "Hopefully I’ll see you again." And it ended up happening. He gave me another on The Last Stand. I hated asking for them, but I got them. My kids love them.