TEMPE, Arizona — Wolverine is a rage-fueled, cranky mutant who prefers to work alone; Hugh Jackman couldn't possibly be more the opposite. On Monday, however, both could be found in Arizona riding a motorcycle into an action-packed "X-Men" moment.
"I've played this character for about nine years; I love the character," said Jackman, who arrived to the "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" world premiere with great fanfare while riding a motorcycle into action, just like his claw-bearing mutant does in the flick. "[I] wanted to show the movie first to the most passionate X-Men and Wolverine fans, so we put a competition out online, and Tempe, Arizona, won. And I'll tell you: These guys are passionate — they slept out two nights in a row [to get tickets]. Isn't it the coolest thing?"
To celebrate this weekend's opening of "Origins," Jackman devised a contest that had cities all across America creating Web sites and posting videos on YouTube. Tempe narrowly defeated Davis, California, and the festivities swept into a massive local shopping mall. A marching band kicked off the confetti-heavy event, the jovial mayor handed Jackman a placard that gave him lifetime parking privileges anywhere in the city, and a gaggle of giggling high school cheerleaders swarmed Ryan Reynolds for a photo.
"This thing outranks every single friggin' Hollywood or New York premiere they've ever had," grinned Reynolds, moments before one of the cheerleaders could be heard bragging to her friends "I touched his butt!" "It's a nice crowd. You jump into the crowds in L.A. and New York, and you're liable to come out without a cell phone or a wallet. But here, they're very sweet, they're very kind ... these people are amped."
While random celebrities such as Alice Cooper, Matt Leinart and recently ousted "American Idol" contestant Scott MacIntyre walked the lengthy red carpet, the film's stars addressed concerns about enemies that had posed a last-minute threat to Wolverine's spinoff film: The just-breaking news that the swine flu had canceled its Mexico City premiere and the much-publicized piracy of the flick.
"This is a summer, go-to-the-movies joint," explained Will.I.Am, who plays teleporting mutant John Wraith in the comic book flick. "The cats that saw it on the Internet know that's not the way to see it. You need to sit in a big theater, get wrapped in the whole world, with the right sound, the right effects and the right environment. I don't think the [leak to the] Internet is going to play a big role on how it performs."
Judging by the enthusiasm of the fans at the Tempe world premiere, Wolverine will slice through his new enemies just as easily as he has so many evil mutants over the years — and if the movie is a hit, Jackman promised there will be more Wolverine to come.
"I'd like to do it; I love the character," the actor said of possible sequels. "I think a lot will depend on what happens this weekend. We'll see if people want to see the story."
Check out everything we've got on "X-Men Origins: Wolverine."
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