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X-Citement Builds for Wolverine Spinoff

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X-Men Origins: Wolverine may be the solo film debut of everyone’s favorite cantankerous clawed Canuck, but this flick is hardly a one- mutant show. A slew of new casting announcements over the last several weeks shed some light on just who will be joining Logan in this X-Men prequel. Set 17 years prior to Bryan Singer’s 2000 original, Wolverine promises to delve deeper into the character’s past and to further explore his experience in the mysterious Weapon X paramilitary program. Directed by Gavin Hood, Wolverine is slated for a May 1, 2009 release date.

When reports began circulating that there would be a prequel to X-Men focused solely on Wolverine, the one question on every fan’s mind was whether or not Hugh Jackman would be reprising his role. Thankfully, Jackman was more than happy to once again don Logan’s signature sideburns.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a Wolverine solo film without his arch-nemesis Sabretooth. While the character was portrayed by pro wrestler Tyler Mane in the original film, this time around Victor Creed will be played by Liev Schreiber, who audiences may recognize from films such as Scream (1996), Hamlet (2000) and The Sum of All Fears (2002). The character’s role in the original X-Men film was minimal, reduced to a few grunts and growls between fight scenes. However, casting Schreiber in the role may mean that Sabretooth will be the calculating adversary fans wish they’d gotten in the Singer film.

Another familiar face returning to the series—albeit far younger this time—is William Stryker, who was portrayed by Brian Cox in X2: X-Men United (2003). The bulk of that sequel concerned Wolverine trying to piece together his mysterious and violent past, bringing him face-to-face with the mutant-hating Weapon X mastermind who gave him his indestructible adamantium skeleton. The younger Stryker will be played by Danny Huston, who recently appeared in another comic book adaptation, 30 Days of Night.

As the mutant lineup expanded with each sequel, most fans kept wondering when Gambit would finally make an appearance. While we ended up with relative unknowns such as Leech and Siryn by the time 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand hit theaters, it took a spinoff for Remy LeBeau to make his way into film continuity. A favorite since he was introduced by Chris Claremont and Jim Lee in Uncanny X-Men # 266 in 1990, Gambit will be played by Friday Night Lights’ Taylor Kitsch. While the character’s role in this film is unclear at this time, fans will be encouraged to know that Kitsch has reportedly signed a three-picture deal, meaning that we will be seeing plenty of the card-throwing Cajun in future films.

Another major casting announcement was that the "Merc with a Mouth" Deadpool would be played by Ryan Reynolds. Reynolds, no stranger to Marvel adaptations, appeared in the poorly received Blade: Trinity in 2004 but is better known for his roles in comedic films such as National Lampoon’s Van Wilder (2002) and Just Friends (2005). Deadpool, infamous for his self-aware humor and frequent breaking of the fourth wall, is also a product of the Weapon X program. In comic book continuity, the masked assassin owes Wolverine his life, as it was Logan’s healing factor that saved him from cancer.

Other major casting announcements include Lynn Collins, Black Eyed Peas rapper Will.i.am and Daniel Henney as Weapon X operatives Silver Fox, John Wraith and Agent Zero. A more surprising confirmation came in the form of Lord of the Rings and Lost star Dominic Monaghan as Barnell Bohusk. While Variety reported in February that he is "a mysterious character from Wolverine’s past who has the ability to manipulate energy and electricity," readers of New X-Men and Exiles recognize Bohusk as Beak, a mutant with a bird-like appearance, a hollow bone structure and keen eyesight. Whether or not they’ve completely retooled this somewhat obscure character’s powers and abilities in the translation to the screen has not yet been revealed.

Fans will be pleased to know that Wolverine has already begun principal photography in New Zealand and Sydney, Australia, and more announcements—casting or otherwise—are sure to spring up over the next several months. However, if you can’t wait until next May for your Wolverine fix, a new animated series Wolverine and the X-Men is set to air later this year.

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