By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca
In a mapless, chaotic universe, it’s kind of reassuring to find a goal, and a campaign, to get behind. Here’s one, and it even has clarity and showbiz sense on its side: Jamie Cavanagh wants to be Wolverine.
Now that Hugh Jackman has retired from his movie alter-ego as the iconic, super-powered, brooding Marvel character, star of X-Men and Avengers, Cavanagh is campaigning Disney to occupy that role in “the inevitable MCU reboot,” as he puts it.
And why not? Start with the Wolverine origin story, and the way it synchronizes with Cavanagh’s own: “My home town is Edmonton, Alberta, Canada” as the multi-faceted Toronto-based actor/ playwright/ director/ comic improviser says in his official candidacy launch on YouTube. And it’s right here in northern Alberta that James Howlett, who would grow up to be Wolverine, was born in the late 19th century. “Initially it was probably because of its remoteness and harshness, the middle-of-nowhere,” Cavanagh concedes. But, hey, amazing things have happened here, as we know.
On the phone from Toronto Cavanagh remembers “a campaign that got a bit of news traction a few years ago to get a Wolverine statue in Churchill Square.” But Cavanagh’s affection for Wolverine goes much farther back. “Since always,” he says. “Ever since I was a kid. He’s the coolest. Great powers. Tough…..”
Theatre audiences here have applauded Cavanagh’s work on stages large and small, including Freewill Shakespeare, Theatre Network, Shadow, Punctuate!, Rapid Fire. Until the virus he was going to be the title character in the Citadel/ Vancouver Arts Club co-production of Peter Pan Goes Wrong, right after a Toronto production of The Huns at the Brighton Fringe across the pond. He has an ever-expanding resumé of film, TV, and online credits. He trains MMA and kickboxing three times a week. In short, Cavanagh has every possible credential for playing Wolverine — except one. Fame, and maybe that’s over-rated, as Cavanagh wants to explore. Since Disney is in the position of re-casting the character with the distinctive super-powers, now is the moment for his Make Jamie Wolverine campaign. “I wanted to beat the story, to come in before the announcement” of a new star.
His agent has told him “that’s not the way this industry works.” But the the actor/ comedian, a U of A theatre school grad most recently seen here in a very funny turn in Shadow’s 2019 season finale Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (he played the remarkably fit Spike), is undeterred. “I’m testing the gatekeepers a bit,” he says. “How much can I actually do by myself?”
Quite a lot, actually. There’s a petition to sign at makejamiewolverine.org. There’s a beautifully shot, intensely acted short film Wild James: A Wolverine Fan Film, starring Cavanagh as the young Howlett, beginning to discover his special powers and beset by hostile thuggish locals who reject him as a freakish outsider. The fight scenes choreographed by Jeff Hanson are highly impressive. Hey Disney, this is one visceral, kick-ass audition.
“OK, it’s a crazy idea,” says Cavanagh, currently working on another unusual venture, Outside the March’s unique on-the-phone experiment, The Ministry of Mundane Mysteries, custom-made for every ticket-buyer who contributes a mystery from their life for the cast to improvise. “Is it possible for me, a relative unknown, to be considered for the role of Wolverine? There are no precedents, no blueprints.”