Jackman to begin filming 'Wolverine' in Australia

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Hollywood star Hugh Jackman will begin filming the next installment of his "X-Men" spin-off movies in Sydney next week, even though the female lead is yet to be confirmed.

"I am so happy to be home. To be shooting a movie of this magnitude here at home to me is one of the great privileges I've had in my career," Jackman told reporters on the set of the film.

Director James Mangold rejected reports that Jessica Biel had pulled out as the female lead at the last minute but refused to comment on who would be playing the role of the villainous mutant Viper.

"The story couldn't be more of a fantasy," Mangold said of the reports.

"The Wolverine" sees Jackman reprise his most famous role as the superhero with metal claws and will be shot in Sydney after a Aus$12.8 million (US$13.2 million) dollar grant from the Australian government.

Jackman, 43, joked that Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who visited the set Tuesday, could have a role in the movie, which sees Wolverine journey to Japan.

"It's not a traditional role; it's a stunt double role for myself," he said.

"We just did a quick audition, she's incredible. I don't know if you know about her martial arts background; the movie is set in Japan and she really is very handy with the sword and with the nunchucks."

Jackman, who admitted struggling to get into shape after packing on the pounds to play Jean Valjean in "Les Miserables", said his role as Wolverine, which he first played 12 years ago, was "the backbone of my career".

"I love the character. I still love the character," he said.

"I had no choice at the time, I was going to take anything that came along, but I happened to have walked into probably the most interesting and complex of the superhero characters.

"I've always loved playing it and when I stop loving it I'll stop doing it," he added.

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