The tall young bloke wearing a big smile, khaki shorts and dusty outback boots is the
same bloke who hosted Australiaís Film Institute Awards on ABC television in a
tuxedo, and who jumped on stage at Londonís National Theatre as Curly in Oklahoma for
legendary stage director Trevor Nunn.
"Itís a very Australian thing, and thatís
what I connected with."
The khaki shorts and dusty boots are for outback Queensland on the set of his first
major film, Antony Bowmanís romantic comedy, Paperback Hero, in which he plays Jack,
a novel-writing truck driver.
Talking about his role as Jack, Jackman says he was attracted to the script by its
"lovely pace and energyÖitís a story of Jack eventually coming to terms
with what he really is, his feelings and emotions. Itís a very Australian thing, and
thatís what I connected with. He has a great sense of humour, and heís very
comfortable with who he is at the start, but his life has to change, unbeknown to him at
While in London for Oklahoma, Jackman had another gig to squeeze in, a Royal Command
"weird to be sitting in the Queensland outback...
† to sing in front of the Queen few weeks later"
"It was quite weird to be sitting in the Queensland outback and to be going off to
sing in front of the Queen few weeks later," he says with a grin.
Jackman has frequently sung for his supper, of course, if not for the Queen; during
1997, for example, he was guest artist at Christmas Carols in Sydney, Melbourne and Wagga
Wagga; he sang at the Melbourne Cup and at the Hopmann Cup; and he sang in the Chinese New
Year, as well as the new model Holden sedan launch at Royal Pines Resort on the Gold
Coast. For the Bledisloe Cup in Melbourne, he sang the National Anthem Ė not the one
that played at the Royal Command Performance, of course.
It was also a year that singled him out as the most promising new talent in musical
theatre, with two major awards for his role as Joe Gillis in Andrew Lloyd Webberís
Really Useful Companyís production of Sunset Boulevard: the variety industryís
peer-voted Mo Awards and the Variety Club Hearts Awards both voted him Musical Theatre
Performer of the Year.
The role of Joe Gillis came hot on the heels of his role as Gaston in Kevin
Jacobsenís Australian production of Beauty and The Beast in 1995-96.
"The scary thing was to put it into a setting where it
became a real gamble"
Back in 1990, Jackman was training at the Sydney Dance Company and The Actorís
Centre; by the mid 90s he was appearing in guest lead roles in the most popular Australian
drama series, Blue Heelers, as well as The Man From Snowy River and Halifax f.p.
"I started acting when I was 22, but it was something I had always done as a
hobby," Jackman says. "The scary thing was to put it into a setting where it
became a real gamble and really go for it. I then decided to study formally when I was
offered a role in Neighbours, and went to WAAPA (Western Australian Academy of Performing
But Paperback Hero was not in fact Jackmanís first feature film: that honour goes
to Erskinville Kings, a drama about two brothers reunited by their fatherís death,
after years apart. The low budget film was made by Los Angeles based Australian, Alan
White and launched to international buyers at the American Film Market at the end of
February (1999) prior to an Australian release later in the year.
"Unpretentious, unaffected and generous..."
While in the London stage for Oklahoma, Jackman was able to hop on a plane to fly to
Cannes during the 1998 film festival for a private party in a villa overlooking the
Mediterranean, where a short clip from Paperback Hero (then in post production) was
screened for invited guests (this writer included). Jackman, accompanied his wife, actress
Deborra-Lee Furness, took it all in his (long) stride. Unpretentious, unaffected and
generous, he is at once a manís man and recognisably Australian, while being charming
and talented. Some people are saying he will be a very big star very soon.