For someone whose life is about to change forever, Hugh
Jackman seems remarkably calm. The affable Aussie star of the TV
series Correlli, the movie Paperback Hero and the UK stage
musical Oklahoma is now treading into territory that will turn
him into a household name all over the world - the role of
Wolverine, a mutant who can heal himself from almost any injury
and who teams up with a group of mutant outcasts who all have
special powers directed toward good uses.
One of the nicest guys around, Jackman is not only riding high
with his career but is also the proud father of two-month-old
Oscar Jackman, a mixed-race American baby he adopted with his
wife, Aussie actress Deborra-Lee Furness. In X-Men heís
joined on-screen by stars Patrick Stewart, Halle Berry, Anna
Paquin and Famke Janssen but heís still refreshingly humble
when he reflects on the fame that is about to engulf him.
Are you prepared for the stardom that will come with a big
movie like X-Men?
Deb (wife) keeps asking me how Iím feeling and I say
that old vaudeville thing, ĎIím living in Egypt, right
next to Denial!í I still naively believe because of the look
of the character that Iíll be able to go to a water slide
park and not be mobbed by kids. But it doesnít hugely bother
me anyway. Iíve got a certain level of fame in Australia and
people are very friendly.
How did you get one of the most coveted roles in Hollywood?
I did an audition back in January, 1999 - like most of the
world - while I was on stage in London and then they wanted to
send me to New York and fly me by Concorde to meet with the
director, Bryan Singer, and do a final test. So when you get to
that point you have to do the whole deal in advance because they
wonít fly you over and give you the job unless you agree to
the contract first. Finally they told me that Dougray Scott, who
was their original choice and was unavailable, had become
available again so that was that. I was more bummed about not
getting to ride on the Concorde than the job!
Six months later I
was in Los Angeles with Deb visiting a friend who had just had a
baby and my agent called and said it had reared its head again.
Dougray Scott was doing M:i-2 and it was going over and X-Men was
starting the following week. To be unknown and get a role like
that, I went through every level for approval. Iím surprised
Rupert Murdoch himself wasnít at one of the meetings but
finally I got the part and suddenly I was in Toronto with a
suitcase of sandals and shorts in temperatures of minus one,
thrown into hair and make-up tests and having moulds made of my
hands and body.
Were you a fan of the comic book?
I had never read it at all but there is a huge fan base in
Australia and everywhere else for that matter. People are so
passionate about it and itís one of those high
profile-positioning roles that makes your agentís job so
much easier! I used to think playing someone who was alive Ė
like Will Smith playing Muhammad Ali Ė is a high pressure
job, but in a way playing someone larger than life in so many
peopleís minds and an idol to so many grown men, thatís
even tougher. At Halloween, kids want to be Wolverine and men of
40 have tattoos of Wolverine and name their dogs Logan, his
civilian name. People tell me he was their favorite X-Men
character because heís a rebel and a bit of an underdog.
How did you come up with the look of Wolverine?
They didnít want to go the Dick Tracey route. They
wanted to make it a real, stylish, cool world so that was the
issue involved in making this character come to life. How does
this guy get around without everybody laughing at him and yet be
recognizable to fans? We had three weeks of makeup tests on my
hair and at one point I had 14 people around my chair in the
trailer checking out the hairstyle!
Heís not meant to be part Wolverine but he does have some
physical attributes like lots of hair and muttonchops, and they
had to add the hair extensions until I could grow a beard and use
a ton of hairspray to make my ears pointy. They also gave him
these nine-inch claws which were a lot of work. Wolverineís
party trick is his ability to heal himself but because 15 years
earlier some evil state got hold of him and drugged him and
experimented on him to make him the ultimate fighting machine,
heís pretty pissed off and angry and confused. He is a loner
and that is where his ferocity comes from, because heís got
a bad temper and heís also very cynical about the world and
has a healthy disregard for authority Ė very Australian in
How did you get in touch with that anger?
I went through a period that coincided with my family breakup
when I was 12 or 13 where I was an absolute smart-ass and very
angry and I know it is in me. Iím also a very passionate
person and it doesnít take much for me to imagine what would
happen if something wrong was done to Deb or my son. Iím the
kind of person Iíd be scared of if I got in a fight with! I
will do pretty much everything to avoid a fight but if it gets
put over the line, I will lose all sense of reason and
thatís what scares me most about me Ė and that is
pretty close to this character.
Were you more in touch with your macho side while you were
Yeah, Iíd smack Deborra around a couple of times - but
sheíd hit me back, harder! (laughs) Seriously, Iím an
actor who believes we all have triggers to any stage of emotion.
Itís not always easy to find but itís still there. I
also took to taking a cold shower every morning because Toronto
cold water is like ice, so it was a physical reminder every day
of what it was like to be on the verge of punching someoneís
head in and Iíd start the day like that. I love acting, I
have a lot of respect for it but to live for three months and
deny your own life, your own relationship and being a father and
put everything into being this character, that is too high a
price to pay and I donít think you have to do that to get
into a role.
What do you think about the merchandising on this film?
Iím a doll, a pillow-case, a ruler, a magnet and even a
blow-up voice-activated punching bag, which Iím thrilled
about! Oscar (son) is going to love it. But there is something
Freudian about that. At first I couldnít believe I was doing
a movie where I was going to be a doll but now Iíve seen
them and itís kind of funny.
What can you tell us about your next movie, Animal
Husbandry, with Ashley Judd, which youíre now filming in New
I met the director Tony Goldwyn, a year ago - on another film
that didnít happen but it was great to meet him because I
love him as an actor too. Then this script came along and it was
the opposite of X-Men. Itís a romantic lead and a reluctant
hero type, like Hans Solo in Star Wars. A completely different
genre and style and Ashley Judd is fantastic and has a lot of