Hugh Jackman hasn’t changed much since establishing himself as one of Hollywood’s hottest Australian exports. The casually attired Aussie is more than happy to have returned to the role that started it all, the often grumpy but insular Wolverine in the latest, and most likely the last, of the X-Men movies.
Sitting back in a New York hotel room, Jackman says that he still loves the character “and when I read the script I thought we had the best of the three. We started I think with the best script, the essential idea was fantastic – it really cuts to the core of what these movies are about and tend to ask if you have the chance to change something about yourself you didn’t like, would you do it? All those sort of hurdles and things make you the person you are, I thought it was great and I love the people involved”.
Jackman partly attributes the success of the franchise to a real sense of identification forged between the audience and the films’ characters. “All of us can identify with that feeling of being alienated, of being different, having things said about yourself you don’t understand. Wolverine doesn’t know about his past, there is a lot of pain underneath and there is not a person on this planet that doesn’t mask some kind of pain which comes out in behaviour in some way but all of us have that.”
The actor even admits, surprisingly, that “as a youngster I had a bad temper,” which is hard to believe given Jackman’s laid back demeanour. “I was the youngest of four so I had no power, therefore all of a sudden it would come out. So I train every morning when I am doing the role and if you ever saw me in there you’d be a little frightened, thinking: that’s not Hugh cause I turn on Godsmack or Metallica and I’m screaming, yelling, swearing like there is no tomorrow and lifting weights as though I am at that breaking point. With this character I always feel he is on that point where he can snap and just go berserk as they say in the comic. So I do practice that in the morning so it has to be there somehow. Its good therapy,” Jackman adds laughingly.
While the third film has a new director at the helm, Jackman says the third film happily takes the saga to a whole new level. “What the first two did great was, establishing their world and their characters. I think people fell for the characters and could believe in them and relate, which is a tough thing when you’ve got claws coming out of hands. So I always felt that we could make it a little more emotional and push some of the relationships a little further and this being the last one, it always intended to be the last one wrapping things up”.
While this may indeed be the end of the X-Men franchise, Jackman is resurrecting the character in his own spin-off movie, and the actor was more than happy to take the character on his own journey. “The Wolverine movie is a serious thing,” Jackman explains. “We have two drafts now from David Benioff and he is now polishing the final draft. It’s a prequel so really as great as a go as I’ve had in these movies it is going to appear greedy. I still think that there is more to know about him, in the way that the first Mad Max did. I mean this is a movie called X Men, there are ten characters to each so there is only so much you can do.”
Jackman is one of the busiest actors around with a plethora of films due out, from a bit role in George Miller’s animated penguin movie Happy Feet, to the lead role as a rat in Aardman’s next animated feature, Flushed Away. “I couldn’t refuse that because I am a huge fan of Aardman from the early days and with two kids I couldn’t refuse. But it is his starring role in The Fountain that is generating early buzz, a film about which the actor is genuinely enthused. “I’ve seen it and I think it is extraordinary. I think Darren is a true artist and I feel proud to have been in the movie really. It’s a huge love story essentially, Rachel [Weitz] is phenomenal in it as she always is and Darren’s work is just unforgettable so I am really thrilled in a way that the studios are recognising his work and making his movies.”
After years of struggle and waiting for success, Jackman is on a roll and the actor remains philosophical about his success. ” I am very excited about it. Five years ago if I had to think or dream of where I’d be doing, franchising the movie of Wolverine and the character and I’ve worked with Woody Allen as well as the Aardman guys, Darren Aronofsky, and Christopher Nolan I’d never believe it. I mean I am busy because everything I am getting is turning me on so much its almost impossible to say no to these things, so it is very exciting.”
Jackman is also about to revive his Tony-award winning Peter Allen on the Australian stage for a two month tour beginning in August. “I didn’t feel like it was done when I finished it here. It started by doing a performance at the Tony Awards as Peter Allen where I got Sarah Jessica Parker up on stage and that was with more than six or seven thousand people and I felt like this character it even works better in a larger arena. So I went to the producers and as exhausted as I was, I was like we are not done yet, we have got to do this back in home and also Peter’s music and his character is an icon down there. I thought we’ve got to share what’s happen here in New York back at home, and I wanted to do it on a big scale.”
And when he’s not working, he has a wife and two children to contend with. “So when I’m not a pretty boy and not working I hang out with my family and not play golf with my buddies.”