Aussie Hugh Jackman is proving himself one of Hollywood’s great allrounders, writes Alice Stolz
IT’S something of a surprise to see Hugh Jackman when he’s not in character. Sitting opposite me in a plain shirt and jeans, he has no claws, no shaved head, no French- prisoner beard and certainly no jazz hands.
It would be almost underwhelming if it weren’t for his disarming smile, and the fact he’s one of Australia’s greatest exports.
Today, he exhibits a tonne of star power, but Jackman was a late starter, only embracing acting after he graduated from university with a major in journalism.
Realising he’d have to make up for lost time, he took any gig he could, from playing a clown at kids’ parties to a low point of dressing up as a koala.
‘‘ It was the worst job I ever had, because 14- year- olds think there’s nothing funnier than punching a six- foot koala in the kidneys,’’ he laments.
Yet the perseverance paid off and, in 1995, he received his first break, a role in the local TV drama Correlli.
On set, he also met his wife, fellow actor Deborra- lee Furness.
Five years later, he was catapulted to global stardom playing Wolverine in X- Men.
‘‘ As a kid, I didn’t grow up always wanting to be an actor,’’ he confesses. ‘‘ But I absolutely loved it.’’
The 44- year- old has had as much success
on the stage as he has in film. In 2004, he won a Tony Award for his starring role in The Boy
from Oz, a lavish musical that was based on the life of Australian entertainer Peter Allen.
And Jackman’s Australian accent is key to his latest role, the voice of smooth- talking rabbit Bunnymund in the animated film Rise of the
The story follows a nasty spirit who tries to rid the world of its mythical children’s characters. Santa Claus ( Alec Baldwin), the Easter Bunny ( Jackman), the Tooth Fairy ( Isla Fisher) and Jack Frost ( Chris Pine) team up against the bogeyman, Pitch ( Jude Law).
Bunnymund has a hint of Paul Hogan’s Mick Dundee about him, a trait Jackman worked hard to develop.
‘‘ I tried to add as many Aussie expressions as I could. I had to research online to remind myself of words such as ‘ ankle- biters’ and ‘ choppers’,’’ he laughs.
In June, Jackman wrapped up filming the big- screen adaptation of the musical Les
Miserables, in which he plays Frenchman Jean Valjean ( pictured). The role required him to sport a substantial beard.
‘‘ I don’t think that beard is going to get me on the cover of magazines!’’ he laughs. ‘‘ It was actually two- thirds my own beard and the rest was hair extensions.’’
On the back of that, Jackman spent five months in Australia, shooting the action blockbuster The Wolverine, which he predicts will be the best film yet of the series. ‘‘ It’s one of the great sagas of the comic book and, for fans, it’s probably the favourite,’’ he says.
The passion with which Jackman speaks about his work is amplified when he talks of his family. He and Furness have been married for 16 years and have two adopted children, Oscar, 12, and Ava, 7.
They made New York their family base in a bid to reduce the time that they would have to spend apart. It was a rule his wife insisted upon early in their marriage.
‘‘ Deb had seen so many marriages in this industry go by the wayside because of absence.
‘‘ New York is a lot better with kids than people imagine, but the children can’t walk outside the front door without having an adult with them, and I kind of feel sad for them about that.
‘‘ But, if we stayed in Australia, I’d be away for work a lot and we chose not to do that.’’