Hugh Jack­man

Aussie Hugh Jack­man is prov­ing him­self one of Hol­ly­wood’s great all­rounders, writes Alice Stolz

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - FRONT PAGE -

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

Guardians.

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.’’

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