GOOD TO BE BAD

Nice guy Hugh Jack­man has taken a turn for the sin­is­ter in his re­cent movie roles – and he couldn’t be hap­pier play­ing Black­beard in Pan

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - MOVIES - JAMES WIGNEY

Hugh Jack­man is, fa­mously, the nicest guy in Hol­ly­wood. Whether he’s charm­ing late-night talk show hosts, walk­ing the red car­pet with his wife of 19 years De­borra-Lee Fur­ness, vis­it­ing sick kids in hos­pi­tal, or even en­dur­ing the rigours of a sausage fac­tory jun­ket to pro­mote his latest movie, that megawatt smile, hu­mil­ity and af­fa­ble ap­proach­a­bil­ity are al­ways front and cen­tre.

But lately, on screen at least, Jack­man has been tread­ing a darker path. First there was his role as Keller in the ac­claimed 2013 thriller, Pris­on­ers, who was a fun­da­men­tally de­cent man who did some very bad things in the pur­suit of his ab­ducted son. Then ear­lier this year there was the mul­let­sport­ing weapons en­thu­si­ast Vin­cent in Neill Blomkamp’s sci-far ac­tioner, Chap­pie. And now comes, by Jack­man’s own ad­mis­sion, the most vil­lain­ous of the lot – the thor­oughly black-hearted pi­rate Black­beard in Pan, the big­bud­get pre­quel to J.M. Bar­rie’s much loved chil­dren’s tale of the Boy Who Never Grew Up.

Jack­man seems to be tak­ing a par­tic­u­lar de­light in flip­ping his public per­cep­tion on screen, say­ing that it’s “a mis­take to think of your­self as a nice guy – that’s not your job as an ac­tor”.

But the string of darker roles of late isn’t down to any con­scious ca­reer shift. Jack­man says it more a mat­ter of fi­nally be­ing of­fered such parts – and he couldn’t be hap­pier with the way things have turned out, es­pe­cially with Os­car-nom­i­nated di­rec­tor Joe Wright’s Pan.

“There was no call to my agent say­ing ‘I want to play a vil­lain’,” he says.

“I know some peo­ple who do that, say ‘I want to play a com­edy or a this or a that’.

“I think the first thing that at­tracted me to this was Joe Wright, I think he is a film­maker of the high­est or­der and he showed me his vi­sion for the movie. I loved the idea of be­ing in a fam­ily movie and it has taken me all this time to work out that it’s much eas­ier be­ing the vil­lain.

“The hero gets beaten up the en­tire movie and then you win the last fight – just – af­ter be­ing beaten up more than ever be­fore. Whereas the vil­lain is the com­plete op­po­site. You are in about 40 per cent of the film, you get all the best lines and cos­tumes – hey my en­trance is to Nir­vana’s Teen Spirit. This was just win-win.”

Jack­man, who hap­pily shaved his head and grew some se­ri­ously dodgy fa­cial hair for the role, names the Princess Bride and Cap­tain Blood as among early pi­rate in­spi­ra­tions. And hav­ing seen how much fun his X-Men costar Ian McKellen had do­ing panto in the UK – some­thing he’d be up for try­ing one day – ad­mits there is more than an el­e­ment of that in his flam­boy­antly the­atri­cal por­trayal of Black­beard.

De­spite play­ing his on­screen neme­sis, Jack­man was at pains not to be a scary adult to young Bris­bane ac­tor Levi Miller, who plays Peter Pan. Com­ing from a theatre back­ground, Jack­man says it’s his re­spon­si­bil­ity as part of an ensem­ble to lead by ex­am­ple and gave Miller tips on how to eat well and man­age his energy.

“I come from the world of theatre and I think with young guys, par­tic­u­larly Levi when I met him he put out his hand and said ‘hello Mr Jack­man’ and I said ‘OK, it’s not go­ing to work like that’.

“And lit­er­ally an hour later we were do­ing im­provs and wrestling on the mats and hav­ing some fun. I pulled him aside a cou­ple of times but he’s a nat­u­ral – I ac­tu­ally prob­a­bly learned from him. He re­minded me of how lucky we are to do what we do.”

Hugh Jack­man delves into a darker char­ac­ter as Black­beard in

Pan.

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