Lo­gan’s RUN

X-Men: Days of Fu­ture Past star Hugh Jack­man tells Tara Brady about get­ting fit and furry

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Steady on, read­ers. Re­main calm. There comes a mo­ment in X-Men: Days of Fu­ture Past, the sev­enth and ar­guably best X-Men film to date, when Hugh Jack­man’s Wolver­ine clam­bers out of a wa­terbed – don’t ask – to­ward a mir­ror wear­ing noth­ing more than his birth­day suit. He checks him­self over, mak­ing sure all his var­i­ous bits are in­tact; well, he has just jumped back in time to 1973.

Even ca­sual fran­chise fans will be stunned and amazed to note that said bits now have more bits. There are pop­ping veins on pop­ping veins. There are lats on lats; rhom­boids on rhom­boids.

Bulk­ing up and weed­ing down is hardly a nov­elty in the moviev­erse. Still, talk to ac­tors such as Chris Pine and Tom Hardy about the process of get­ting prop­erly ripped and they’ll in­vari­ably drop down into hushed tones and say some­thing pref­aced with: “But that’s noth­ing on Hugh Jack­man”.

And my word, if Hugh Jack­man hasn’t just taken that as­pect of Hugh Jack­man up a notch.

“That’s hi­lar­i­ous,” says the Aus­tralian ac­tor. “I can’t take all the credit. My diet for the last two movies was ripped off from Dwanye John­son. I rang him up and said: ‘Come on man, I need to get to some place that I’ve never been be­fore’. So he gave me a 6,000-calo­rie and two-train­ing-ses­sions-a-day plan. If you look at old in­ter­views from about 10 years ago, I’m sure I’m on record as say­ing you don’t need to train three hours a day. Well, I ac­tu­ally kind of do now.”

Jack­man’s Wolver­ine work­outs are now the stuff of leg­end among the fit­ness com­mu­nity. Body­build­ing mag­a­zines rou­tinely pay homage to his two-hourly con­sump­tion of protein shakes through­out the night. Which can’t be much fun for De­borra-Lee Fur­ness, his wife of some 18 years. Un­less stealth is his real-world su­per­power.

“It is,” he cries. “I had a fa­ther who was a very light sleeper and great creeper. So I learned from the best. I used to leave the shake out on the win­dowsill at night to keep it cool. Be­cause I didn’t want to have to go down to the fridge. I mean, it was a sad sight – me sculling a protein shake at the end of my bed re­ally qui­etly.”

Gym bun­nies take heed: “But I’m not do­ing that any­more. For the past two years, I’ve been on a dif­fer­ent sched­ule. I con­sume all my calo­ries in an eight-hour pe­riod. That made a huge dif­fer­ence. I felt a lot bet­ter on that.”

It’s not just the hard-bod­ies. One never meets any­one in the busi­ness called show with a bad word to say about Hugh Jack­man. A psy­cho­path­i­cally good-hu­moured fel­low, you shall know him by his easy laugh and slap of the thigh. His nice-guy im­age – qui­etly spir­i­tual, mar­ried with chil­dren, Tran­scen­den­tal Med­i­ta­tion prac­ti­tioner, un­fail­ingly cheery – doesn’t be­gin to cover it. Un­like most movie stars, he re­mem­bers your name, main­tains a very self-dep­re­cat­ing nar­ra­tive, and sim­ply can’t do enough for you.

A life­long Nor­wich FC fan – his mum lives there still – not even that club’s re­cent mis­for­tunes can put a dent in his de­meanour: “I’ve still got the 1984 Milk Cup to boast about. It was still called the Milk Cup. Which dates it a lit­tle. But that’s al­right.”

As hard as it is to pic­ture any­one else play­ing X-Men’s iconic and way pop­u­lar Wolver­ine, meet­ing Jack­man you won­der how any­one ever thought he would stand in for the most brood­ing of su­per­heroes. Of course, he has a self-dep­re­cat­ing story about that.

“The rea­son I got cast was be­cause Bryan Singer, the di­rec­tor, was watch­ing my au­di­tion. And he turned to the se­cu­rity guard that was in the room and said ‘Is that the Wolver­ine?’ And the guy said: ‘Yeah, he’d be cool maybe’. And Bryan said ‘great’. And that was me.”

Fif­teen years later, and Jack­man continues to wield the Marvel­verse’s most recog­nis­able talons. X-Men: Days of Fu­ture Past sees Jack­man take pride of place along­side James McAvoy, Michael Fass­ben­der, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Ellen Page, Ni­cholas Hoult, Ian McKellen and Patrick Ste­wart, for a time-trav­el­ling, fran­chise-cross­ing ad­ven­ture.

Seven­ties po­lit­i­cal thrillers have been a touch­stone for this sea­son’s big re­leases – see

Cap­tain Amer­ica: The Win­ter Sol­dier and se­lect se­quences from Godzilla – but X-Men 7 goes one bet­ter and works in Richard Nixon, the Kennedy As­sas­si­na­tion and a Pen­tagon as­sault.

“It was a big old re­union to be­gin with,” says Jack­man. “The script is amaz­ing for this one. And Bryan Singer is back. So I was gen­uinely ex­cited about that. Be­cause I think he’s a phenom­e­nal film-maker. And then this in­cred­i­ble cast of new people ar­rived to kick the ball to. Who were so good I never wanted to take the ball off them. It was great for me be­cause I was on the whole movie so I got to work with all of them.”

Even af­ter all this time on the job, Jack­man ad­mits he still finds Wolver­ine’s moods a chal­lenge. This is a char­ac­ter who, what­ever his charms, could never be mis­taken for a ray of sun­shine. Yet he is played by a per­former who might just be just that. Jack­man’s back­ground in mu­si­cal theatre adds to the in­con­gruity. “I do love it,” says the ac­tor. “He’s like my older brother; my tougher, cooler older brother. And it does save me a for­tune in ther­apy, I have to tell you. But I do have to be sat on by the di­rec­tor. ‘Don’t add that line. No ad-lib­bing. Just say the three words.’ I’m al­ways try­ing to muck around. When I need to think less. I think I’m start­ing to get him now. An­gry. No jazz hands.”

Hugh Michael Jack­man was born in Syd­ney in 1968; his English par­ents had ar­rived in Aus­tralia one year ear­lier as part of the Ten Pound Poms im­mi­gra­tion, a govern­ment ini­tia­tive of­fer­ing ci­ti­zen­ship to ed­u­cated Bri­tons and Cana­di­ans. He can’t re­mem­ber a time be­fore act­ing: all of his older

“Wolver­ine is like my older brother; my tougher, cooler older brother. And it does save me a for­tune in ther­apy, I have to tell you”

sib­lings dab­bled and two great-aunts had been ac­tors on Lon­don’s West End.

“My fa­ther was an ac­coun­tant but he loved the arts and took me to a lot of theatre,” says Jack­man. “I was the youngest of five and then I got an­other step­sis­ter at the age of 11. So I’m used to get­ting heard over a fair bit of chaos. My mum tells the story that she used to say to me ‘Hugh, you don’t have to stand on a chair to be no­ticed’. And now she shrugs and says ‘Well, what do I know?’”

Re­turn­ing to his an­ces­tral home in 1998, the ac­tor earned rave notices and an Olivier Award nom­i­na­tion for his role in the Royal Na­tional Theatre’s pro­duc­tion of Ok­la­homa! Within a year, he was Hol­ly­wood’s hottest ticket, hav­ing landed a se­ries of high pro­file gigs on X- Men, Kate & Leopold and Sword­fish.

“X-Men came out and no one recog­nised me on the street,” he re­calls. “I re­mem­ber people – and I mean fans – ar­gu­ing in front of me: ‘No, that’s that guy from the movie’. ‘No way’. Once I had to take out my driver’s li­cence out just to shut them up. It was only af­ter I started go­ing on those talk shows that people started to know who I was. So I had a good two or three years in which I had been handed the keys of the king­dom, but I still had com­plete anonymity. It was awe­some.”

He has sub­se­quently be­come a great favourite among con­tem­po­rary au­teurs, work­ing with Christo­pher Nolan on The Pres­tige, Woody Allen on Scoop, Baz Luhrmann on Aus

tralia and Dar­ren Aronof­sky on The Foun­tain. “The thing I love about all those di­rec­tors is that they have such con­fi­dence in their taste,” says the 45-year-old. “They don’t want it like that. They want it like this. Like this ex­actly. It’s a great at­mos­phere when you’re work­ing with those people. Par­tic­u­larly when you’re work­ing with big stu­dios on big films. Be­cause one per­son has to make the movie. You can’t make it by com­mit­tee. Prob­a­bly Nolan is the best I’ve ever seen at main­tain­ing his author­ity and vi­sion.”

Be­tween movies, he continues to dab­ble in raz­zle-dazzle and mu­si­cal theatre. He hosted the Academy Awards in 2001. He won a Tony in 2003 for his work on the Broad­way re­vival of The Boy from Oz. Last year, his turn as Jean Val­jean in the film adap­ta­tion of Les Miséra

bles earned him his first Golden Globe Award for Best Ac­tor.

“The people who know me as Wolver­ine and the people who recog­nise me from theatre tend to be very dif­fer­ent,” he laughs. “There’s a real split there. I do get of­fered a lot of Wolver­ine type roles and I try not to do those. I al­ready feel like I have the best char­ac­ter out there with Wolver­ine. So I pre­fer do­ing mu­si­cals and some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent when I’m away from that char­ac­ter. You can’t be all things to all people. But it’s good to try.”

Wolver­ine (Jack­man) and 1970s Pro­fes­sor X (James McAvoy).

Be­low: Peter Din­klage as Bo­li­var Trask

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