How Jackman beat his fears
HUGH Jackman is a bear of a man. Impressive in height and physique, sure; but the most impressive thing is his personality: warm-hearted, affable and devoid of even a hint of star phoniness.
I’ve seen him surprised at a private dinner with his wife, overlooking the Acropolis, I’ve watched him film in horrible circumstances. I’ve seen him on the red carpet. Each encounter is with a man who goes out of his way to treat everyone with respect – not a given in Hollywood. He’s married to an “older woman”, Deborra- Lee Furness, whom he met when the two starred together in a TV show in Australia. They have two children, Oscar and Ava. Jackman was raised by his dad, his mother having left the family of five to return to England. He’s hosted the Oscars, dances, sings, has been nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in Les Miserables, and has a Golden Globe for the same performance.
In his new film, The Wolverine, out on Friday in South Africa, he plays the title character for the sixth time. The film sees Jackman’s character in modern-day Japan, after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand. Out of his depth in an unknown world, he faces his nemesis in a life-or-death battle that will leave him forever changed. Vulnerable for the first time and pushed to his limits, he confronts lethal samurai steel and his inner You are playing a superhero again, but this time he has a physical vulnerability: This is the sixth time I’ve played Wolverine, and there’s been a weird inflation of his invulnerability. It got to the point where you had to throw him off a building, chop off his head, pulverise it, and he’d still come back. There was also his lack of memory about his past, or being haunted by things. In this film, we
‘I used to be very fearful as a kid. I was scared of the dark, of heights, of a lot of things’
explore living indefinitely with regret and pain. It opens with him at his lowest point… he’s lost. Every time he tries to connect, everyone he loves dies. In a way he just wants out. I thought it was a wonderful theme to explore; to see his vulnerability. All of us want to connect. That’s endemic of being human. For him connection means destruction and failure. Add to it that he’s being offered what he desires on some level, to end it. When someone offers you that, what do you do? To see him battle with mortality, to understand that the mere act of chopping wood tires him, and it feels good. If you could regenerate all the time it might actually feel good to have a What toll does it take from film to film to go physically from big, to normal and back again? I’m training and I’m fit and healthy, but I eat too much meat, too much animal protein. I want to change that. Losing and gaining weight rapidly is not very good. My friend who’s a doctor said I need regular check-ups if I change like that. So far the numbers seem okay. I do watch it more carefully than I used to. But, you know, I get up at 4am and train and complain to my wife and she goes, “You love it”. I do. How familiar were you with Japanese culture? I’ve been there maybe 11 times, and close to obsessed with it. To shoot there for this film was a great joy. There’s a lot of the Japanese culture I admire. We were on the bullet train, it’s four hours, and everyone had their bento boxes perfectly laid out. They’d taken off their shoes and placed them neatly, and slipped on slippers and it was quiet. An hour into the trip someone came up and asked us to be quiet. I didn’t think we were loud. We were just talking and realised how much space we take up. I admire the economical, respectful way the Japanese treat their personal space, family and traditions. I always find it exciting to go there. I always feel sloppy and haphazard, like a bull in a china shop, when I’m in Japan. Does Deborra- Lee make you wear the slippers? She wants me to wear all that stuff, the dressing-gowns, the kimonos. All of that stuff. Wolverine is afraid of flying; what are you afraid of ? I used to be very fearful as a kid. I was scared of the dark, of heights, of a lot of things. In Australia every week at school we were rock climbing or abseilling or jumping down things or at a theme park. I was afraid of roller-coasters. I just made myself get over it. There was a high board at our school pool and I spent one month going off the top board until I was no longer scared. That was it. I was no longer scared of anything. When you are 14, in Australia, you have to go out into the bush and sleep for two nights. When you’ve done that you are no longer scared of anything. That’s when I got it. You are always going to be scared of something in your life, I don’t care who you are, but you need to face it, because if you don’t, it becomes a weight on your shoulder. To this day if I’m afraid of something I go: “Alright, got to do that.”
GOOD GUY: Hugh Jackman is modest despite his enormous success.