After receiving his start in film and television in his native Australia, Hugh Jackman was catapulted to stardom as the edgy, violence-prone Wolverine in the blockbuster hit "X-Men" (2000), a role he reprised over the course of his career in sequels like "X2" (2003), "X-Men: The Last Stand" (2006) and "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" (2009). In between, he earned critical acclaim for his performance in the romantic comedy "Kate & Leopold" (2001), played a computer-hacking criminal in the thriller "Swordfish" (2001) and cut down vampires as "Van Helsing" (2004). After starring in Christopher Nolan's "The Prestige" (2006) and Darren Aronofsky's "The Fountain" (2006), Jackman joined fellow Aussies Nicole Kidman and Baz Luhrmann for the rather overblown romantic epic "Australia" (2008). A veteran of the musical stage, Jackman was a natural to host the Tony Awards and Academy Awards and star in the long-awaited adaptation of "Les Miserables" (2012). Thanks to his rugged charm and diversity of talent, Jackman capably alternated between great displays of theatricality and calculated reserve, while becoming one of Hollywood's favored leading men.
Daily Sabah: You did a great job with your latest, "The Greatest Showman." Obviously when people go to see this movie they're going to look at your character P.T. Barnum and say, "God, he really was a great showman." Could you tell us about your rehearsals for this movie, as the dance sequences are incredible?
Hugh Jackman: It was really a four-year process of workshopping, so we workshopped it in the way you should workshop a Broadway musical, which is you come together with whatever you had. It may have been four songs at the beginning, six songs the second time with the script that you had, and we would work with the best Broadway performers we could find and work for two weeks. When it came to the film we had 10 weeks of rehearsal. We rehearsed 10 hours every single day.
D.S.: In Oscar-winner "The Greatest Show on Earth," the story was all about P.T. Barnum. Did you watch that movie for your reference?
H.J.: No. I actually try not to watch those things. When I did "Les Miserables," there were five versions. I didn't watch them. I'm always a little worried that I'm going to somehow circumvent my instincts because once you see something or hear something you can get some great idea but it's like a shortcut to an answer. I believe as an actor you have to find the inspiration, find the character for you.
D.S.: When I see you singing and dancing, I feel there is something else coming out of your different energy.
H.J.: Thank you. Since I was five, I've been onstage. I don't ever remember it being like, Oh, I've got to get on it. It's going to sound really strange, but I always felt very comfortable on a stage. I always felt very much at home, sometimes more comfortable up there than offstage. Sometimes, I feel a connection with an audience onstage, with complete strangers that you rarely get in life. For me that's the magic of it. I've always loved it as an audience member to this day. If I'm onstage and I'm not onstage at the beginning of the thing, I always stand in the wings before I go on. I feel the specialness of that event. I want to feel like every night, this is the last time I'll ever do this. Something's going to happen tonight that could only happen tonight. That is the magic of theatre so you are right singing, dancing, doing a play. It does bring something out of me.
D.S.: Did you have a house that you were dreaming of like your character in the greatest showman when you were younger?
H.J.: My wife did. She was an actor who rented homes and stayed in hotels all her life so she had a book down to the taps, literally cut outs from magazines over 20 years, and that book was always with her. I was just hoping to pay the rent. I really didn't care. You can pretty much put me anywhere, I'll be happy.
D.S..: I heard your dad was a little worried when you told him you wanted to become an actor, as he thought you were too thin skinned. Were you a sensitive child?
H.J.: Yes, I'm still sensitive. I'm sensitive now. I told him I wanted to become an actor and he reacted, great, I think that's a smart choice, but I think you're too thin skinned. So, at the time, I felt like saying what are you talking about? I'm fine. I don't read a lot of reviews because I'm the type of personality that will only remember the bad ones, so I just do my best to try and be critical of my work since then. I found the best way to progress.
D.S.: But as an actor it must be hard to be judged all the time. How do you deal with that?
H.J.: Yes, it's hard, but I think all of us, no matter what, have to take some risks and do the thing we believe in. We come to terms with the fact that it's okay to fail sometimes, and I think what I've come to realize in life is that you actually don't regret failure if it was done for the right reason. Tell a story you really want to tell. This is one of those movies. It was also doing an original movie musical, which hadn't been done in 23 years, and I loved the challenge of that.
D.S.: How do you start your day? Do you meditate? How do you come up with this kind of energy?
H.J.: Coffee. My coffee. It's not too far from the truth. No, I always drink water first. I start with at least two bottles of that every day, then coffee. I usually work out, and then I meditate.
D.S.: We all have our own personal stories and what percentage would you say that you would change in your narrative of your own story throughout your life until now?
H.J.: I think, when I was younger, if I look back now, things mattered too much, like it just all seemed catastrophic. If a girl broke up with me, it was the end of the world. The final exam, if I don't pass, my life was over. I think I was a little too serious, and I missed out on a bunch of fun. I still had fun but if I look back, actually, I don't sit there going I wish I had done that differently. I spend time to try and fall still and create the narrative of today. Of course, there are events in my life I wish were different, and no one wants their parents to split up. But they also make you who you are, so I think it's more productive to think about creating the narrative of today, literally designing your day and that can be today.