Hugh Jackman talks Wolverine as he reprises his most famous role to date for the X-Men prequel
Hugh Jackman is having a hell of a year. In the autumn he was declared People magazine’s ‘Sexiest Man Alive’. In February he hosted the Oscars. And this month he has the lead in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the film that officially kicks off the summer blockbuster season. We spoke with him about Wolverine, his workout routine, musical theatre and birth order psychology.
Was it strange returning to the character Wolverine, but exploring an earlier period in his life? It was different because for the first three X-Men movies I was playing a character who didn’t know about his past, and even the comic book lore has been up for grabs, really. In this one it was exciting to know all those things and to evolve the character on screen.
The physical aspect of this is clearly very demanding. The truth of it is I never felt physically like I got to where I wanted to be in the first three movies. So this time I started preparing probably a year before. I started talking to this guy Scott, who’s the Australian national natural body-building champion. I just said to him, ‘OK, here’s the thing, I don’t care about being massive, like Schwarzenegger massive. I want to be lean.’ When you see the character I don’t want you to go, ‘Ah cool, what a great body.’ I want people to go, ‘Whoa, this guy’s a freak.’
You’re the youngest of five children. There’s a lot of psychological theory about how birth order affects personality. One of the things this birth order stuff says is that the youngest are risk takers, idealists, but also attention-seeking and immature. (Laughs) Yeah, pretty much all four, that was great! I know this study and me and John Travolta talked about it [while making Swordfish]. He’s the youngest of five too. Most people think it’s hard because they’re yelling for attention, but actually John kind of put it differently. He said, ‘I think it’s because they’re used to having attention.’ It’s probably more like that for me; I don’t feel like, ‘God, I want people to take notice of me.’ If I go to a party I don’t feel like I have to be in the centre. But I do find myself quite often being placed in that position. Even when I was younger at school, I would be asked to make a speech. I don’t remember putting up my hand often but I’d just find myself there. So maybe it is more like John said, it feels natural.
You’ve worked with a remarkable list of directors: Darren Aronofsky, Woody Allen, Christopher Nolan, and Baz Luhrmann, but the films haven’t been as warmly received critically or commercially as you might hope. Has that been frustrating for you? Generally if it doesn’t do as well, critically or commercially, I feel bad for the filmmaker more than anything. I think of The Fountain. I put so much into that film, we did so much and I really felt for Darren. I don’t know, maybe I’m the common denominator for why none of these films are working, so maybe I shouldn’t look into it too much. (Laughs). Great films, great filmmakers, all their other films do well except the ones I’m in.
As a lot of people learned during the Oscars, you’re a triple threat: sings, dances, acts. I’m always very nervous about the word dancer next to my name because anyone who’s really trained in dance will go, ‘This guy’s fudging so badly.’ But in another world, another life, probably growing up in another country, I might have been more of a dancer. In fact, I was going down that road when I was about 12 years old; I was encouraged to do that, and I remember my brother saying, ‘Ah you wimp’ and I gave it up. I dropped it like a hot rock. I didn’t have the guts of Billy Elliot at the time. Then later, when I was about 18, I remember thinking this is just ridiculous; I enjoyed dancing.
You have comic-book action fans on one side, and musical theatre people on the other side. You seem completely comfortable with both sides of that. That’s just my taste anyway. When people say to me, ‘What type of music do you like, what do you listen to?’ I always think it’s such an odd question; I love all different types of music. But that’s how I am with food, with people. I was reminiscing with an old mate and he said ‘Oh my god, if I look back at all my girlfriends they’re all the same.’ I said if I look back on all mine, they couldn’t be more different. I’ve never sort of repeated. So it’s my natural sort of state of being. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is out now.