Berserker: Hugh Jackman talks about 'X2'

Thu, May 1st, 2003 at 12:00am PDT

TV/Film
Rob Worley, Columnist

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Three years ago Hugh Jackman was a virtual unknown as far as American

moviegoers were concerned. Then, his go-for-broke performance as Wolverine in

"X-Men" propelled him to the top of Hollywood's list of leading me.

Four starring-roles later, Jackman returns to the role that made him a household

name.

Jackman recently sat down with the press for roundtable interviews.

Several members of the press took turns asking questions about the new mutant

movie. Comics2Film/CBR News is pleased to provide readers with an edited

transcript of that conversation.

This transcript contains minor spoilers.

Q: Is it true that here you're going to be playing performer/songwriter Peter

Allen soon?

Hugh Jackman (HJ): I'm doing a new musical on Broadway, which happens in

October, called "The Boy From Oz" where I play Peter Allen, for those

of you who don't know became first famous in America for marrying Liza Minnelli.

He used to do the opening act for Judy Garland, who he met at a drunk in a club

in Hong Kong many years ago.

He then became a prolific songwriter. He won an Oscar for "Arthur's

Theme." He wrote many hit songs that you would know but his life's story is

truly amazing. He was a boy from the outback in Australia.

If I said he was the polar opposite of Wolverine, I'm really not

exaggerating. He was very flamboyant, shall we say or Peter. Famous for his

Hawaiian shirts, gold, tap dancing shoes, jumping on top of the piano, making

out with pretty much anyone and anyone who came in his path, danced with the

Rockettes, he was a pretty outrageous character.

Q: How is this going to be played out on stage?

HJ: Well, I hope too many Wolverine fans come hoping to see a lot of testosterone

because they're not going to see it.

I keep imagining these Wolverine fans coming to opening night or something

and they're going, "Don't do it, Wolvie! Don't kiss that guy! This is

bullshit!"

Q: From what I've seen they're looking for a young Liza and they were looking

for a Judy, so all of this is in the show?

HJ: It's all there.

Q: Any licensing problems? How does Liza feel about this?

HJ: I think she feels fine. The show had already been played in Australia, so

they got through a lot of that licensing problems, if there was licensing

problems. But all the characters come off OK in the end. There's no damning

expos in particular.

It's a really good look at his life and at their marriage and so on but I

don't know. Seemingly she's OK. I met her backstage at The Beacon, when she did

her show, and she was very sweet. She seems very excited about because she loved

Peter. They had a great relationship running through their lives. She told me a

fantastic story about him, actually.

So, no, I think it'll be fine although I feel for the actors playing Judy

Garland and Liza Minnelli. They have big shoes to fill for American audiences.

Q: Another rumor going around is "Phantom of the Opera".

HJ: It's a film being made and they rang asking about my availability,

probably twenty other actors as well, and I wasn't available unfortunately. So it

never developed.

Q: What's it like getting back into your musical background.

HJ: Great. Well, I probably told you before, I never wanted to go more than

five years off the stage, not necessarily musicals, but just doing a play or

something. I don't know if my agent was particularly thrilled about the

twelve-month contract I signed, but still, it's thrilling. It's such a dream to

go to Broadway and we're the first Australian musical to ever go there and

playing a character who I have huge, huge admiration for. So, I'm really looking

forward to it. I'm probably more excited about that than I've been in a while.

Q: Is that why you were unavailable for "Phantom?"

HJ: Yeah.

Q: So does that mean then when they say, "OK, now we're going to do

'X3...'"?

HJ: [laughs] I don't think we can do it in between shows. I hate to think

what would come out:

[Peter Allen voice] Oh, Professor X! You look darling.

Well, hopefully they'll wait. I don't know. I haven't been asked. I don't

think they've even decided if there will be one until about May fourth or fifth.

Q: What do you love about living in New York?

HJ: What do I love about New York, man? I think it's the best city in the

world. As far as cities go everything's there. It's so vibrant. I love the

people. I think they're honest and in your face. If they don't like you they'll

say, "Get out of my way," and if they do like you they'll slap you on

the back and support you. I think it's a very intoxicating environment to be in.

In terms of theater, there's not a more supportive theater community than in New

York. It's really a real thrill to go there.

Don't forget, I'm a boy from the suburbs of cities. To go to New York is a

huge, huge thrill.

Q: I don't know if you've seen "X2" with an audience...

HJ: Press screening. Does that count?

Q: Well about twenty minutes in, when Wolverine does that first slash,

there's a cheer from the crowd. Fans want to see you fight but they also want to

see Wolverine's angst as a person. What kind of balance is that for you between

the action spectacle and the characterization?

HJ: When I first read this installment of the script, because I've been

talking to fans and if there's one thing they've said to me it was, "You

don't kick enough ass. Come on, we want to see that berserker rage. Let's go for

it!"

I kind of thought about that and I was like, "Geez, you're right,"

and when I went back through "X-Men 1" there really wasn't a lot of

that. I had huge fight scenes with Mystique, where I ended up on my back,

knocked out. And then there wasn't a lot of that berserker rage.

So, when I read the script, I thought the relationships were better. I

thought it was funnier. I thought there was more action, but I still said,

"we've gotta get even more action in." So, I kind of fought for a

little bit more in the mansion sequence particularly. There was a little more

berserker rage there than there was originally.

But apart from that I thought the script had a great balance. I don't know. I

think it works. I think it works for Wolverine's story. It's not like he's in a

corner crying. He's at a crisis point where he's about to find out everything

he's ever wanted to know. As liberating as that might be, it's frightening as

all hell. So he's on edge. He's having these nightmares. So it all kind of works

in together with the action and that berserker rage.

Q: How cool did your son think it was getting made up as Wolverine and going

out for Halloween?

HJ: Yeah. He loved it. I still laugh about that to this day. The girls

dressed him up, literally like mini-me. It was mini-me and I went out and I

thought, "Will I get dressed up? No it'll just be silly and it'll all get

out of control."

So, I just had the claws but I had the really claws from the set. So I came

out and I went to fifty houses. Not one person recognized me and everyone was

like, "Awww! The little Wolverine. He's so cute. He's so sweet."

And all my little boy would say is, "I'll slice you in half!"

He was two and a half. And then, because we'd moved house so many times, he

would just walk in. We'd go trick-or-treating and he'd think he's moved home.

He'd walk in, he'd go up the stairs, around the back and people didn't know what

to do. They were all standing there.

It was a funny night. He loved it. He loves Wolverine, although now he sees

the poster and he says, "Daddy, you're so cranky. Why can't you be

happy?"

He doesn't get it.

Q: Was it good to get back on the set again and see the family around?

HJ: Absolutely. We were a pretty close group and I think, particularly when

you're involved with a project that people are nervous about...It certainly

wasn't one of those films where people though, "oh, this is a slam-dunk.

It's gonna be huge."

The word was, for as much as I could hear or understand, "you know, this

film will probably stiff. They didn't test it, we don't know, it's a comic book.

Who knows what's going to happen? Do people really know 'X-Men?' How big is the

fan base."

And then when it opened it was so huge and I think everyone in the film was

proud of it. You were at that press screening. All the actors there. I don't

think I've been to a screening before when all the actors come which is not an

opening night.

I think everyone was really into it and loved it and we generally all got on

well together. It was Halle, who I'd done another film with as well, Swordfish,

so it was really good fun.

Q: Do you get mobbed by X-Men fans now?

HJ: Well, I don't get mobbed. I don't know why that is, either they didn't

like it, didn't have anything good to say, or they don't recognize me or ...

I've had the odd, weird encounter with the fans.

Vinnie at Bobby's restaurant in New York is my favorite encounter. He's a

great guy. I used to go to that restaurant quite a bit. I've seen actors there.

This is owned by DeNiro so actors go there all the time. He's the manager, so

it's not like he's unaccustomed to seeing actors.

The waiter comes up to me and he said, "Hey, are you the guy who plays

Wolverine?"

And I said, "Yeah, I am."

And he said, "Oh my God. Vinnie's a huge fan and really wants to see

you. He's over there by the counter."

And I look over and there's Vinnie ducking behind his little booth, literally

ducking underneath. Ten minutes it took him to come and see me and he came over

in a sweat, sweating, and I said, "Nice to meet you Vinnie. Are you a

fan?"

He looked at me and said, "Am I a fan?" And he took his shirt off,

in the middle of his restaurant, and he turned around and he had a full-color

tattoo of Wolverine on his back and he goes, "Am I a fan? Of

Wolverine!?"

And he got down on his knees and he was sweating and he says, "Thank you

for doing the film. I love the film. This is fantastic."

My wife pulled out the camera and said, "Vinnie, do you want a few

shots?"

Well Vinnie was doing the poses and he had his arm around me and he turned

his back and was flexing his back with his muscles. We took a whole roll of

Vinnie and we sent it to him.

Q: Were you at all concerned about Vinnie?

HJ: I had a few moments when he came over sweating where I was like, "I

don't know where this is going?"

Before he came out, I'd met a few and the fans were like, "You'd better

be doing this. You'd better be doing this. You'd better be playing him Canadian.

You'd better say this. You'd better..."

I was like, "oh, geez," because I'd just finished shooting the film

so I was like, "yeah. Well. OK. Interesting. I'll do my best."

Q: So after doing two of these huge films, what was the choice to do

"Van Helsing?"

HJ: Well, it is a big, summer, action blockbuster, there's no doubt. But I

read the script and I was like...I knew the film was gonna be great. I spoke to

[director Stephen Sommers] about it...

It certainly wasn't on my radar because was in the middle of a franchise. I

was just about to shoot "X-Men" when I signed onto it and I thought,

"I'm in the middle of a franchise. Do I need to slow down a bit?"

It was kind of compelling because the script was so good. I knew all the

people involved or I found out about them. It just seemed like a top-quality

project. I have to say I'm feeling a little smug with myself. We're three months

through shooting and I've seen enough of it to realize that I think it's gonna

be pretty good.

Q: The director said the movie is loaded with monsters, but there's not going

to be any blood. How can there be a monster movie without blood?

HJ: Did he say that? No blood? That's not entirely

true let me tell you. I

just bit on a blood capsule about a week ago.

All I can say is, it's gonna look unbelievably good. Those monsters are

amazing and the fight sequences are out of this world and it is gonna be

frightening enough and action-filled enough to just sneak there under the PG-13

rating or something like that. But it looks fantastic.

There are monsters in it but it's really an adventure story and the

characters are really well-etched and I think people will really go along for

the ride.

I feel like I'm in an "Indiana Jones" kind of movie. It's that big.

I mean it's huge. You can't believe it.

Q: It only has a passing relationship to Bram Stoker's ...

HJ: Yeah. Passing.

That's the inspiration for the story. His name and I've given him a very

slight Dutch accent. There's kind of references to that novel, but largely it's

just inspiration. It's Stephen's story, which is almost totally different.

Q: With Mystique, they've talked about shaving three hour off the makeup

process...

HJ: I thought you said shaving for three hours! Geez!

I know she's showing a lot of skin but...

Q: What was easier for you the second time?

HJ: Easier? I think almost everything. I mean the process of hair and makeup

is the same: hang me by my feet and spray three cans of hair spray on my head,

but I felt so much more confident on this film, not in an arrogant way.

If I didn't admit it to myself on the first one, I was pretty scared that

first month. I landed the part a week into shooting. It was my first Hollywood

movie and it was fun, but it was pretty overwhelming.

So, I don't think I really felt like I had the character for probably thee or

four weeks. So for a couple of scenes I was like, "yeah, now I've got it.

Now I've got it right."

So I can go back to "X-Men 1" and see the scenes where I'm sort of

there but it's not fully in focus for me.

So, starting again, from the beginning, being able to get ready physically,

be able to work out and get into the right shape. I'd just come off three weeks

holiday in Cicely so, if you hear the commentary by [director] Bryan Singer in

"X-Men 1.5" there's a scene where I've got my shirt off in the beginning

and he goes, "he's a little bit flabby there," which I was!

So, every part of it was easier. I think the studio was giving us more leeway

to do what we wanted. I felt like I owned the character more. I now had three

trailers in the car park, not one and an entourage of seven and not one.

So everything was easier. I had someone to do my dry cleaning and wipe my ass

and all that, so it was perfect.

Q: That's important when you've got the claws.

HJ: It is important when you've got the claws, thank you.

I'm joking about the entourage, by the way.

Q: How does your son like having an action figure of his dad?

HJ: Which is slightly disturbing, because the toy he loves the most is about

a foot high and it's voice activated and it says things like, "I'll slice

you in half." And he sometimes takes it to bed. So I'll in the other room

and I know he's cuddling it and it goes off in the middle of the night.

So he's getting these subliminal messages, "This kid will take you down.

I'll slice you in half."

And he's like, "ah, Da-da," and he kisses and hugs it. I can see

years of therapy coming my way.

Q: Well wait until the Peter Allen doll comes out.

HJ: [laughs] That's gonna really confuse him. He did have some tap shoes the

other day. I think I'm already in trouble. What does a Peter Allen doll do?

[voice] This thing has great flexibility.

I'm gonna mention that to the producers. We've gotta get that line out there:

Peter Allen blow-up doll!

I'm sorry.

Q: Does your son understand what you do, or does he think everybody's dad

gets to dress up and have dolls?

HJ: My son is now starting to get acting...I tried to explain it to him,

about, "What I'm doing is pretending. We play pretend together."

And if he doesn't want me to go I say, "Daddy's got to go out

pretending," and he goes, "I don't like your job. I don't like it. I

don't want you to be cranky any more."

So he doesn't fully get it, but he...I remember one day he said, "Daddy,

don't go to work. I don't want you to be a lizard."

"OK, I'll do my best."

But he kind of loves it. He loves Wolverine. At Halloween he was just in

heaven. Van Helsing he doesn't like, because it's scary. There's a couple scenes

where I had to go through fire and so he thinks that's too dangerous.

Q: Can you tell us about Wolverine's video game?

HJ: I haven't got it. I've just seen the front cover, so I haven't played it

yet.

Q: Did you work on that, doing the voices?

HJ: No. I didn't do the motion capture work. I didn't do any of that. I don't

know if they've used my voice or not. They probably have. Let me call my agent.

Q: Did they have you do any recordings?

HJ: No. I did a lot of recordings on the first movie for dolls and video

games. So they probably just use the same stuff.

Q: Is it better to have an action figure or be the star of a video game?

HJ: Action figure. People can stick pins in it, put it in the freezer. It's

far more dangerous than a video game.

Q: What was the last record you bought?

HJ: The last record was Nora Jones. I just think she's an incredible talent.

I think she's a great songwriter. I love all these young musicians, like Alicia

Keyes who are writing and playing and singing and have this artistic integrity.

I love the trend...Eminem...I love the trend that music's going in now. A little

bit away from the boy band thing to more singer/songwriter stuff.

Q: Movie musicals are coming back. How about doing a movie musical after you

finish your Broadway run?

HJ: Well, as long there's not a half-dozen really crap musicals in the next

year and a half, I think musicals will be back because ["Chicago"

director] Rob Marshall and ["Moulin Rouge" director] Baz Luhrmann have

shown that they're viable and commercial and they're interesting and they can

work on film. It seems crazy to me that they haven't been done, really

successfully, since "Grease." It seems crazy.

Unfortunately, if a musical is bad, it stinks to high heaven. It really does.

So they're really tough. I think, hopefully they'll still be around and I'll be

putting my hand up.

People ask me what musical I'd like to do. I would love a version of

"Sweeny Todd" to be made, if I had my choice. So I'm saying that to

put it out there in the either. But don't shoot it yet! Wait eighteen months,

please.

Q: Why is it important to you as an actor to go from a big movie like

"X2" to a stage production? Does it help you remind yourself you can

do it?

HJ: Not only to remind yourself you can do it, but it is, without a doubt,

the ultimate for an actor. The film world, we all know, is director and editor

driven. So you have some fun moments. You have a great time. But as an actor, in

terms of controlling the pace of the storytelling, on stage is really it. So as

long as you find the right thing, and of course every night you go through this

incredible journey, which is very cathartic.

It's more cathartic, really, to watch the final product of a film. The actual

shooting of a film can be a little bit disconcerting as you're going. It's a bit

piece meal.

But definitely, it's part of who I am. I trained for four years, classically

on the stage, to do the stage work. So it's sort of what I love to do.

Q: A lot of people heard you sing for the first time on "Saturday Night

Live." What kind of reaction did you get?

HJ: You know, I got more reaction from doing "Saturday Night Live"

than any movie I'd ever done, I think. I had no idea how many people watched it.

For me, I didn't grow up with "Saturday Night Live," except that I

knew of all those great comedians who came from there. It was one of the most

fun weeks I've ever had. I'm dying to go back there again and find some more

time, if they'll ever have me, but it was so much fun.

The only problem was Will Farrell, man. There were three skits that were so

funny that I ruined because at the rehearsal I couldn't get through it without

laughing. So three of his skits got cut, unfortunately, which was such a shame

because he was too funny. I mean that Christmas kangaroo one at the end: I

couldn't look at the monitor which had him dressed up in the kangaroo suit,

being sodomized by a kangaroo. It was just out of control, but I loved it.

It was a real highlight, but as I said, I had no idea how many people watched

it. I'm glade I didn't know before I did it.

Q: Back to "The Boy from Oz": did you take any ribbing at all?

You've Ian McKellan, Bryan Singer and Alan Cumming, and you're the guy playing

Peter Allen...

HJ: [laughs] ...I'm not gonna touch that, man.

Q: Did you take any ribbing from them?

HJ: Funnily enough, Bryan...there was one take where I came in as Peter Allen

as Wolverine. It's the moment where I walk into Cerebro and I walked down with

this big walk and cigars and I was, [Peter Allen voice], "Oh, I love what

you've done with Cerebro. It's fantastic." And I sat in [Patrick Stewart's]

lap and he got right into it and we played the whole thing and I walked out.

Well, Bryan's face was...he was like ashen. For about two hours he was like,

"my God," because all of a sudden he thought if this gets out,

Wolverine's [reputation] is absolutely gone.

Then he proceeded, from then on, he proceeded to show every person who came

on set. "You've gotta see Peter Allen play Wolverine."

Q: But it probably won't be on the DVD.

HJ: I doubt it'll be on the outtakes.

[whispers] Don't tell anyone.

 
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