‘I’m not always nice’: Hugh Jackman on anger, vulnerability and the

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hugh jackman is feeling reflective. it is easy to understand why. In his latest film, His Son, he plays an absentee, workaholic father struggling to help his estranged and deeply depressed teenage son. The role changed Jackman, he says, “as a man, as an actor, as a father, as a husband.” Such a role would inspire a period of introspection for most parents, not to mention soon-to-be empty nesters like Jackman, 54, and his actress-producer wife Deborra-Lee Furness (they have two sons, Oscar and ava) . Also, towards the end of production, his father died.

“we were close,” jackman says. “Here’s a great way to describe my relationship with my dad: We could go to a cricket tryout and feel totally comfortable sitting together, and during a seven-hour tryout, we’d talk for 20 minutes.” Jackman is on a video call from his publicist’s house. he is laid-back and open, often undermining serious emotional points with a punch line and uproarious laughter.

“My mother left when I was eight, so my father raised us,” he says. “He taught me really great values. he was never really interested in things like fame and money. he was always encouraging about education and good treatment of people and keeping his word ”. His father, Chris, would visit him on the set, where he would sit quietly, do his crossword puzzles or Sudoku puzzles, occasionally glancing at Jackman to give him the go-ahead. “He saw everything I did. he never said a bad word about anything,” Jackman says. “a lot of who I am today is thanks to him.”

jackman visited chris in australia shortly before filming of the son began in london. her father had been living with alzheimer’s for 12 years and her health had been deteriorating. jackman knew it was probably goodbye. When Chris died, Jackman stayed in London to finish making the son, partly because his father was the type to never miss work and would have expected the same of his son, but also because the movie helped him grieve.

“It was a film about vulnerability, family, generations, and how our past informs who we are today,” says Jackman. The Son explores the stranglehold of depression, tackling important topics like divorce scars, generational trauma, and serious mental illness. Taking on such a revealing role feels almost subversive for an actor more associated with comic book blockbusters (he was the X-Men glutton in nine movies) and musical box office giants like The Greatest Showman and Les Miserables. but jackman’s performance is assured; he has been nominated for a golden globe and is an outsider for an oscar.

The filming was intense, on and off the set. As a result of the pandemic, Jackman had not acted for a few years when he began filming and was still living in a Covid bubble with his family. “It was technically difficult. it was emotionally difficult. and I just kind of let myself go a little bit,” he says. “Things were coming out of my upbringing. my concerns as a parent. he began to experience sleepless nights. “That is something new for me. I was thinking about it and dreaming about it. I was more of a disaster at this than anything I’ve ever done.”

but it was also an enlightening experience. “I grew up in a large family with difficulties and some mental health issues,” she says. after making the film, “I understood the complications surrounding it and that it might have jumped into some judgments about the behavior of certain people.” now, he is “much less critical about it.” he started therapy while filming.

Jackman’s time with the son also changed his perspective on parenting. “I thought my job was to project confidence and security,” she says. “And there’s an element of that, I guess, that’s true. but I think now, especially since they’re older…being more open about my vulnerability, letting them know what’s going on inside of me, is something I’ve learned and I would do it differently now.”

Is there anything else you would do differently? “I would have moved less,” she says. “but I thought, deb and I thought, at that moment: I’m making movies; the lesser of two evils is having everyone together. I’m not 100% sure, but sometimes stability may have been more beneficial.” he would have also been more selective in choosing roles. “There was a period where things were hitting me and I felt like I had to take advantage of this opportunity. but now I look back and say: you could have completely relaxed and everything would have been fine.”

jackman grew up in sydney, the youngest of five children, with british parents who had emigrated in the 1960s. it was a “hectic” childhood. As a teenager, Jackman was lanky (his nickname was sticks), active, and “generally the good guy,” save for a brief period of angst as a teenager when he “would tell the teachers to go away and all that.”

For a while, he was also very religious, like his parents, who were devout Christians. “I went to an all-boys school, so the church was very helpful, because it was where I met the girls. but I was genuinely into it. and then my perspective broadened a little bit when I was about 16 years old.” he is no longer religious, but he describes himself as spiritual (“more universalist”).

jackman fell in love with the theater during trips to england to visit his mother. he decided to go to acting school and planned to pay the tuition with an inheritance from his grandmother. he sought the opinion of his father. “He said, ‘I couldn’t think of a better way to use it, but I have some concerns.’ And I said, ‘Don’t you think I’m good enough?’ And he said, ‘I think you’re good enough. but I think you’re too sensitive!’” she laughs.

“He’s right: I’m fair-skinned.” she refuses to read reviews. “But it’s also a strength as an actor. thin-skinned is sensitivity, which is something you need. so I’m still learning to cope.”

After graduating from the Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts in Perth (and turning down a role in Neighbors), she got her professional break in a prison drama, Correlli, where she met her co-star Furness (they’ve been married since 1996 ). The show lasted only one season, but stage roles, including the title role in a West End production of Oklahoma!, put him on Hollywood’s radar.

jackman was still an unknown when director/producer bryan singer approached him to play wolverine in the first x-men movie. back then, that role wasn’t the guarantee of the stardom it would be now. but x-men, released in 2000, was a phenomenal success. The franchise spawned 13 films, which grossed more than $6 billion globally and helped usher in the era of comic book movies.

For all their success, the legacy of the early X-Men movies has been called into question by the allegations against Singer. in recent years he has been accused by multiple men (some underage at the time) of sexual misconduct, which the singer has categorically denied. have these accusations tainted the way jackman views movies?

“You know, that’s a very, very complicated question,” he says. “There are a lot of things at stake there. x-men was the turning point, I think, in terms of comic book movies and I think there’s a lot to be proud of. and there are certainly questions to ask and I think should be asked. but I guess I don’t know how to respond elegantly to that. I think it’s complex, and ultimately I look back with pride on what we’ve accomplished and the momentum that started.”

An article by a Hollywood reporter also detailed claims of an X-Men set where, “behind the scenes, crises raged, including drug use, tantrums and a writers’ fight.” Halle Berry, who was directed by the singer in three X-Men movies, recently said of him: “Bryan’s not the easiest guy to work with. I mean, everyone has heard the stories…”

do these reports agree with jackman’s experience? “This was my first film in the United States, you have to understand; everything was so new to me,” he says. “I think it’s fair to say that…” he pauses. “There are some stories, you know… I think there are some ways of being on set that wouldn’t happen right now. and I think things have changed for the better.” is all he is willing to say about singer. more generally, he says, “there is much less tolerance for disrespect, marginalization, bullying, and any oppressive behavior. now there’s zero tolerance for that and people will talk, and I think that’s great.”

Although Jackman originally intended to retire as Wolverine after 2017’s highly praised Logan, which got the character killed off, he announced earlier this year that he would return to the role in Deadpool 3, which also stars Ryan Reynolds, a friend near. he refutes the idea that he has trouble letting go of his career-defining role. “No, it was fine,” he says. “I was not tortured for that. When people asked me [to reprise the role], including Ryan, every five seconds, I was like: I’m done.” But he says he realized how much fun it would be to make a Deadpool movie: “I just wanted to do it and I felt it in my gut.” Plus, he adds, “I get to hit Ryan Reynolds every day.”

Jackman is a commercially viable leading man, able to embrace camp theatrics (Les Miserables, The Greatest Showman) and collaborate with such authors as Darren Aronofsky (The Source), Christopher Nolan (The Prestige), Baz Luhrmann (Australia), and Denis villeneuve (prisoners). he’s a reliable broadway star (he’s nearing the end of his production of music man) and his concert tour was a critical and commercial success.

He’s happiest, as an actor, on stage. he attributes it to his childhood: “I like all the chaos and I can feel very calm inside it.” he got to dance later than he should, after one of his older brothers discouraged him by suggesting it was for “poofs”. but he rediscovered it (and his brother apologized) as a young adult. Did you have any of those complexes with him or were you worried that his campy performances might discourage offers for more masculine roles?

“oh no. I don’t care about any of that,” she says. “I think it’s the dumbest thing in the world. it’s crazy. I grew up in the days when women would dance on a dance floor in a circle and men would stand outside with a beer and I’d say, what are they doing here? the women are all down there with their bags in the center dancing around. I’m like: this is an easy choice, there’s not a single man on the dance floor!”

Jackman has long enjoyed a reputation as one of Hollywood’s most likable characters, to the point where he has to deny it. “I’m not always nice,” he says. “I’ve had my moments on set, sure, when I haven’t been nice. and sometimes I’ve behaved on set where I’ve yelled a little bit or done something that made me angry that I’m not proud of.”

Once again, look at his father’s lessons. “I had a great example, particularly from my father, of always trying to be respectful. everyone is doing their best for him. and my experience is that if you show up, give it your all, act respectful, then that’s generally what you get from other people.”

the son is in UK cinemas from February 17th

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