Hugh Jackman ('Van Helsing')
'Still Hungry Like The Wolf'
Born in Sydney of English parentage, and the youngest of 5 children, Jackman has a Communications degree with a journalism major from the University of Technology Sydney. After graduating, he pursued drama at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, immediately after which he was offered a starring role in the ABC TV prison drama 'Corelli', opposite his future wife Deborra-Lee Furness. Several TV guest roles followed, as an actor and variety compere.
An accomplished singer, Jackman has starred as Gaston in the Australian production of 'Beauty and the Beast'. He appeared as Joe Gillis in the Australian production of 'Sunset Boulevard'. In 1998 he was cast as Curly in the Royal National Theatre's production of Trevor Nunn's 'Oklahoma'. Jackman has since gone on to make many feature films, the second of which, 'Erskineville Kings' (1999), garnered him an Australian Film Institute nomination for Best Actor in 1999. Other films have included 'Someone Like You' (2001), 'Swordfish' (2001), 'Kate & Leopold' (2001), and both 'X-Men' films.
Stephen Sommers told us that you had some reluctance in terms accepting the role of Van Helsing because of the obvious tenuous connection with playing Wolverine. Obviously he persuaded you to overcome that, but how? "My reluctance was more ... well, I knew from the moment I read it that the movies were very different, as you can tell after seeing it. And the characters are very different. My reluctance was more, I thought after shooting, and when I met Steve I was on my way to shoot 'X-Men 2' my reluctance was that I thought I was going to do a smaller independent movie after that; doing something different. I was a bit reluctant about being in another big, sort of, franchise kind of movie; a summer, popcorn movie in a way; because I thought I might just end up going down that road. And because they take so long to make, it's like a year of your life. And then I knew I was coming to Broadway for a year. So I figured, do I really want to be doing that? And of course, if it's successful, then 'X-Men 3' and then 'Van Helsing 2', then that would kind of be my film life, you know?"
"And so I rang Steve and said, 'Steve, the only thing I'm nervous about, and I know this picture is going to be great and I love the character, but I'm a bit nervous about ...', you know, what I just told you. There was a pause and he said, 'Hugh, I think you're probably the only actor in Hollywood who is nervous about being in two successful franchises,' he laughed. And I had a giggle, and that was about it. I mean, it took a little more convincing, but that was really the main aspects of my fears."
I understand there is kind of an unwritten law in Hollywood that says: if you want to be in the mix you've really have got to have another movie that you're working on before your next movie comes out. And you, of course, have been doing Broadway for the past year. How do you feel about your career now versus the expectations in Hollywood? Some people are saying this movie is going to make you an A-list star! "Where are those rules," he shruggs his shoulders, gently laughing. They only become evident when people break them, ... successfully. It's a cliché to say there are no rules in Hollywood, but look what Mel [Gibson] has just done. I think in the end, it's choosing things that you believe in, and that you think you're right for. I'm kind of like, hey, some actors are good at it. I don't think many actors are the best judge of careers. I think generally we have good instincts about what we can do in terms of acting. And often they become directors, which I don't want to be. Some actually get a really good instinct for the film itself. But I get a very strong feeling about what I can do with a role in the film. And then apart from that I have to have faith in the directors."
And Stephen Sommers is someone who made you feel very comfortable in choosing the part of Van Helsing and in making the film. And he's 100% into what he's doing and therefore someone you could depend on "That's why I love working with Steve, because I immediately knew, in my gut, that he was going to make the best version of that film; that he would leave no stone unturned. I had every confidence in what I could do with the role. But I didn't know how to make one of those movies. I wouldn't know for a second how to pull that together. And then more I learn about it, the more miraculous it is when I see what Steve has done. It's an extraordinary feat to pull all those things together. If it comes to a plan, I mean this was a step up for me in terms of, you know, Kate and I above the title - and it's kind of like I'm playing the lead character; I'm playing Van Helsing - and that's the first time I've done that. And that was a deliberate choice, and I only did it with someone like Steve because I trust him. I'm not going to be one of those lead actors who are like 'this is my movie and I'm coming on set. I hate the script and I'm rewriting, and I'm going to do it all this way.' I don't want to work like that."
Whether it's a ten-million dollar stage show or a one-hundred-and-fifty million dollar movie summer, does your sense of responsibility change at all? "With the stage show it's changed in that if I'm sick, the show's off. So, if I had a bad day when filming, I could say, 'Steve, I'm having a bad day. I'm not feeling well. Can we reschedule?' But with theater it's a discipline; you've got to be on every night, which is tough. But generally my experience is the film when you're actually filming it's exactly the same as when I did my first Aussie film which cost seventy-thousand Australian dollars. It's exactly the same feeling. There is anxiety, but it comes after you've finished filming because it's out of your hands; people are editing it, they're cutting it, marketing it. And it's, well, part of your career sort of rides on that. But when you're actually filming it's a team thing and it really feels good there for me. But the stage show is probably a little more responsibility in that."
No Hugh, no show!? "Well, also reviews affect the show. If the reviews sucked we would have closed in a week, you know what I mean? And movies, particularly summer movies, exist on a whole other level."
Kate Beckinsale has described you consistently as the nicest guy in Hollywood; how do you feel about that label? How do you react to that? "How do I react to that? Well, it's easy to be nice around good people. We had a great time. We really did. I think it was the most fun I've ever had on a set. Steve Sommers led from the top. He's an old-fashioned director. I always call him an old-fashioned director. He sets the tone. He walks on set. He starts the day at 7:30 with exactly the same energy as he finishes at 7:30. He never goes a minute past 7:30; he's like the only director at all who does that. If you're doing an action movie and it's like twelve hours and he goes 100% all day. He pops in every day to into your make-up to see you – 'How you doing everybody? Any questions?' Trust me, this doesn't always happen. He really led the way. He made it really easy. It was an almost frighteningly kind of easy set: there were no tantrums; there were no breakdowns; every department worked well; it shouldn't work that easily. Should it?!"
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