Turns out the man behind Wolverine, that international mutant of mystery, is not so mysterious after all.
Rather than a lone wolf with a murky origin and a volatile temperament like he has in “X-Men: The Last Stand,” Hugh Jackman’s a family man from Australia whose main superpower seems to be an infectious grin.
Instead of a brooding figure wrapped up in Wolverine’s own dark thoughts, Jackman’s a guy always thinking of others. Just now, he’s concentrating on his wife, Australian actress Deborra-Lee Furness, who co-stars with Laura Linney and Gabriel Byrne in “Jindabyne,” a drama that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival a day after “X-Men: The Last Stand” played there.
“I’m my wife’s publicist,” he joked, showing off the press booklet for her film and beginning an interview for “X-Men” proudly boasting that Furness made it to Cannes with her first film after a five-year break to look after their two young children.
Jackman and Furness’ Cannes trip this time is far different from one they made in the late 1990s, when they turned up to shop around “Paperback Hero,” an unfinished Australian film Jackman starred in, to distributors.
Instead of the Sean Connery suite they have this time, with their own private elevator at the luxurious Carlton Hotel, back then they stayed in a backpacker’s hotel and spent most of their time trying to sneak into glitzy parties without invitations.
“We managed to get in because my wife is a genius getting into places she shouldn’t be in,” Jackman, 37, told The Associated Press at his hotel suite. “It was kind of great and amazing, and I sometimes wish I could just stroll out in the crowd without being recognized and just watch it all. But that’s not the experience this time. Mind you, given the two, I prefer this one.
“You know, it feels very James Bond, actually,” Jackman said, staring around at his suite’s ornate furnishings and the framed photo of former Bond actor Connery on an end table.
Jackman’s name was among those tossed about as prospective Bonds before the role went to Daniel Craig. Agent 007 was not a part Jackman was angling for, and considering he’s become the hardest-working mutant in show business, it’s hard to imagine how he could have fit it in.
A busy year for JackmanAfter the third “X-Men” film, Jackman has five more movies coming in less than a year.
He stars with Rachel Weisz in “The Fountain,” a fountain-of-youth fantasy from director Darren Aronofsky (“Requiem for a Dream”). In “The Prestige,” from director Christopher Nolan (“Batman Begins”), Jackman and Christian Bale play magicians in a blood rivalry. Jackman plays a British aristocrat suspected of serial murders in Woody Allen’s romantic caper “Scoop,” co-starring Scarlett Johansson. And Jackman provides voices for two animated flicks, as the lead rodent in “Flushed Away,” the story of an uppercrust London rat hurled into the sewers, and as a penguin in the cartoon musical “Happy Feet.”
He owes it all to Wolverine, a role he initially failed to land. Bryan Singer, who directed the first two “X-Men” flicks, had cast Scottish actor Dougray Scott, but he had to back out because of a scheduling conflict to shoot “Mission: Impossible II.”
Jackman happened to be in Los Angeles visiting from Australia as the first “X-Men” movie began shooting in Toronto. After a whirlwind of meetings and auditions, he started work as the replacement Wolverine a week after landing in Los Angeles.
“Hugh has kind of personified that character,” said Brett Ratner, who directed “X-Men: The Last Stand.” “This is the guy. I can’t even envision someone else playing that role, he’s so good at it. There are some actors who I feel were born to play certain roles, and he was with Wolverine.”
The Marvel Comics “X-Men” tales have a pantheon of mutants with superhuman abilities, yet dark loner Wolverine is the fan favorite. A man with a shadowy past, Wolverine has the ability to heal almost instantly and has been fitted with retractable metal claws.
The character commands respect as much from his menacing attitude as his superpowers, Jackman said.
“He may not have the most powerful mutation, but he’s kind of the most feared,” Jackman said. “I remember when Mike Tyson was fighting early on ... Because on one level, we kind of admired him, but on another level, you kind of felt for the person who was opposing him, because he was frightening.
“Wolverine’s got a little bit of that quality in him. You kind of like him, and you’re a little bit scared of him at the same time.”
Aiming for a career like Newman'sThe youngest of five children, Jackman had done amateur theater and initially studied journalism before deciding to pursue acting. He studied at the Australian Academy of Performing Arts and quickly found success on Australian television and in stage musicals, including a British production of “Oklahoma!”
Jackman won a Tony on Broadway for “The Boy From Oz,” in which he played singer-songwriter Peter Allen, Liza Minnelli’s ex-husband, who died of AIDS in 1992.
With his success in “X-Men,” Jackman went on to star as the title character in the vampire-hunter tale “Van Helsing,” the romantic comedies “Someone Like You” and “Kate & Leopold” and the thriller “Swordfish” with “X-Men” co-star Halle Berry.
Jackman is developing an “X-Men” spinoff movie focusing on Wolverine, and he said he plans to maintain a mix of stage and film roles.
“If I really look at a career I admire, it’s probably someone like Paul Newman. I always felt that he was an actor, a character actor. He didn’t even kind of put on airs that ‘I’m a lead actor.’ He really just did justice to the part, and he mixed his stage life with his film life,” Jackman said.
“For me, that’s an important part of staying fresh, staying alive. You never know how this business is going to go. I feel very lucky at the moment that there are a number of doors open to me, and let’s hope I can keep them wedged open.”