Just a few months ago, we saw Hugh Jackman on stage at the Oscars reprising his Oscar-nominated performance as Jean Valjean in "Les Miserables" -- a far cry from the intense, mutant-led action of "The Wolverine." There's a certain kind of cognitive dissonance to see him in person -- his cheeks bristling with Wolverine's trademark chops and still in superhero shape -- or even to think that this otherwise normal guy is one of the most famous (and highest-paid) actors in the world.
Especially because he's just so darn nice.
Jackman sat down with Moviefone in New York City -- the week before San Diego Comic-Con -- where he and director James Mangold showed off a different side to Wolverine.
WARNING: Spoilers ahead!
Moviefone: You seemed reluctant to sign on for more X-Men movies. Marvel has this whole multiphase movie plan, and we can sort of assume, given what we saw in the post-credits teaser for "The Wolverine," that there's more coming. Are you concerned it will interfere with your plans, like, to hang out with your family or do other projects?
Hugh Jackman: [Laughs] I'm not really -- well, I'm doing a film right now, "Days of Future Past," which...
Right, the chops.
Yes, it's not a deliberate choice.
They're kind of great in a Wolverine way, but I wouldn't choose to walk around with this one. But I think, you know, what that does, that little scene, the Easter egg scene that you see at the end of "The Wolverine," sets up the movie I'm shooting now. Beyond that, there are no plans. There's no script. No one's talked to me. We'll just see how it goes.
I've always taken it film by film, and feel that I'm very excited to have made "The Wolverine" because tonally and story-wise, character-wise, this is sort of how I saw the character, and that Japanese movie [tone] I was excited about. I don't know what's next. I have a few ideas, but I'm too superstitious about these two to air them yet.
And everyone always wants to know what's next, what you're doing next.
Well, weirdly, I'm in a position where I'm not signed on to anything. I am doing a workshop for a new Broadway musical called "Houdini," about Harry Houdini, so I'll be doing the final workshop for that in the fall, and if that goes well, some time next year, I'll probably do that. But I'm not officially signed on to anything, so it's fun. It's exciting for me.
Switching between "Days of Future Past," which is a different era and a different director, and "Wolverine," set in a different time in his life, how do you keep them straight? How do you transform yourself between the two?
Well, they're pretty much -- they're very similar tonally, in a way, which is good, and what's made it easier is physically... The hard thing is preparing for that character, and I knew halfway through this last one that I was going to do "Days of Future Past," so I literally kind of stayed on the program. Not for Christmas, but after that I stayed on the program, which made it easier. So physically, in that way, I was probably better prepared than ever before, for now. In terms of character and all of that, the interesting thing was having explored Wolverine more in depth, going back to the ensemble nature of the X-Men movie, which is fun, and it was working with great actors. I've enjoyed it.
This definitely gives a sort of "Hero With a Thousand Faces," ronin vibe to Wolverine that we've never seen before. It's nice to see him bleed a little.
Yeah, isn't it? You know, Chris McQuarrie, who wrote the first draft of this script, he was like, one of the big problems is there's been this weird inflation of his powers so that he's become more and more sort of impenetrable as the movies have gone on, to the point where in the last movie we kind of, the only way to stop anyone was to cut their heads off, you know? [laughs] This was a really cool way to kind of rescale it and bring it back, and to imagine what this character would be like without that sort of physical invulnerability.
Right, and you can walk into the movie and not even necessarily know the details and still really enjoy it. Here's a guy, he's got problems, and he's heartbroken. Obviously, you get more if you're an X-Men fan.
You even see that in the title. It's very deliberate not to say "X-Men 2"... because in a way, you never want to exclude people in case they haven't seen the other[s]. I mean, hey, I'm a parent with two kids, I get it. Even if you want to see movies, you don't get to see them. More than that, we wanted to make something that tonally was more of a stand-alone movie, that was different. It was almost like re-correcting the course of the way we were telling these stories.
Were you a little concerned about doing another stand-alone after "Origins"?
I'm always concerned. [laughs] Particularly when you play somebody as iconic as Wolverine, where there's such a massive fanbase, where the comic book's been around forever. You know, trust me, I get told every day by people, fans, what they like, what they don't like, and I appreciate it. They're fans, and they're giving over their beloved character to someone else to do, and it's important to listen to that and to hear them out, and of course, I want the fans to be happy, to feel like that we've done justice to the character they love so much.
You live in New York, right? And fans come up to you and tell you what they think. How does living in a place like New York, where we try to play it cool (but maybe not always) when we see someone like Hugh Jackman walk by -- what is everyday life like?
Of all the cities I go to, New York reminds me a bit of Australia. I get a very similar reaction, you know. It doesn't matter who they are. "Yo, Wolverine! Yo, dude! What up!" You know, as they're driving and high-fiving people. But New Yorkers, they play it cool in a way that they [say] "Hey, can I get a picture, man?"... or "Listen, you've gotta do this bit." But they just, bang, and they're off because they're busier than you are. [laughs] I kind of love that. It's a bit the same in Australia.
Talking about your diet and things like that, is there a concern about the way people are almost expected to change their bodies, from "Les Mis" to "Wolverine." Do you think it's detrimental to actors' health? Do you think it helps the process?
It's interesting. I don't know, I question that too at times. I think there's a lot to be gained in the desire that actors have, and I'm one of them, to really allow audiences to suspend their disbelief. And with something like "Les Mis," you have an opportunity to do something you can't do on stage, which is to almost make someone unrecognizable, from the younger to the older Valjean.
In terms of Wolverine, that body, which is not easily achieved, and I probably am addicted to some kind of climbing Mt. Everest every day, that I kind of like the challenge, but it is important to externalize that internal struggle, that animal versus the human that he embodies. It's sort of [an] important theme in the character and the story, the control versus chaos, and having that, I think, very lean, muscular body with veins... It's not pretty or, "Hey, cool, it looks like he goes to the gym," but more worrying. I think that says a lot, particularly [for] a character who doesn't actually speak a lot.
And then shifting your diet radically and your workout...
Yeah, that -- I have adjusted to make sure I have more time between films and more time to prepare. I do it in a healthier way now. I do it with intermittent fasting, so there's periods where I'm not eating and periods when I eat a lot, and I monitor my health. I go and get checkups, and I have a great doctor here. I do! I monitor, I get my blood taken. I want to know my cholesterol's all right. Generally, I'm in good health, but I don't want it to go south because I am putting on and taking off weight rapidly, relatively, and I know that's a stress on the body.
People just feel very free to comment on it, you know? You saw that a lot with Anne Hathaway, who wasn't trying to lose weight to look good or sexy, she's looking emaciated.
And it came from the research. It was absolutely fantastic what she did, you know? To show what was happening with that disease. It's not pretty and not cool. It's tragic. And she went through the ringer.
Right. Media-wise, too.
Oh, media-wise. I don't read all that. She just did such a great job, and she was brilliant, and all the other stuff is just -- if it's negative, it's rubbish. That woman is a genius. She's incredible, and what she created will last forever. Someone's blog will not.
As an accomplished stage actor and former Oscar host, do you feel that the job is even worth the vitriol that's lobbed at the host?
No, it's a pretty thankless task. [laughs] But it's absolutely worth it. It's one of those things where -- when I said yes, I had some moments where [I thought], "What am I putting myself up for? You know, I'm an actor, and you can get absolutely trashed for doing this." In the end, I was like, I don't want to not do something because I'm afraid that people won't like it. I don't want to not have a go at something. And this is the Oscars. This is one of the greatest honors I've ever had in my life, and I didn't want to not do it because I was scared, basically.
I deliberately don't read the reviews, and Baz Luhrmann I saw two days later, and he goes, "Man, I don't care what the L.A. Times says, I thought you did a great job." And I was like, "What did they say?" [laughs] So, you know, reading all that stuff can burst your bubble pretty quickly.
I was assigned to review "Movie 43"...
[Laughs] I haven't seen it.
I had to go Friday morning, with all the weirdos who go to Friday morning screenings, and I was wondering if the Farrelly brothers had ever approached you to do press or talk about it, or were you just like, "Sorry, dudes. I'm out!"
I can't remember because I was filming at the time. I don't think it ever came up. But, you know, we shot one of the first ones -- I think we were the first one to shoot, actually. I just read that short, and it really appealed to the kind of "Monty Python" side of my sense of humor, and I thought it was very funny... the more R-rated "Monty Python." It just made me laugh. And I said, yeah, let's do it. I haven't seen any of the others. I'll get to see it at some point. But I'm sure, actually, for my 13-year-old, for him, it'll be the coolest thing I've ever done. [laughs]
Cooler than Wolverine is having balls on your chin?
"Yeah, dad. It's so funny, man." I'm sure.
"The Wolverine" claws its way into theaters Friday, July 26.