Hugh Jackman may have been voted this year’s ‘Sexiest Man Alive’, but his son thinks he looks like a girl. When Oscar – the adopted son of Jackman and his wife Deborra-Lee Furness – was just three, he started calling the X-men star “mummy”. The 40-year-old actor had been growing his hair for the vampire flick Van Helsing and thought he looked like a “rockstar”, but his son brought him back to earth. Jackman said, “Oscar thinks I’m a girl. He said, ‘Daddy, you’re Mummy now.’” And when Jackman beat Brad Pitt and George Clooney to be named ‘Sexiest Man Alive’, his eight-year-old son didn’t hide his amazement. Jackman said: “He said, ‘You? You got to be kidding me!’” But anyone who has seen Baz Luhrmann’s epic Australia will understand why the 188 cm star was crowned sexiest of all – his bulging, tanned muscles are so prominent in the film they almost have their own lines. The actor’s appeal isn’t even dampened by his chronic overuse of the word “crikey”.
In Australia, the sexy star plays Drover, a tough-living Australian cattleman who falls in love with an upper-class English woman, played by Nicole Kidman. The unlikely romance flourishes against a dramatic backdrop of events that occurred in northern Australia during World War II; including the Japanese bombing of Darwin and the forced removal of Aboriginal children. The film has been successful at the box office, grossing more than £40 million worldwide and breaking opening weekend sales records in Australia, but it has received mixed reviews from critics. While some reviewers loved the film, others criticised it for being too long, melodramatic and historically inaccurate. Yet the mixed reaction hasn’t hurt Jackman’s career.
Earlier this month, he was asked to host the 2009 Academy Awards, an honour previously extended to Bob Hope, Billy Crystal, David Letterman, Whoopi Goldberg, Chris Rock and Ellen DeGeneres. It’s a long way from Jackman’s first job as the lead on the short-lived Australian television series Corelli. The show was cancelled after just 10 episodes, but the actor got his big break less than a year later – when an injury forced actor Dougray Scott to pull out of superhero movie X-Men and Jackman was offered the role of Wolverine. The actor’s portrayal of the hairy superhero with retractable steel claws was a huge success, and Jackman went on to star in two sequels. To date, the X-Men trilogy has grossed more than £1 billion at the box office. Now Jackman will also star in the upcoming spin-off film, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, due for release this year.
Following his Wolverine success, Jackman quickly became one of the most sought-after actors in Hollywood, starring in Kate and Leopold, Swordfish, Van Helsing, The Prestige, Scoop and other big-budget blockbusters. He has also had success on stage, winning a Tony Award in 2004 for his Broadway portrayal of Australian singing sensation Peter Allen in the musical The Boy from Oz. He also won an Emmy Award the same year for hosting the 2004 Tony Awards. But for Jackman, the accomplishment he is most proud of is his family.
He and his wife have been “very happily married” for 12 years and have two adopted children, Oscar and Ava, whom they raise in Sydney.
What was it like to play the manly cowboy Drover in Baz Luhrmann’s epic ‘Australia’?
Drover starts off as the archetypal masculine outsider who gradually becomes more involved and more vulnerable. I was thrilled to play a character like that in such a large-scale movie. The idea of being an ultra-reserved character and being uptight, the way Drover is emotionally, is erroneous to me. I actually think it is more manly to be able to be more vulnerable at times and show your emotions.
You’ve played some physically demanding roles. What was filming in the Australian outback like?
I collapsed pretty much on the first day of filming, which was not the most macho way to start. It was incredibly hot and I was on a horse waiting to shoot a scene with cattle. About 30 minutes later I said, “Do you think we are nearly ready to go? It is pretty hot out here.” I was wearing a woollen shirt, leather pants, a hat and an all-weather jacket with lining. My horse was particularly spooked by umbrellas so I couldn’t even shelter from the heat, so I was just sitting in the sun. They said it would only be another five minutes, so I stayed on my horse. About 45 minutes later I felt a hand on my back and I remember saying, “What are you doing?” And this extra replied, “What am I doing? What are you doing mate? You are at a 45 degree angle to your horse!” He was holding me up!
You star opposite Nicole Kidman in the movie. What were your sex scenes like?
Nicole and I, funnily enough, have been friends for a long time, which can sometimes make things a bit more awkward. It might sound strange, but sometimes it’s a little easier to be kissing someone you’ve never met before than someone you know quite well and you know you’ll see at a dinner party in six months.
You have your shirt off for most of the movie. Did you feel self-conscious?
In the movie, there’s a great moment when we were shooting the outback shower scene, which, by the way, is absolutely historically accurate. That’s exactly the technique they used. So, when we were shooting that scene, I remember saying to Baz, “Are you sure this isn’t too much? Are they going to laugh? They’re going to think I’m a w****r here.” There were a couple of members of the crew who took their shirts off after the first little break, one of which oiled himself up a little bit. So, trust me, I got a lot of hell about that scene when we were down there.
Since we’re speaking about your muscles, how does it feel to be voted People magazine’s ‘Sexiest Man Alive’?
There is a lot of campaigning that goes into that. I was never strong in the swimsuit competition, but I think the baton twirling put me over the top.
Did you win anything – apart from bragging rights?
Did I get a trophy? What? Something like a golden phallus? Yeah, I got a golden phallus when I won. No, I got nothing at all. I just got a whole load of hell from my mates, that’s all! What does your wife think of your new title? God bless her, she said, “I could’ve told them that years ago!” And then she said, “Obviously, Brad wasn’t available this year?” And I said, “That was a joke, right?”
What is it about you that makes women go weak at the knees?
I can tell you what works for my wife, that’s for sure. When I wore that white double-breasted jacket for Australia she said, “Wear your costume home tonight.” She didn’t say that about the other horse-smelling costume I had to wear in the movie.
Has she asked you to wear any other odd outfits in the bedroom?
When we met, I was cast as a prisoner with tattoos and she’d say, “Don’t take your tattoos off tonight!” and I’d be like, “All right!” But what works best with her is the stockbroker look. In general, she loves the idea of me coming home in costume because it makes her feel like she’s having an affair – in a good way.
You’re reprising the role of Wolverine in the new film ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’. Was it great to play the character again?
We are dealing with a character who is probably one of the darkest comic book characters ever created. The movie has a lot of fun elements, but there are layers of pain to this character as well.
Will you play Wolverine again after this movie?
There are two conditions for doing any more. One is, will anybody want to see it? And the second, will I still have the passion for it? I really wanted to do this spin-off because I felt we hadn’t truly discovered who this character was.
You’re hosting the 2009 Academy Awards this month. Are you looking forward to it?
Thirty years ago when I was in Sydney watching Johnny Carson host the Oscars with my family, I never imagined that one day I’d have the chance to be on that stage myself. So its an unbelievable honour for me.
You were raised by your father. Is he proud of your achievements?
About eight years ago, I has to sing at Carnegie Hall, and my father flew to New York. It was a three day trip from door to door, so he had less than 24 hours in New York. And he asked, “What shall I wear?” and I said, “I think a suit, but don’t worry about a tie.” So he came to pick me up, and he had full black tie on. The full thing. I said, “Dad, I’m sure it’s not black tie.” And he said, “My son is singing at Carnegie Hall. It’s black tie for me!”