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Berserker: Hugh Jackman talks about 'X2'

Three years ago Hugh Jackman was a virtual unknown as far as Americanmoviegoers were concerned. Then, his go-for-broke performance as Wolverine in"X-Men" propelled him to the top of Hollywood's list of leading me.Four starring-roles later, Jackman returns to the role that made him a householdname.

Jackman recently sat down with the press for roundtable interviews.Several members of the press took turns asking questions about the new mutantmovie. Comics2Film/CBR News is pleased to provide readers with an editedtranscript of that conversation.

This transcript contains minor spoilers.

 

Q: Is it true that here you're going to be playing performer/songwriter PeterAllen soon?

Hugh Jackman (HJ): I'm doing a new musical on Broadway, which happens inOctober, called "The Boy From Oz" where I play Peter Allen, for thoseof you who don't know became first famous in America for marrying Liza Minnelli.He used to do the opening act for Judy Garland, who he met at a drunk in a clubin Hong Kong many years ago.

He then became a prolific songwriter. He won an Oscar for "Arthur'sTheme." He wrote many hit songs that you would know but his life's story istruly amazing. He was a boy from the outback in Australia.

If I said he was the polar opposite of Wolverine, I'm really notexaggerating. He was very flamboyant, shall we say or Peter. Famous for hisHawaiian shirts, gold, tap dancing shoes, jumping on top of the piano, makingout with pretty much anyone and anyone who came in his path, danced with theRockettes, he was a pretty outrageous character.

 

Q: How is this going to be played out on stage?

HJ: Well, I hope too many Wolverine fans come hoping to see a lot of testosteronebecause they're not going to see it.

I keep imagining these Wolverine fans coming to opening night or somethingand they're going, "Don't do it, Wolvie! Don't kiss that guy! This isbullshit!" 

 

Q: From what I've seen they're looking for a young Liza and they were lookingfor a Judy, so all of this is in the show?

HJ: It's all there.

 

Q: Any licensing problems? How does Liza feel about this?

HJ: I think she feels fine. The show had already been played in Australia, sothey got through a lot of that licensing problems, if there was licensingproblems. But all the characters come off OK in the end. There's no damningexposé in particular. 

It's a really good look at his life and at their marriage and so on but Idon't know. Seemingly she's OK. I met her backstage at The Beacon, when she didher show, and she was very sweet. She seems very excited about because she lovedPeter. They had a great relationship running through their lives. She told me afantastic story about him, actually. 

So, no, I think it'll be fine although I feel for the actors playing JudyGarland and Liza Minnelli. They have big shoes to fill for American audiences.

 

Q: Another rumor going around is "Phantom of the Opera".

HJ: It's a film being made and they rang asking about my availability,probably twenty other actors as well, and I wasn't available unfortunately. So itnever developed.

 

Q: What's it like getting back into your musical background.

HJ: Great. Well, I probably told you before, I never wanted to go more thanfive years off the stage, not necessarily musicals, but just doing a play orsomething. I don't know if my agent was particularly thrilled about thetwelve-month contract I signed, but still, it's thrilling. It's such a dream togo to Broadway and we're the first Australian musical to ever go there andplaying a character who I have huge, huge admiration for. So, I'm really lookingforward to it. I'm probably more excited about that than I've been in a while.

 

Q: Is that why you were unavailable for "Phantom?"

HJ: Yeah.

 

Q: So does that mean then when they say, "OK, now we're going to do'X3...'"?

HJ: [laughs] I don't think we can do it in between shows. I hate to thinkwhat would come out:

[Peter Allen voice] Oh, Professor X! You look darling.

Well, hopefully they'll wait. I don't know. I haven't been asked. I don'tthink they've even decided if there will be one until about May fourth or fifth.

 

Q: What do you love about living in New York?

HJ: What do I love about New York, man? I think it's the best city in theworld. As far as cities go everything's there. It's so vibrant. I love thepeople. I think they're honest and in your face. If they don't like you they'llsay, "Get out of my way," and if they do like you they'll slap you onthe back and support you. I think it's a very intoxicating environment to be in.In terms of theater, there's not a more supportive theater community than in NewYork. It's really a real thrill to go there.

Don't forget, I'm a boy from the suburbs of cities. To go to New York is ahuge, huge thrill.

 

Q: I don't know if you've seen "X2" with an audience...

HJ: Press screening. Does that count?

 

Q: Well about twenty minutes in, when Wolverine does that first slash,there's a cheer from the crowd. Fans want to see you fight but they also want tosee Wolverine's angst as a person. What kind of balance is that for you betweenthe action spectacle and the characterization?

HJ: When I first read this installment of the script, because I've beentalking to fans and if there's one thing they've said to me it was, "Youdon't kick enough ass. Come on, we want to see that berserker rage. Let's go forit!"

I kind of thought about that and I was like, "Geez, you're right,"and when I went back through "X-Men 1" there really wasn't a lot ofthat. I had huge fight scenes with Mystique, where I ended up on my back,knocked out. And then there wasn't a lot of that berserker rage.

So, when I read the script, I thought the relationships were better. Ithought it was funnier. I thought there was more action, but I still said,"we've gotta get even more action in." So, I kind of fought for alittle bit more in the mansion sequence particularly. There was a little moreberserker rage there than there was originally.

But apart from that I thought the script had a great balance. I don't know. Ithink it works. I think it works for Wolverine's story. It's not like he's in acorner crying. He's at a crisis point where he's about to find out everythinghe's ever wanted to know. As liberating as that might be, it's frightening asall hell. So he's on edge. He's having these nightmares. So it all kind of worksin together with the action and that berserker rage.

 

Q: How cool did your son think it was getting made up as Wolverine and goingout for Halloween?

HJ: Yeah. He loved it. I still laugh about that to this day. The girlsdressed him up, literally like mini-me. It was mini-me and I went out and Ithought, "Will I get dressed up? No it'll just be silly and it'll all getout of control." 

So, I just had the claws but I had the really claws from the set. So I cameout and I went to fifty houses. Not one person recognized me and everyone waslike, "Awww! The little Wolverine. He's so cute. He's so sweet."

And all my little boy would say is, "I'll slice you in half!"

He was two and a half. And then, because we'd moved house so many times, hewould just walk in. We'd go trick-or-treating and he'd think he's moved home.He'd walk in, he'd go up the stairs, around the back and people didn't know whatto do. They were all standing there. 

It was a funny night. He loved it. He loves Wolverine, although now he seesthe poster and he says, "Daddy, you're so cranky. Why can't you behappy?"

He doesn't get it.

 

Q: Was it good to get back on the set again and see the family around?

HJ: Absolutely. We were a pretty close group and I think, particularly whenyou're involved with a project that people are nervous about...It certainlywasn't one of those films where people though, "oh, this is a slam-dunk.It's gonna be huge."

The word was, for as much as I could hear or understand, "you know, thisfilm will probably stiff. They didn't test it, we don't know, it's a comic book.Who knows what's going to happen? Do people really know 'X-Men?' How big is thefan base."

And then when it opened it was so huge and I think everyone in the film wasproud of it. You were at that press screening. All the actors there. I don'tthink I've been to a screening before when all the actors come which is not anopening night.

I think everyone was really into it and loved it and we generally all got onwell together. It was Halle, who I'd done another film with as well, Swordfish,so it was really good fun.

 

Q: Do you get mobbed by X-Men fans now?

HJ: Well, I don't get mobbed. I don't know why that is, either they didn'tlike it, didn't have anything good to say, or they don't recognize me or ...I've had the odd, weird encounter with the fans.

Vinnie at Bobby's restaurant in New York is my favorite encounter. He's agreat guy. I used to go to that restaurant quite a bit. I've seen actors there.This is owned by DeNiro so actors go there all the time. He's the manager, soit's not like he's unaccustomed to seeing actors. 

The waiter comes up to me and he said, "Hey, are you the guy who playsWolverine?"

And I said, "Yeah, I am."

And he said, "Oh my God. Vinnie's a huge fan and really wants to seeyou. He's over there by the counter."

And I look over and there's Vinnie ducking behind his little booth, literallyducking underneath. Ten minutes it took him to come and see me and he came overin a sweat, sweating, and I said, "Nice to meet you Vinnie. Are you afan?"

He looked at me and said, "Am I a fan?" And he took his shirt off,in the middle of his restaurant, and he turned around and he had a full-colortattoo of Wolverine on his back and he goes, "Am I a fan? OfWolverine!?"

And he got down on his knees and he was sweating and he says, "Thank youfor doing the film. I love the film. This is fantastic."

My wife pulled out the camera and said, "Vinnie, do you want a fewshots?"

Well Vinnie was doing the poses and he had his arm around me and he turnedhis back and was flexing his back with his muscles. We took a whole roll ofVinnie and we sent it to him.

 

Q: Were you at all concerned about Vinnie?

HJ: I had a few moments when he came over sweating where I was like, "Idon't know where this is going?"

Before he came out, I'd met a few and the fans were like, "You'd betterbe doing this. You'd better be doing this. You'd better be playing him Canadian.You'd better say this. You'd better..."

I was like, "oh, geez," because I'd just finished shooting the filmso I was like, "yeah. Well. OK. Interesting. I'll do my best."

 

Q: So after doing two of these huge films, what was the choice to do"Van Helsing?"

HJ: Well, it is a big, summer, action blockbuster, there's no doubt. But Iread the script and I was like...I knew the film was gonna be great. I spoke to[director Stephen Sommers] about it...

It certainly wasn't on my radar because was in the middle of a franchise. Iwas just about to shoot "X-Men" when I signed onto it and I thought,"I'm in the middle of a franchise. Do I need to slow down a bit?"

It was kind of compelling because the script was so good. I knew all thepeople involved or I found out about them. It just seemed like a top-qualityproject. I have to say I'm feeling a little smug with myself. We're three monthsthrough shooting and I've seen enough of it to realize that I think it's gonnabe pretty good.

 

Q: The director said the movie is loaded with monsters, but there's not goingto be any blood. How can there be a monster movie without blood?

HJ: Did he say that? No blood? That's not entirelytrue let me tell you. Ijust bit on a blood capsule about a week ago. 

All I can say is, it's gonna look unbelievably good. Those monsters areamazing and the fight sequences are out of this world and it is gonna befrightening enough and action-filled enough to just sneak there under the PG-13rating or something like that. But it looks fantastic.

There are monsters in it but it's really an adventure story and thecharacters are really well-etched and I think people will really go along forthe ride.

I feel like I'm in an "Indiana Jones" kind of movie. It's that big.I mean it's huge. You can't believe it.

 

Q: It only has a passing relationship to Bram Stoker's ...

HJ: Yeah. Passing.

That's the inspiration for the story. His name and I've given him a veryslight Dutch accent. There's kind of references to that novel, but largely it'sjust inspiration. It's Stephen's story, which is almost totally different.

 

Q: With Mystique, they've talked about shaving three hour off the makeupprocess...

HJ: I thought you said shaving for three hours! Geez!

I know she's showing a lot of skin but...

 

Q: What was easier for you the second time?

HJ: Easier? I think almost everything. I mean the process of hair and makeupis the same: hang me by my feet and spray three cans of hair spray on my head,but I felt so much more confident on this film, not in an arrogant way. 

If I didn't admit it to myself on the first one, I was pretty scared thatfirst month. I landed the part a week into shooting. It was my first Hollywoodmovie and it was fun, but it was pretty overwhelming.

So, I don't think I really felt like I had the character for probably thee orfour weeks. So for a couple of scenes I was like, "yeah, now I've got it.Now I've got it right."

So I can go back to "X-Men 1" and see the scenes where I'm sort ofthere but it's not fully in focus for me. 

So, starting again, from the beginning, being able to get ready physically,be able to work out and get into the right shape. I'd just come off three weeksholiday in Cicely so, if you hear the commentary by [director] Bryan Singer in"X-Men 1.5"  there's a scene where I've got my shirt off in the beginningand he goes, "he's a little bit flabby there," which I was! 

So, every part of it was easier. I think the studio was giving us more leewayto do what we wanted. I felt like I owned the character more. I now had threetrailers in the car park, not one and an entourage of seven and not one.So everything was easier. I had someone to do my dry cleaning and wipe my assand all that, so it was perfect.

 

Q: That's important when you've got the claws.

HJ: It is important when you've got the claws, thank you.

I'm joking about the entourage, by the way.

 

Q: How does your son like having an action figure of his dad? 

HJ: Which is slightly disturbing, because the toy he loves the most is abouta foot high and it's voice activated and it says things like, "I'll sliceyou in half." And he sometimes takes it to bed. So I'll in the other roomand I know he's cuddling it and it goes off in the middle of the night.

So he's getting these subliminal messages, "This kid will take you down.I'll slice you in half."

And he's like, "ah, Da-da," and he kisses and hugs it. I can seeyears of therapy coming my way.

 

Q: Well wait until the Peter Allen doll comes out.

HJ: [laughs] That's gonna really confuse him. He did have some tap shoes theother day. I think I'm already in trouble. What does a Peter Allen doll do?

[voice] This thing has great flexibility.

I'm gonna mention that to the producers. We've gotta get that line out there:Peter Allen blow-up doll!

I'm sorry.

 

Q: Does your son understand what you do, or does he think everybody's dadgets to dress up and have dolls?

HJ: My son is now starting to get acting...I tried to explain it to him,about, "What I'm doing is pretending. We play pretend together."

And if he doesn't want me to go I say, "Daddy's got to go outpretending," and he goes, "I don't like your job. I don't like it. Idon't want you to be cranky any more."

So he doesn't fully get it, but he...I remember one day he said, "Daddy,don't go to work. I don't want you to be a lizard."

"OK, I'll do my best."

But he kind of loves it. He loves Wolverine. At Halloween he was just inheaven. Van Helsing he doesn't like, because it's scary. There's a couple sceneswhere I had to go through fire and so he thinks that's too dangerous.

 

Q: Can you tell us about Wolverine's video game?

HJ: I haven't got it. I've just seen the front cover, so I haven't played ityet.

 

Q: Did you work on that, doing the voices?

HJ: No. I didn't do the motion capture work. I didn't do any of that. I don'tknow if they've used my voice or not. They probably have. Let me call my agent.

 

Q: Did they have you do any recordings?

HJ: No. I did a lot of recordings on the first movie for dolls and videogames. So they probably just use the same stuff.

 

Q: Is it better to have an action figure or be the star of a video game?

HJ: Action figure. People can stick pins in it, put it in the freezer. It'sfar more dangerous than a video game.

 

Q: What was the last record you bought?

HJ: The last record was Nora Jones. I just think she's an incredible talent.I think she's a great songwriter. I love all these young musicians, like AliciaKeyes who are writing and playing and singing and have this artistic integrity.I love the trend...Eminem...I love the trend that music's going in now. A littlebit away from the boy band thing to more singer/songwriter stuff.

 

Q: Movie musicals are coming back. How about doing a movie musical after youfinish your Broadway run? 

HJ: Well, as long there's not a half-dozen really crap musicals in the nextyear and a half, I think musicals will be back because ["Chicago"director] Rob Marshall and ["Moulin Rouge" director] Baz Luhrmann haveshown that they're viable and commercial and they're interesting and they canwork on film. It seems crazy to me that they haven't been done, reallysuccessfully, since "Grease." It seems crazy.

Unfortunately, if a musical is bad, it stinks to high heaven. It really does.So they're really tough. I think, hopefully they'll still be around and I'll beputting my hand up.

People ask me what musical I'd like to do. I would love a version of"Sweeny Todd" to be made, if I had my choice. So I'm saying that toput it out there in the either. But don't shoot it yet! Wait eighteen months,please.

 

Q: Why is it important to you as an actor to go from a big movie like"X2" to a stage production? Does it help you remind yourself you cando it?

HJ: Not only to remind yourself you can do it, but it is, without a doubt,the ultimate for an actor. The film world, we all know, is director and editordriven. So you have some fun moments. You have a great time. But as an actor, interms of controlling the pace of the storytelling, on stage is really it. So aslong as you find the right thing, and of course every night you go through thisincredible journey, which is very cathartic. 

It's more cathartic, really, to watch the final product of a film. The actualshooting of a film can be a little bit disconcerting as you're going. It's a bitpiece meal.

But definitely, it's part of who I am. I trained for four years, classicallyon the stage, to do the stage work. So it's sort of what I love to do.

 

Q: A lot of people heard you sing for the first time on "Saturday NightLive." What kind of reaction did you get?

HJ: You know, I got more reaction from doing "Saturday Night Live"than any movie I'd ever done, I think. I had no idea how many people watched it.For me, I didn't grow up with "Saturday Night Live," except that Iknew of all those great comedians who came from there. It was one of the mostfun weeks I've ever had. I'm dying to go back there again and find some moretime, if they'll ever have me, but it was so much fun.

The only problem was Will Farrell, man. There were three skits that were sofunny that I ruined because at the rehearsal I couldn't get through it withoutlaughing. So three of his skits got cut, unfortunately, which was such a shamebecause he was too funny. I mean that Christmas kangaroo one at the end: Icouldn't look at the monitor which had him dressed up in the kangaroo suit,being sodomized by a kangaroo. It was just out of control, but I loved it.

It was a real highlight, but as I said, I had no idea how many people watchedit. I'm glade I didn't know before I did it.

 

Q: Back to "The Boy from Oz": did you take any ribbing at all?You've Ian McKellan, Bryan Singer and Alan Cumming, and you're the guy playingPeter Allen...

HJ: [laughs] ...I'm not gonna touch that, man.

 

Q: Did you take any ribbing from them?

HJ: Funnily enough, Bryan...there was one take where I came in as Peter Allenas Wolverine. It's the moment where I walk into Cerebro and I walked down withthis big walk and cigars and I was, [Peter Allen voice], "Oh, I love whatyou've done with Cerebro. It's fantastic." And I sat in [Patrick Stewart's]lap and he got right into it and we played the whole thing and I walked out.

Well, Bryan's face was...he was like ashen. For about two hours he was like,"my God," because all of a sudden he thought if this gets out,Wolverine's [reputation] is absolutely gone.

Then he proceeded, from then on, he proceeded to show every person who cameon set. "You've gotta see Peter Allen play Wolverine."

 

Q: But it probably won't be on the DVD.

HJ: I doubt it'll be on the outtakes.

[whispers] Don't tell anyone.

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