OSCARS Q&A: Hugh Jackman

Hugh Jackman has carved out an image as a major movie star who can easily switch gears from action to drama to comedy and all things in between. But until now the man who made Wolverine a household name has never done a movie musical. That’s a bit surprising since Jackman also happens to be a classically trained musical star outside of movies. He’s starred in stage classics like Oklahoma!, won a Tony on Broadway as Peter Allen in The Boy From Oz, an Emmy for hosting the Tonys, and worldwide recognition for his singing and dancing as host of the Oscars. He recently did a one-man musical show on Hugh JackmanBroadway, and that’s one of the reasons he says he is even in Les Misérables and making his long-overdue debut as star of a musical on the big screen.

AwardsLine: Would you consider this to be one of the toughest screen roles you’ve done?
Jackman: For sure. There is not an element that really wasn’t the toughest. One of the reasons I did the Broadway show was to make sure I was vocally fit to not only sing it, but sing it all day long, wake up the next day, and have another 12 hours of it. I put on 29 pounds from beginning to end. Tom (Hooper) told me, “I want people to worry, I want your friends to think you’re sick.” The physicality, the emotional (aspect) acting-wise, was tough.

AwardsLine: You rarely see musicals of this size anymore.
Jackman: That’s true. It’s a big risk. I’m not surprised it’s taken 27 years to get there.

AwardsLine: Despite the fact that the actors in the film are very well-known and talented, I understand everybody auditioned for it.
Jackman: Everybody, and by the way, when I auditioned Tom wasn’t signed to the movie, but there looked like there was going to be a clash between The Wolverine and this. I rang up Tom and told him I really wanted to do this part. He said I’d be a perfect shot, but (that) he wasn’t even signed on to it but was thinking about it. I asked him if I could audition for him anyway, in case he would sign on to the film. I sang him three songs, and he just sat there for a few minutes and gave me feedback. I could see the director in him. Three hours passed, and I had to put my hand up and tell him, “Tom, I have to put my kids to sleep.” So I auditioned very early on, and everyone auditioned. 99% of what is shot is live, just the beginning with the water (was not) because you couldn’t put microphones in that much water.

Related: OSCARS Q&A: Tom Hooper

AwardsLine: I can’t remember another movie musical that did it on this scale—is it helpful to you as an actor to be able to do that?
Jackman: Especially for Les Mis. It’s so emotional, and as an actor you have some freedom to go with how you are feeling at the time—to have that restrained by a performance you did three months ago would have been hell. I think it made a huge impact. If Simon Hayes doesn’t win an Oscar for the sound design, I don’t know who will. What he pulled off is phenomenal. It feels like thought; it doesn’t feel like song.

Related: OSCARS: Will Earlier Voting Schedule Influence Nominations?

AwardsLine: There is one new song in the film that you sing called “Suddenly.” How did they decide to that?
Jackman: That was Tom’s idea. Victor Hugo writes about two lightning bolts of realization: First is the virtue and the second is the lightning bolt of love. Tom was like, “This is one of the greatest moments I have ever seen on film, and we don’t have a song for it. This is ridiculous.” They (songwriters Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg) knew my abilities with my voice, and they wrote the song for me. It was a pinch-yourself moment.

Related: OSCARS: The Directors

AwardsLine: Les Mis has been so phenomenally successful for the last three decades—what is it about this show and movie that connects with audiences?
Jackman: It’s a really spiritual book, in a nonreligious way: “To love another person is to see the face of God.” We can live tough lives, but the human spirit is stronger, seemingly, than anything. There is redemption, hope, and love. This book brings this out. All different forms of heartbreak, but beyond all that there is hope, there is love. There is beauty and bliss. Even though the title doesn’t make it sound like a romantic comedy, in the end it is. There is something for everybody in it.

AwardsLine: When you watch yourself for the first time, are you nervous going in?
Jackman: I’m more nervous than I have ever been in my life. It’s tough to watch a movie (you’re in)—you put everything into it, you want everything to work, and you never know until you see it all together. In a musical, those feelings are tripled because you have a lot of elements that have to come together. Watching myself on screen for the first time is a little bit difficult, but watching myself sing on the screen is double the anxiety. In the end, I rationalize it because the nerves are the care and passion I had for the project. It becomes a bit like a baby. I would love to do more movie musicals. Maybe next time I’ll do a little more dancing.

Related: OSCARS Q&A: Sacha Baron Cohen

  1. Hugh Jackman is truly an amazing actor, and even though people know him, I still believe that he is underrated. He is so talented and deserves much recognition for his role in Les Mis. I don’t know who he will be nominated with, and he better be nominated, but I really do believe he should get the Oscar! He put everything he had into this movie and it showed beautifully on screen.

  2. Wow! We watched our Academy Award screener a few days ago. Les Miserables simply put is sensational from start to finish! The acting, Tom Hooper’s directing choices, the wonderful Claude-Michel Schönberg score – all deeply moving and resonant. Make no mistake about it this is one of most powerful emotional experiences in theatre history and now the motion picture proves it. Hugh Jackman’s performance is spectacular. His passion, dedication and commitment to the role of Jean Valjean was deeply felt and truly transformational. A tour de force deserving a Best Actor Oscar. Anne Hathaway is a slam dunk for Oscar. Eddie Redmayne and Samantha Banks were stand outs. All told Les Miserables bested all other contenders this year and should win Best Picture for sheer scope, high aspirations, heart and execution. It will be receiving my vote.

  3. >>>I would love to do more movie musicals. Maybe next time I’ll do a little more dancing.<<<

    Hugh has said in an interview that Mackintosh has talked to him about the role of The Engineer, if MISS SAIGON gets the film treatment. Not sure if he is completely interested in it. But it might be interesting to see Hugh in a remake of a musical from Hollywood's Golden Age of Musicals ( he did include a segment on the subject in his one-man show on Broadway) …or a biopic of a musicals legend then. He did say he would like something with a little dancing in it, of which he has been pretty good in his stage appearances ( Oklahoma!, The Boy from Oz, and Back on Broadway). But as he is likely treading the boards again on Broadway ( hopefully, Houdini in 2014), will he want to do another movie musical soon? His next movie to film is a dark thriller, PRISONERS, based on the Black List script by Aaron Guzikowski, with J. Gyllenhaal, Melissa Leo, Viola Davis, Paul Dano and Terence Howard, and he plays the dark element in it.

  4. Hugh Jackman truly gave his all and delivered a magnificent performance. I LOVED Lincoln, but frankly, I would be probably happier to see Jackman win his first for what could be easily his role of a lifetime than Day-Lewis his third. Of course if I considered latter’s performance vastly superior, I wouldn’t hesitate to root for him, but in my opinion these two performances are on the same level of brilliance, so my vote goes to the one who has been overlooked in the past. Just think about it : he is an Emmy/Tony Award winning action superstar and critically acclaimed romantic lead (Kate & Leopold)…it doesn’t get any more versatile than that…

    1. I totally agree. This should really be Jackman’s year. Not that I don’t appreciate Day Lewis. He had his shot at the genre (anybody remember Nine?). Time to give Jackman his due.

    2. I agree as well. Hugh has been on my radar for years, since before he was Wolverine, and I have always felt that he should be one of the most famous actors in the world. Now that he is in the role of his career, he totally deserves it. He’s been needing an Oscar for years, and this would be a great one to get it for. He is phenomenal in this. Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance was riveting, but he’s already got two of them!!! Give Hugh a chance! He deserves it so much more, in my opinion. If he gets an Oscar, all he will need is a Grammy (easy to get for someone as versatile as he is) to complete the quartet of Oscar, Tony, Emmy and Grammy!

  5. I loved both Day-Lewis’s and Jackman’s performances so much, I hardly know whom to root for. Maybe we could have a tie, a la Hepburn and Streisand? :-)

  6. Hugh Jackman is highly underrated – his career has seen serious involvement in both film and stage. While being more known as an action hero, Hugh has turned in well-praised dramatic performances in films like The Fountain, The Prestige, and even Australia. I have had a chance to see him not only in stage musicals ( Oklahoma! and The Boy From Oz) but also in the riveting two-hander A Steady Rain with Daniel Craig. Les Miserables is the culmination of a career for Jackman that has been equally focused on the theatre and in the movies! If at all, his Les Miserables portrayal has proven again that he has the dramatic chops and that he is arguably the most versatile of current Hollywood talent.

  7. Hugh is the most talented actor going on these days,,,

    He’s got great persona, great acting skills, we love him as a comedian and he’s awesome on Broadway,,,

    The guy is multi talented and makes other leading actors like Tom Thumb and John Travolta, fall into the dust,,,

    1. Hugh is multi-talented, but he is not the most talented actor working today. You have heard of Denzel, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Christoph Waltz, etc… That was a ridiculous comment.

  8. Am I the only one that felt as if the whole musical score was arranged an octave too high for everyone’s vocal capacity, including Mr. Jackman’s?

    All of the things that made the show work on the stage worked against it in the film including the ability to suspend belief in reality and get swept away by the sheer theatricality of the piece. Only Ann Hathaway, in a career-defining performance, walks away unscathed, and that may only be because her character dies in the first act. If not, Mr. Hooper would most likely have over-directed her into the same sort of caricaturization that he did with Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter, two actors that I admire greatly. Their embarrassing caricatures are better suited for a triviality called ‘Oliver Twisted’ than one of the most beloved pieces of musical theatre.

    Ah Hollywood, sometime more is just more.

  9. Daniel Day-Lewis is great in ‘Lincoln’, but Hugh Jackman just cannot be beat in ‘Les Miserables’. He HAS to win the Oscar. It would be an injustice otherwise.

  10. I must say that I can’t think of anyone who deserves to win the Best Actor Oscar this year more than Hugh Jackman. I think he is long overdue. His performance as Jean Valjean was transformational. It was incredible to watch an actor so disappear into a role that you are able to completely forget that he is Hugh Jackman while portraying a character who is also completely transformed. Has there ever been a performance that matches a role so totally?

    As a history buff I was, sadly, underwhelmed by Lincoln and DDL. I enjoyed The Conspirator much more a couple years ago. Lincoln was painfully slow moving and boring in a few places. DDL is a terrific actor but I didn’t find his portrayal of Lincoln nearly as compelling as watching HJ in Les Miserables.

    If the stars align as they should in this new year, Les Miserables should sweep all the awards. It’s the best movie I’ve seen this year and the best musical movie ever! Plus, Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and Eddie Redmayne are each deserving or any and all awards they can carry!

  11. Don’t get me wrong. I love Hugh Jackman. He’s an amazing performer, but I really chafe at the idea that it’s “somebody’s year”. Unless you’re given a special Oscar, the Oscar should go to the best performance of THAT year. If we giving someone an Oscar based on their body of work, his efforts have been largely in big budget superhero film that to be honest, weren’t that good. Let’s give Oscars to the best job THAT year, not because some hype machine says it’s someone’s year and create a ridiculous sense of entitlement.

    Honestly, the whole Oscar thing is a sham. You’re picking between apples and oranges. Unless you have five actors do the same role, or five directors making the same film with the same script the whole “best” thing is really a misnomer.

  12. This is a magnificant movie — I do not understand the critics who complain about the singing as if they wanted pretty music — as if this is not about revolution, murder, street fighting, etc. — the music should match the story — and it certainly did with great artistry! As to the Oscars — I hope Jackman is nominated, but do not care if he does not win an Oscar as Oscar does not seem to help careers like nominations do! I hope that Les Miserables sweeps the nominations, but not necessarily the Oscars.
    The ones with more murder and cruelty are welcome to the Oscars — that is apparently what the country prefers..

  13. Yes, I concur with a lot of the remarks rooting fir Hugh Jackman to pick up thr Oscar .
    An amazing performance and devotion to the role. The film for me was superbly cast and the sound amazing.
    Hopefully the academy will honour Hugh, it certainly could be close between Daniel Day Lewis but for me Hugh
    Should get it, totally brilliant performance.

Comments are closed.