Hugh Jackman
(© Joseph Marzullo/WENN)
Hugh Jackman
(© Joseph Marzullo/WENN)
He can sing "Surrey with the Fringe on Top" and wield retractable metal claws -- perhaps even at the same time. From his stage work as Curly in Oklahoma and as the late entertainer Peter Allen in The Boy from Oz (for which he won the Tony Award) to films such as Australia and The Prestige to his smooth-tongued gigs as the host of both the Tony Awards and Academy Awards, Hugh Jackman's rise to the top of his profession has been little short of meteoric.

Of course, some of the 40-year-old actor's success -- not to mention his status as People magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive" -- is due to his role as Wolverine in the popular X-Men series of films. This week, he's front and center in X-Men Origins: Wolverine as Logan, aka Wolverine, the conflicted antihero who is virtually indestructible thanks to a skeleton made of adamantium metal.

The latest installment of the film series, in which he co-stars with fellow Tony winner Liev Schreiber, lays out Wolverine's back-story to let viewers know how he became a mutant beast with a heart of gold, a motorcycle and leather jacket, who literally makes mincemeat of anyone who gets in his way. "We felt the movie was going off on a new avenue and fresh direction," Jackman says of the film. "I was filling in 100 years of this guy's life. In a way it was acting the wrong way around."

Moving backwards in Wolverine's timeline sparks new interest in the character's arc, but it's Jackman's chiseled physique that provides the extra-added visual effect. His daily workout included cardio, bench press variations, intense weight lifting and a little channeling of his alter ego. "I'm a little more of a wuss in real life than my character," he explains. "And there's a moment when you're training where you just want to give up. And when I was training, I used to kind of imagine I was Wolverine and somehow it always got two or three more reps out of me. And it was kind of humiliating with the yelling and it looked kind of silly."

Speaking of silly, what about the character's trademark sideburns? "There's a good and bad side to everything," he admits." I had to walk around with those muttonchops for six months. It kind of looks alright on film, but in real life at six o'clock in the morning with a baseball cap at the gym it kind of looks odd. In fact, my wife, Deborra, would say to me: 'This is ridiculous!' Look at you! I don't even know who you are! Now get into bed!'"

Jackman's future acting plans are up in the air -- though his next possible role, as magician Harry Houdini in the Broadway musical Houdini could have him literally up in the air. But wherever he lands, Jackman will continue to enjoy this amazing ride. "I have to be perfectly honest," he says. "When I was about 28, I was at the National Theatre in London doing Oklahoma, and that was about as far as I dreamed life could go to as an actor. Everything since then has been a little surreal. And, there's not a day that goes by when I don't thank my lucky stars."