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Hugh Jackman Gets Real

The Tony Award-winning star discusses his new film, Real Steel, returning to Broadway, and auditioning for Les Miserables.

By New York City
Evangeline Lilly and Hugh Jackman in Real Steel
(© The Weinstein Companies)
Evangeline Lilly and Hugh Jackman in Real Steel
(© The Weinstein Companies)
Hugh Jackman's career has always been eclectic. While he first gained fame on the Australian stage in Sunset Boulevard, he has moved back and forth between the theater -- where he has starred on the West End as Curly in Oklahoma! and won the 2004 Tony Award for his portrayal of Peter Allen in The Boy From Oz -- and headlining such movies as Kate and Leopold, The Prestige, and the X-Men series.

The handsome actor's newest film Real Steel, which opens on October 7, is set in a future world of robot boxing. And his one-man show, Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway, begins a limited run on October 25 at the Broadhurst Theater. TheaterMania recently spoke to Jackman about perfecting his left hook, returning to the Great White Way, and his future in movie musicals.

THEATERMANIA: Your coach on Real Steel was boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard. How much pressure did he put on you to to look like an authentic boxer?
HUGH JACKMAN: I really had to work hard at that because Sugar Ray was really pushing me all the time. His name was on it and he didn't want me to look like just some actor. He was always on me about my left hook. I remember being asked if I was okay having one of the greatest boxers of all time as my personal trainer, and I was starstruck. I've been lucky enough to meet a lot of very big movie stars and famous people, but when it comes down to it, if I was any better at it I'd be a sportsman. So meeting someone like Sugar Ray, I turned into a little kid.

TM: How did you develop a father-son relationship with Dakota Goyo, your 12-year-old co-star in the film?
HJ: I wanted to give him that feeling of, "Hey, this is my set, as much as yours. We're in it together. There's no delineation of power here. We're all just actors." Dakota is a very polite boy. He wanted to call me Mr. Jackman the whole time. But that wouldn't work because the story has us going at it all the time. I played a lot of practical jokes on him. I'd pretend there were spiders on him and muck it up. Every day I would try to shake up the child-adult dynamic. Basically I'd behave like a very irresponsible adult.

Hugh Jackman inHugh Jackman: Back on Broadway
(© Joan Marcus)
Hugh Jackman in
Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway
(© Joan Marcus)
TM: Tell us a little bit about Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway.
HJ: I have an 18-piece orchestra. I sing. I dance. I tell some stories. I ad-lib a bit. Peter Allen, who I played in The Boy From Oz, makes a comeback. It's genuinely my idea of a really good time. I figure, if I'm not having a good time, no one else will.

TM: Does it feel different that you're returning to Broadway with a one-man show rather than a tradition musical?
HJ: When I created this show, my only rule with myself was that I would be desperate to do it -- no matter when. Let's say I had a week off, it would be the kind of show where I'd rather do the show for that week than play golf with my buddies. Of course doing the show on Broadway will add another level of expectation.

TM: Do you sing every day?
HJ: Every day. If Pavarotti had a singing lesson every week until the day he died, I think I should have a singing lesson once a week. It's a muscle, so how can you expect to stay fit if you're not doing it every day?

TM: You just started rehearsals for the big screen film version of the musical Les Miserables, in which you will play Jean Valjean. Is it true that you had to audition for the role?
HJ: I did a three-hour audition. I demanded that the director, Tom Hooper, audition me before I sign. I wanted this so bad. I didn't want to leave anything to his imagination. I wanted him to know what I could do, just in case he thought about bringing in Daniel Day-Lewis!

TM: There was an announcement some time back that you would star in a new film version of the musical Carousel. Is there still a chance it might make it to the big screen?
After I did that one-night performance of Carousel at Carnegie Hall, the music stuck in my head for like nine months. I couldn't get it out of my head. I thought this is a phenomenal piece, these are great characters, this is a musical about life and death, and there needs to be another movie. I still think it's one of the greatest musicals of all time, and I'm still trying to convince people there's an audience for it, but I haven't been very successful.


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