Hugh Jackman talks about turning 50
LOS ANGELES—As he turns 50 next month, Hugh Jackman continues to be one of the rare actors who tackle various genres and excel in each one of them—musical, drama, action, superhero and romantic comedy.
The 2013 Golden Globe best actor-comedy or musical winner for “Les Miserables” is set to star in “Bad Education,” reportedly inspired by screenwriter Mike Makowsky’s experience in high school. The movie is said to be akin to Reese Witherspoon’s film, “Election.”
The Aussie actor is rumored to play operative Robert Ames in “The Good Spy,” Baltasar Kormakur’s film adaptation of Pulitzer Prize winner Kai Bird’s biography of the CIA man who was attempting to forge a healthy relationship between the US and Middle East nations when tragedy struck.
Hugh hinted that he will tackle another musical.
In the meantime, he portrays American Sen. Gary Hart in Jason Reitman’s “The Front Runner,” based on Matt Bai’s book, “All the Truth Is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid.” The drama chronicles the rise and fall of Hart, who was a leading Democratic presidential nominee in 1988 until one week when his extramarital affair with Donna Rice was exposed.
Celebrating his special birthday on Oct. 12, Hugh has shared over two decades of his life with his wife, Deborra-Lee Furness. They have two children, Oscar Maximilian and Ava Eliot.
Excerpts from our chat:
As you celebrate a milestone in October, how precious is time to you? I’m turning 50, so a lot of people are talking to me about time. Don’t worry, I’m not having a midlife crisis that I know of yet. Of course, time is precious. I watch my kids grow up very quickly. My son just turned 18, which he reminds me of every time I ask him to do something. He says, “I’m an adult now. I do what I want (laughs).”
Life is a beautiful, magical thing. The only thing we can really control is our attitude to it. Different events happen to all of us—good, bad, indifferent. Time is no different. I see time like money. I see it as energy. You can choose to spend it any way you like.
How do you plan to celebrate this big 5-0 birthday? I’m negotiating that as we speak (laughs). My wife would want the whole city to come to my birthday party. I’d probably like a dinner party for 10 so we’re going to meet somewhere in the middle. We’ll do something but it’s going to be fun. No speeches. One of the key things for parties is you should be able to walk there or at least be driven (laughs) … within three blocks. That’s the radius.
Will you do another musical? Yes, but I can’t announce it just yet. But yes, there is singing and dancing in my near-ish future. I love it, yeah.
Are you already preparing for that? I dance every day. Well, five or six days a week, I dance. I sing every day. The great author Oliver Sacks is one of my favorites. He was famously played in “Awakenings.” He takes a pair of flippers everywhere he goes. Everywhere. He says, “You never know when you’re going to be near water, and I love being under the water, so I need flippers (laughs).” Well, I have tap shoes in my bag, and I dance every day because you just never know when that dance floor is coming.
It would be great to watch you dance. It would be better for me to dance than to talk, honestly. It would probably be more interesting (laughs).
Did you talk to Gary Hart in preparing to play him in “The Front Runner”? I tried not to probe too much about that horrible week. I had read a lot about it. I knew a lot about it. He did tell me some things I didn’t know about. But one thing that he said to me is, “If there’s anything I had in terms of an ability in politics was the ability to see 10 years in advance.”
He’s on record in 1984 talking about how the Cold War is already over, what we need to worry about is the power vacuum which will lead to the rise of extremism in the Middle East. Now this was 1984. He actually wrote a report to the Clinton administration warning in 1998 that there would be an attack, thousands will die, that we need to look at flight training centers.
He was an incredibly prescient man.
(On questions about his personal life) … that’s a private discussion that “I should have with my wife, that is no one else’s business.” He got that wrong. He couldn’t just let that go. It’s a very different world now.
Over the years, how has your attitude toward being hounded by the press evolved? Actors and politicians are under the microscope. It’s a completely different lens from where I stand. I’m sure there are some actors who find it suffocating and unbearable. I don’t. But I get nervous for my family. I’m fully aware I was 30 when I did “X-Men,” so any kind of big media attention didn’t happen until I was 30.
Hopefully by 30, you know who you are, what you stand for, what’s important to you. I went in with my eyes wide open. My kids are born into it. They have no choice. I try my hardest to protect them. And that’s where some of the difficulty has occurred for me.
I was chatting with someone the other day. For me, fame is a weird thing. I never wanted fame, I never sought it, I didn’t ask for it. But if someone says to you, “Ruben, I’m going to give you the keys to a Lamborghini. Occasionally in your life, there’s going to be traffic. Do you still want the keys?” You’re going to say, “Yeah.” And that’s how fame is for me (laughs).
You’re one of the actors who are good at finding balance between life and work. Can you talk about your struggle to say yes or no to certain opportunities? When Deb and I got married, we made a pact that we would look at each other at every turning point. We would ask ourselves, is this good or bad for our family? Seems a simple question. The family is four of us so it may be great for my career but terrible for the family or actually it may be a bit of a sacrifice for the family but really good for me and important for the kids to see their parents doing the thing we love.
So it’s not necessarily an easy answer, but I would never have found the balance that I found if it wasn’t for Deb. I can tell you at least seven or eight times in the last 25 years when my eyes lit up with, oh, this opportunity, that opportunity. I just look over at Deb, and she would just give me a look like no, this is not the time and she’s just unbelievable with that.
No one has her feet further on the ground than Deb. She’s been in the business. She understands opportunity when it’s time. Like okay, you should go. No one knows about this. When I was offered “Oklahoma” in London, she was offered a spot at the very prestigious directing school of Victorian College of the Arts (in Melbourne). That’s impossible to get into. There are only two or three taken a year.
I said, “We’ll stay” and she said, “No, you need to go. We need to go to London and you need to do ‘Oklahoma.’ I never forget Deb’s selflessness in saying that because I know she always wanted to direct and that was a big moment for her. At the same point of her saying that, there’d be times when I’ll say, oh my God, there’s this film and it’s such and such and it’s this and that. She would look at me. She’s like no, now is not the time. She is just the best barometer of that.