Hugh Jackman Gets Mad In Prisoners

Hugh Jackman on going into the darkness in Prisoners and reuniting with Bryan Singer for X Men: Days of Future Past

Your Prisoners character, Keller Dover, is a pretty tormented guy. Was he tough to play?

“I don't stay in character but I can't say I was fully relaxed at the end of a day. It's a weird thing, man. Acting is like the greatest privilege: you get to inhabit lives and you get to touch real emotions, and at the end of the day you're calm, like you've had a great bath. At the same time you're going, 'Okay, I've got to climb that mountain tomorrow,' because with this it wasn't like there's one emotional, draining day. It was sixty.”

He's driven mad by his daughter's abduction. Did having kids yourself mean you were able to go further or deeper into the character?

Probably. I always like to think as an actor, arrogantly, that you can play anything. But just reading the script, I felt it in the pit of my stomach. I always felt for the story it was vital that an audience didn't judge Keller too quickly or too easily, though. I wanted people to understand him.”

You almost lost it for real shooting a scene where Keller threatens another character with a hammer. Did the anger you felt frighten you?

No, we all know it's there. We've all experienced it before. I don't think I've ever done it in such a visceral way, though. It felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. The take before that, it was deadening. I had a headache. It didn't feel organic. It was hard. It was tense. But when you get it right, acting is energising and weirdly calming. A sort of out of body experience.”

You recently received some lifetime achievement awards at film festivals. But I presume that you're still looking forward rather than back, right?

Sometimes I say to my wife that maybe they're giving them to me as in, 'Please stop. That's enough of your lifetime. If we give you this, will you just go away?' Seriously though, I often feel it's dangerous. I haven't told anyone this before but when I was auditioning I had this superstition that you can't ever repeat a monologue that you've done, because I was afraid that I would revert back to that person I was, say, six months earlier and just do it as I always did it. It's tempting, sometimes, to fall back on the things you know you can do or the things you know have been successful, but you've got to keep trying to do different things and risk failing. Hey, look at Movie 43.”

I'd rather not.

Or don't [laughs]. I ran into one of the producers a little while ago and he said, 'Mate, I've got two things to say. I'm sorry. And, I'm sorry.'”

It was just a day of your life.

It was two days. With Kate Winslet with balls hanging from her neck. It wasn't that bad.”

You have said before that you felt Wolverine was beginning to overshadow other things you have done in people's perceptions. Has that been frustrating, given the range of your work on stage and screen?

Not really, because if I want to play a certain character I could. But I'm surprised pretty much by everything that has happened in my career. I was hoping to pay the rent as an actor one day and before I was an actor I was acting at the amateur musical society. I never thought I would make a career out of it. So if it stopped tomorrow I would probably go back to the amateur musical society. I'm someone who always tries to remember how lucky he is. And even if it's only Wolverine, it's pretty good.”

Were you worried when reports came out claiming you were being offered crazy money to do four more Wolverine films?

Yeah, because obviously it is bullshit. It was the National Enquirer. I couldn't believe anyone picked that up. Apart from the first movie, for which I had to sign a two-picture deal, I've never done more than one at a time. And now what happens is the IRS and every taxation company goes, 'Hang on, you didn't declare $100 million. So where are you hiding it?' Seriously, I'm audited every year because these publications say, 'Well, Hugh Jackman earned this …', and it's always wrong. Wildly wrong.”

You have said you're not materialistic. So what do you do with your dosh?

My wife has taught me a lot about money. We didn't have any when we first met. I was at the Royal National Theatre and I was earning £375 a week and we were as happy as we are now. We did that for years. So money doesn't make you happy, and I know that. And sometimes I get embarrassed by it and sometimes I feel burdened by it. My wife's line is, 'You've got the wrong attitude about money. Money is energy and there's no point trying to save energy. You use it and you give it away.' She's always like, 'Don't waste your life being embarrassed by it. Who knows why things have happened, but use it wisely.' I think she's right.”

You have been married a long time for a showbiz couple. What is the secret?

I'm almost positive 80% of it is finding the right person. And when you're lucky enough to meet the right person you just know it 100%. I was single when I met my wife, very happily single. I was working for the first time in my life and life was good. Then when I met her, it was 10 times better. So it was a no-brainer to me. Like all couples there's strains and there's compromises, but she's honestly the greatest thing that ever happened to me.”

Finally, you've been working with the original X-Men director Bryan Singer on X-Men: Days of Future Past. Is it different playing Wolverine with him than it is with, say, James Mangold, who directed Wolverine?

It's always special for me working with Bryan on this character. He gave me that break, he gave me that character, and I can't believe, 14 years later, we're working on it again. He's a great friend, and he's a very smart man. I can tell you right now, he has made a great movie. I don't know if it's going to surprise people but I think people are really going to like it. But yeah, it's a special relationship for me, no doubt.”

Copyright Stephen Applebaum, 2014

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