HUGH JACKMAN is supposedly the world’s nicest actor. Everyone says so. After working with Jackman on Real Steel, director Shawn Levy gushed, “He’s easily the nicest guy in Hollywood.” Rooney Mara, one of Jackman’s co-stars in Pan, took her praise for Jackman to even giddier heights and described him as “one of the nicest people I’ve ever met in my entire life”. Another Pan co-star, Garrett Hedlund, must have had stars in his eyes when he declared that Jackman is “the nicest guy you’ll ever meet”.
And Jackman really is as charming as everyone says. There’s no doubting it. He arrives for our interview on time and with only one hanger-on, and immediately introduces himself to everyone in the room. “Hugh,” he says as he stretches his hand out, giving everybody an individual flash of his megawatt smile. But the introductions are unnecessary, as everyone knows who Jackman is. He‘s been a player in the Hollywood big leagues ever since he was cast as Wolverine in 1999, a role that he has played in six X-Men films to date, though he has now confirmed that his final turn as Wolverine will be in 2017. Alongside his role in that franchise, Jackman has appeared in rom coms (Kate & Leopold and Someone Like You), animated children’s films (Happy Feet and Flushed Away), serious dramas (including The Prestige), a Woody Allen film (Scoop) and musicals (including Les Misérables, for which he was nominated for an Oscar).
Jackman has also won two Tony awards for his work on stage. The first was for his performance in The Boy from Oz on Broadway, and the second was a Special Tony Award given to “honour an individual for the body of his or her work”. Jackman also hosted the Tonys in 2003, 2004 and 2005, and compered the Oscars in 2009. Following that Oscars ceremony film critic Roger Ebert wrote, “I had a feeling Hugh Jackman would be a charmer as host, and he was.”
But the nicest guy in Hollywood had to undergo a reinvention when he signed up to play the baddie Blackbeard in the recently released Pan, which was inspired by JM Barrie’s Peter Pan stories. It may have been an adjustment for his fans, but Jackman says he enjoyed the change. “The first job I did was a baddie,” Jackman reveals. “I was on stage, doing Beauty and The Beast, playing Gaston. So I did 400 performances of that – for two hours every night I have to be this kind of oafy, arrogant bad guy and it’s a lot of fun. I never really forget about that. I don’t get asked about the bad guys all that often, but it was fun.”
To play Blackbeard, Jackman had to undergo quite a physical transformation. Although not quite as extreme as his preparation for the role of Wolverine (which requires him to add kilos of muscle and work out for hours a day), shaving his head and growing a beard for Pan did pose a few unique problems.
“I was surprised when Joe Wright, the director, first showed [the costume and make-up] to me,” Jackman says. “Funnily enough, while we were shooting Pan I had to shave my head and I had a beard, and I went to a Montblanc event and it was in Florence. And so as I approached the front, one of the bouncer guys with a clipboard said, ‘No, no, no. What’s your name?’ and I said I don’t know if my name is on the list but I think I am meant to be there. And someone came and sort of rescued me and this guy felt really bad. But I didn’t blame him. No one recognised me for about three or four months actually. It was fun to do something completely different, so outlandish.”
Jackman has been an ambassador for Montblanc for nearly two years now, and he’s in Hong Kong to attend the annual Watches & Wonders fair with the brand. Jackman descended on Montblanc’s booth earlier in the afternoon in a crowd of paparazzi, and in the evening will cohost a dinner for VIP collectors. “My aunt and uncle live in Geneva,” Jackman explains, “and they always talked about Montblanc. And when I was young my dream was to have a Montblanc fountain pen, I thought that was the epitome of taste. I was right! And as soon as I was approached, what I love about Montblanc is that they really encouraged me to come and see the artisans at work. And that really made a huge impression on me because the passion is extraordinary, the expertise is amazing, the quality is amazing. But there’s also real commitment, not only to making timeless, classic pieces but also to being innovative with it, so everything the company stood for is something that I aspire to in my own life, particularly in my work life.”
Now that Pan has been released, Jackman will next be seen on cinema screens in Eddie The Eagle, which has its premiere early next year. “I play Eddie’s coach,” Jackman reveals. “Eddie, for those who don’t know – and there’ll probably be a few people who don’t know, but in Australia or England he became a folk hero – was a ski jumper at the Winter Olympics. He famously came last in every ski jump he had, and in some of the jumps he used to almost fall over and he’d flap his arms, hence the name Eddie the Eagle. So I play his washed-out coach. It’s really about Eddie’s story and their friendship.”
On top of that, Jackman is also making his return to the stage, though this time not on the West End or Broadway, but in his home country of Australia. “About three years ago on Broadway I did a kind of one-man show – it’s not really a one-man show, there were a lot of other people involved. But it’s a show that I conceived and wrote, and [it’s based around] songs from things I’ve been in and things I’ve wanted to be in, so I’ll be taking that down to Australia for a month and doing five capital cities, which I’m very excited about. And hopefully I’ll bring that to Europe at some point, too.”
And with that, he makes some quick apologies and is whisked away to dinner. There’s a moment of silence, then a clipboard-wielding Montblanc rep sighs, “He’s just lovely, isn’t he?”