Hugh Jackman, actor

ShoWest 2006 Male Star of the Year

We haven't seen a whole lot of Hugh Jackman since the strapping Aussie starred in 2004's "Van Helsing." Sure, there was a Jackman sighting or two in 2005: He hosted the Tony Awards (for which he won an Emmy) and had a small role in "Stories of Lost Souls," an independent project co-written and co-directed by his wife, Deborra-Lee Furness.

But those suffering the pangs of Jackman withdrawal are about to get their fix -- and then some. Jackman has no fewer than six films scheduled for release this year, including "Scoop," from writer-director Woody Allen; Fox's hotly anticipated comic book sequel "X-Men: The Last Stand"; Buena Vista's currently shooting sci-fi drama "The Prestige," written and directed by Christopher Nolan; the U.K. wartime drama, "Good"; and two animated features, Warner Bros. Pictures' "Happy Feet" and DreamWorks' "Flushed Away."

Then, there is 2007, when Jackman has another four movies on tap, including Fox's "Wolverine" (in which he co-produces as well as stars) and Warner Bros.' Darren Aronofsky-directed "The Fountain." In other words, no one is likely to accuse the 37-year-old hunk with the musical-stage pedigree (he won a 2004 lead actor Tony Award for his work in "The Boy From Oz") of doing too much lying around. Jackman did manage to take time out earlier this month to speak with Ray Richmond for The Hollywood Reporter about what it's like to be in such demand.

The Hollywood Reporter: How did it happen that overnight you became the busiest man in Hollywood?
Hugh Jackman: It likely stems from the fact that I'm famously bad at saying no. I think my doing "The Boy From Oz" also led to my getting more on the radar a bit. The great thing for me isn't just the quantity but the quality. I've been able lately to work with all of these dream directors: Woody Allen, Christopher Nolan, Darren Aronofsky -- for whom I did "The Fountain." And then Brett Ratner, of course, for the latest "X-Men."

THR: You seem to have become a major go-to actor in the comic-book/sci-fi genre. How does a guy go from "Carousel" and "Oklahoma!" to "X-Men" and "Van Helsing"?
Jackman: I haven't the foggiest. Some things happen that can't be easily explained. For instance, my agent just rang me that the Coen brothers (Joel and Ethan) may want to work with me. And the thing they saw me in was "Oklahoma!" Go figure that one out.

THR: Actually, knowing how eccentric those guys are, that almost makes sense.
Jackman: (Laughs) You may be right.

THR: Or maybe the Coens heard you were being honored with the ShoWest Award for Male Star of the Year. Congratulations on that.
Jackman: Thank you. It's a great honor, and you can't say that about every accolade you might receive. Some seem to be the kiss of death. The moment you get them, your career goes south very quickly.

THR: That probably isn't likely in your case.
Jackman: No, well, I was going to say that having seen the list of previous recipients, all of them had really great careers after winning at ShoWest. So I'm truly honored to be in their company.

THR: This seems like a good time to remind you of your humble roots. Is it true that you started out playing a clown at children's parties back in Australia?
Jackman: Indeed it is. To this day, it was some of my finest work. I'd play clowns who had the very imaginative names of Kiko and Bozo. I'd never do parties with kids older than 5, because once they hit 6, they start shouting, "Hey, you're horrible!" One time, I got egged by a bunch of parents who had been drinking wine and resented the fact that I smashed one of the eggs I'd been juggling. That was my last clown gig.

THR: Now you have kids of your own and a marriage that's about to hit 10 years.
Jackman: Yeah, whatever limited spare time I have belongs to them. A friend asked me the other day, "You want to play a round of golf?" I was thinking, "He just doesn't get it." Golf takes seven hours. It's either golf or a divorce. I can't do it and stay married.

THR: Can you recall your first experience inside a movie theater?
Jackman: I was 5. I saw "The Wizard of Oz," and it completely freaked me out. I didn't want to go back for a while after that.

THR: But you finally did?
Jackman: Well, back home in Australia, when I was in my teens, the drive-in was still quite big. What you'd do is park facing the other way from the screen, put up the trunk and lay the back seat flat, put down a mattress and, well, for $10 you'd have a private space. What was best about it was, it didn't matter if the movie was any good or not.