Zurich Film Fest: Hugh Jackman Plays Up His 'Swiss Roots' at Gala

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Hugh Jackman is in negotiations to return as Wolverine in the new movie, set for release July 18, 2014. (Jackman also will star in a second stand-alone Wolverine movie next summer.)

The “Wolverine” star received Zurich's Golden Icon lifetime achievement honor, showing off his German-language skills.

ZURICH – If there was any doubt that the Zurich international film festival has arrived in the top echelons of European gala cinema fetes, the matter was settled Saturday night when Hugh Jackman braved a horde of screaming Swiss fans to receive Zurich's Golden Icon award.

“HUUUGH!!!” wailed the pack outside the Corso Theater here, contradicting the calm, reserved Swiss stereotype. Inside, the crowd of invited industry guests and local luminaries were hardly more reticent. When the star of Wolverine and Les Miserables took the stage following a tribute to his “artistic footprint” from Zurich Festival co-director Karl Spoerri, Jackman's progress was followed by a glowing sea of recording iPhones.

“I am honored to receive this honor and to present my new film Prisoners” Jackman said in heavily-accented but workable German. Continuing in English, he played to the home crowd, saying he owed “literally everything” to Switzerland, because his parents had first met on a holiday at a Swiss resort. “I came on a pilgrimage here when I was 18...wandering the streets and sleeping at the railway station,” Jackman recalled. “That bum you saw and kicked? That was me.”

Jackman was joined on stage by the director of Prisoners, Quebec helmer Denis Villeneuve, and his Oscar-winning co-star Melissa Leo as well as the film's producer, Kira Davis.

The Zurich gala for Jackman follows a similar event at San Sebastian earlier this week, when the Australian actor received the Spanish festival's Donostia Award for lifetime achievement.

The venerable San Sebastian and relative newcomer Zurich (currently in its ninth year) this year launched a new cooperation that sees the two events sharing films and A-list stars. The move, which Spoerri described as “an obvious win-win,” also targets distributors eager for an efficient festival junket for their films and talent. Prisoners, for example, did the three-fest tour of Toronto, San Sebastian and then Zurich.

The crime thriller, which topped the North American box office with a solid $21.4 million opening last weekend for Warner Bros., bowed in the U.K. on Friday and rolls out across Europe in the coming weeks.

Zurich's usefulness as a distribution platform, and the lure of the city's rich pool of equity investors, has turned the film festival here into a must-attend for many in the industry. The star-wattage – which in addition to Jackman this year also includes James McAvoy, Harrison Ford, Daniel Bruhl of Rush and directors Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity) and Marc Forster (World War Z) – is one indication of this.

Another is the likes of A-list executives, including Harvey Weinstein and Tim Bevan of British giant Working Title, both of which will be giving master classes in Zurich this year.