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‘Flushed Away’s Hugh Jackman Gets Ready to Sink His Claws Into ‘Wolverine’

If Hollywood gave out a trophy at the end of the year for the hardest working actor in show business, Hugh Jackman would be a shoo-in. This year has seen the performer starring in no less than six feature films, including X-Men 3, Scoop, The Prestige, The Fountain and the upcoming animated adventures Flushed Away and Happy Feet.

But Jackman’s already resisting resting on his laurels—even as he filled Hollywood.com in on his voiceover roles, he was already clearly excited to sink his claws into yet another box office blockbuster, reprising his role as the sharp-edged mutant superhero Wolverine in a prequel to X-Men that explores the hairy Canadian’s mysterious origins.

Hollywood.com: Have your kids seen Flushed Away yet?
Hugh Jackman: My son has seen probably 20 minutes, sort of like a 20 minute version of it. He’s very excited about it because he had just turned four when I started work on it. Now he’s six and a half almost, so every time I would do a session, he would ask me what happened. So I’d tell him the latest installment. Of course he’d want a half-hour version of it, so over the years, basically the version he’s heard is sort of like the Tolkien version, Lord of the Rings kind of thing. He might be a little disappointed. Some of the characters I invented to sort of pad it out a little bit are not actually in the final cut of the movie. What he saw, he loved. There’s just enough bops on the head, slapstick, fart jokes to really keep it going.

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HW: What did you invent for him?
I make up stories for him every second or third night. Sometimes he likes me to read and sometimes he just likes the lights off and we make up stories. I can’t remember what they are…He has a great imagination. All the kids at school have to say what they want to be when they grow up, draw a picture and Oscar was like, “I want to be a pharaoh.” I was like, “Excellent, we need one of those in the family.” Apparently they have this instant pass to the afterlife. This is great.

HW: How did they feel about X-Men, or is that too violent for them?
HJ: I’ve shown about 20 minutes of X-Men to Oscar, but I figure it’s still a little weird for him to see his dad slicing people in half. Well, he’d probably like it. It’d probably give him license to go crazy, go to town at school so I have a feeling I better not do it.

HW: What did you think of your character Roddy’s choice of the tux over the Wolverine outfit?
Ah, very good. I laughed so much when I saw that. I thought, “I don’t know how many people are going to pick this up. It is so brilliant.” And of course I didn’t know that until I saw the movie. When I was voicing it, it was all, ‘Mm, mm, mm, mm.’ That was it. I thought it was brilliant, but probably a smart choice not to go with a Wolverine costume. That probably would have been a bit too much.

HW: Did you ever work with Kate Winslet?
No, but I do know Kate and we do actually get on very well together. The thing is, to be honest, Kate is one of the best actors going around, so she can make anything work and I think we did—what happened was once she started to record more and I was recording, I would listen to her a lot. Sometimes they would even play her to me so I can hear her. And I also had a fantastic woman called Susan who would read opposite me. She was at every session I believe in New York or here. She was great. She would read every part. She was incredible. She’d go from Toad to Rita to Sid and Whitey, all of them. Le Frog, she did all of them. So I always had someone to work with, but Kate was just phenomenal, isn’t she?

HW: Did you see any of your gestures in the finished product?
HJ: I did see some similarities. It’s a little frightening to see yourself looking like a rodent, but it’s an adorable one, right? A pampered pet, shall we say. But no, there are some things definitely and they were filming it all the time. It was great going back in to see how these scenes were evolving, to see how they were using that. Anyway, it was interesting.

HW: What’s been the timeline of all these projects, working nonstop on X-Men 3, Scoop, The Prestige, The FountainFlushed Away and Happy Feet?
HJ: I’ve been working fairly steadily, but I did Broadway for over a year and I started recording both of the animated projects during that year while I was doing the Broadway show. Then when I finished that, I did The Fountain. Had a bit of time off while my wife did a film, and then I did the Woody Allen movie, X-Men 3 and then The Prestige. So I had a bit of a gap in between. There was probably a month off in between each. People say you work hard, I’m like, “Hey, most people work about 48 weeks a year. I’m lucky if I do 40.” People say, “Oh, look at him, he’s so busy.” I’m like, “I hate to say it but you’re busier than me.”

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HW: What can you tell us about the X-Men prequel Wolverine?
HJ: We just now have a final script, the final draft from David Benioff which I absolutely love and I know the fans are going to go crazy for it. It’s just fantastic. Benioff is an amazing writer. He’s probably one of the hottest writers hanging around town. Spielberg and everyone are after him. He was beating down our door to make this movie because he is the most passionate Wolverine fan. He’s followed him since he was nine, so it’s one of those rare combinations where you have a writer who all these Oscar-winning directors are wanting to write, and he’s like, “I want to do Wolverine.” So he’s written a script which for me is the most superior of them all, and now we have to find a director which we’re looking for now. So we’re close, and then I’m shooting a movie with Baz Luhrman and Nicole Kidman next year in Australia, and then we plan to do Wolverine after that.

HW: Will that preclude more X-Men movies?
HJ: For me? In the near future, yeah. I think the plan is to do the Wolverine movie. I don’t know what the future is for that franchise. I’m almost sure there’s no more X-Men movies. I have heard talk about a movie about the younger X-Men, a more kid-orientated thing which I might play a small part in. I’ve heard a story about a Magneto spin-off as well, but honestly, I’ve probably heard what you’ve heard. I’ve heard nothing official. But I do know that we’re going to make the Wolverine movie.

HW: What intrigues you most about Wolverine?
HJ: To me, he’s one of the great screen archetypes. He’s like, when I was growing up, Han Solo and Mad Max, Dirty Harry. These were all the kind of roles I loves. And that’s what Wolverine is. He’s that reluctant hero. He is a good guy but he’s not a nice guy. I think we all love that character. He’s the guy you want on your side, but at the same time, there’s no B.S. about him.

HW: Will it be weird to play younger Wolverine?
HJ: Well, he doesn’t age, right? We have to ask the audience to suspend their disbelief a little because I have aged. I’m not going to go and have surgery but I think that’s the beauty of playing that role. I won’t be able to do it when I’m 60, but I think for a few years I should be all right.

HW: Do you spend lots of time talking with Benioff?
HJ: Well, with someone like David Benioff, you let him do his thing first off. He comes back with it and then we sit down together and I said to him, “I think this is fantastic. Maybe we’ll go a little in this direction, or what about this?” He’s very collaborative and for better or worse, I played the role for three movies so it’s a character that I know, so I know what I want to achieve in the film. I don’t want the film to appear at all like X-Men 4 in disguise. I want it feel like a very fresh, whole new character piece. I want it to be a character movie and I really want to, by the end of the movie, for it to be definitive you knew who this guy was—with some cool action and some great characters, but ultimately that you totally know who Wolverine is. And he really got that. He totally got it. David’s known for being one of the best character writers in Hollywood. So anyway, he’s been very collaborative and I’m not trying to tell him what I think and he’ll say that I disagree with you or whatever but it’s been a really terrific process so far.

HW: It’s only been six years, but how has your Hollywood journey been?
Well, the great thing about doing Wolverine, first in terms of my life as an actor is for about a year after that film came out, no one recognized me. Even fans, I’d walk down the street and they’d go, “You kind of look like him, but you’re not him.” At one point I even got out my driver’s license to show them who I was, because they were having an argument. And to settle the argument, I said, “Actually, I am the guy.” So it was this great kind of thing because the movie really opened up my career for me, gave me great opportunities that I had never had before. So it was something I’ll always be forever grateful for.

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HW: Do you get perks, like tables at restaurants?
HJ: Particularly Bobby’s Restaurant in New York. Vinny the maitre’d there has a full-sized color tattoo of Wolverine on his back. When I first went in there, the waiter said, “Oh, by the way, Vinny wants to say hi.” I looked over at the desk, the sign in book or whatever, and he ducks down underneath and I was like, “This is odd.” Eventually he came over and he was sweating and shaking. He goes, “Oh man, I can’t believe I’m meeting Wolverine.” I say, “Oh, you’re a fan?” He goes, “Fan?” and he took off his top in the middle of the restaurant. He’s the manager and my wife was laughing her head off. We ended up taking photos, the two of us, posing down. It was crazy. So yeah, it does help. It got me through customs once actually. When I first got to Canada, I was very rushed in getting there, for the first X-Men film. My visa was coming through and so I went there and it wasn’t fully through yet, so I went up there and I just said, “Look, I’m coming to work in Canada.” He goes, “Do you have a working visa?” I said, “Well, no, I’m not officially started work yet, but the working visa’s coming through and I’m actually not sure if I got the part yet,” which was sort of true. I hadn’t signed a contract but I knew I had the part. And he looked at me like that and he goes, “What movie? What are you doing?” I said, “Oh, X-Men.” He goes, “X-Men? What are you, an animator?” I said, “No, I’m an actor.” He says, “What do you mean an actor? Are you in the cartoon?” I said, “No, they’re making a movie.” He said, “They’re making a movie? Of X-Men? Are you kidding? What do you do?” “Well, hopefully I’m playing the role of Wolverine.” “Wolverine? Yo, Jeff, I’ve got Wolverine here in the movie.” And he’s talking to all his buddies. I almost got a police escort out of the place. From this guy, the typical customs guy, like was ready to send me back. All of a sudden I was ushered through.

HW: Tell about your role in your next animated film, Happy Feet.
I play a character called Memphis. He thinks he’s Elvis Presley. I’m a penguin who thinks he’s Elvis. I don’t want to raise your hopes too high because when I first went in there, the character’s name was Elvis and the second session I went in, all of a sudden this character was called Memphis. I said, “George, is this a reflection on my ability?” He goes, “Oh, I was only ever after like the essence of Elvis really.” I’m like, “Thanks, mate.”

HW: Will you do more voice work?
HJ: I loved it. It’s sort of—I wouldn’t say it’s easy. It was actually difficult the acting part but it’s lovely to go to work. You walk into the studio, they turn on a button and you record everything. There’s no hair, no makeup, no nothing and for four hours you can do the entire script. You ad lib, you play around, you do things and you get a lot done. It’s sort of easy in that way but I