There is a pivotal moment in Hugh Jackman’s life that will always stick with him: singing in public for the first time. “I’ve never been that scared again. That was 15 years ago. July 26, 1996,” he says. “I was asked to sing the national anthem at a very big rugby match down in Australia — millions of people watching, a hundred thousand people in the stadium and I had a panic attack the night before. I was terrified.”
And with good reason, it seems, as the stakes were certainly high. “I had in my head, right or wrong, that if I screwed this up, it’s over. I had seen people booed off singing the national anthem badly and never work again. Australia’s a small place, right?” he says. “Now, if I had been booed off — if things had not gone well — I know I wouldn’t be here today.”
His latest film, “Real Steel” — designed to be a family-friendly, rousing crowd-pleaser — seems well-suited for a franchise, but Jackman shies away from discussions of a sequel. “It’s not the right time to be talking about it,” he says. “It’s kind of like the week before the Super Bowl saying, ‘Do you think you’ll be in the Super Bowl next year?’” That being said, it doesn’t mean the idea isn’t already in motion. “I know it’s being written, and I know in a way it’s planned and that’s always been there,” he admits. “I have signed on for one if there is one, but none of us involved are thinking beyond [opening weekend], trust me. That’s not the mentality you have.”
Besides, Jackman — as both an actor and a producer — is far too familiar with how hard it can be to get a movie made, even a “sure thing.” “In my experience — particularly with X-Men, I don’t know why — there’s never been an easy ride,” he says. “There are I-can’t-tell-you-how-many reasons or potholes that could derail any movie, and it’s sort of miraculous it gets made and gets out there. So I never really take it for granted. It’s an exciting business to be in — but I’m glad I’m on this side of the camera, because the other side I want to slit my wrists.”
So instead of diving into “Real Steel 2,” Jackman is heading back to Broadway for a 10-week run of a one-man show before he films Tom Hooper’s take on the musical “Les Miserables,” followed by the next “Wolverine” film. Having played the character for more than a decade, it’s something that comes quite naturally to Jackman. “I play it at home, obviously,” he says. “For parental control, it really helps.”
While he seems to have mastered the intricacies of controlling robot boxers just fine on the big screen, Jackman admits that he himself isn’t exactly technologically savvy — even when it comes to something like Twitter.
“I started posting things on Twitter, and my publicist rang me one night and said, ‘You just posted your home address on Twitter,’” Jackman remembers. “Because my daughter was swimming in the fountain outside my house, and I didn’t realize I’d put my street name in the photo. So she says, ‘From now on, you must send me everything you post.’ So I do a tweet, and I send it to her and then she forwards it on.”