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Jackman, Hugh

Jackman, Hugh

October 12, 1968 Sydney, Australia

Actor

By the mid-2000s, the press was calling Australian actor Hugh Jackman a jack-of-all-trades. American moviegoers lined up to see him in the X-Men blockbusters, in which he played the ultimate alternative superhero: the brooding, razor-clawed mutant known as Wolverine. On the Broadway stage he received rave reviews for portraying flamboyant Australian song-and-dance-man Peter Allen in The Boy from Oz. In 2004 he landed a Tony Award, Broadway's most prestigious honor, for his role. Whether Jackman was wearing metal claws or clicking castanets, he earned praise from fans and critics alike. Jackman also added another term to his resume, that of America's favorite leading man.

From journalism to the stage

Hugh Jackman was born on October 12, 1968, the youngest of five Jackman children, and the only one born in Sydney, Australia. The entire family had moved to Australia from England in 1967, the year before his birth. When Jackman was eight years old his parents divorced. His mother returned to England to live and care for her own mother, who was ill; the job of taking care of the five young Jackmans fell to his father, an accountant. In interviews, Jackman cannot say enough about the man who devoted himself to his family. "He's an extraordinarily selfless, amazing man," Jackman remarked to Katie Couric on MSNBC News. Although his mother was not a part of his everyday life, Jackman did travel back and forth between Australia and England for visits. It was during those visits that he got his first taste of the theater.

Jackman loved going to plays with his mother, and he frequently acted in school plays, but he did not consider becoming a professional actor. Instead he majored in communications at the University of Technology in Sydney, with an eye toward journalism. During his senior year, Jackman found himself a few credits short, so he decided to take a drama class, primarily because his friends told him that he was guaranteed an easy "A." But as it turned out, the class was a lot of work. "I was shocked at how challenging it was," he admitted to MSNBC News. The class project was to put on a play, and everyone had to take a part. By chance Jackman was cast in the lead, and by the end of the term he was hooked.

"I act because I have felt in acting some of the most free moments in my life.... I think it's also one thing that scares me the most."

After graduating with a bachelor's degree, Jackman realized that he was not truly cut out to be a journalist, so he enrolled at the Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts in Perth to study drama. The aspiring actor thrived in the experimental environment of the academy, where students were encouraged to work on instinct. As Jackman explained to David Furnish of Interview, "I studied in Perth, where you're totally isolated and in this bubble of creative fire and risk-taking." For the next three years Jackman immersed himself in acting, appearing in plays and taking classes in opera and musical theater. When he graduated in 1994, he had no clear expectations for his future. As Jackman told Furnish, "After I graduated I thought, 'Well, I'm going to give this everything I've got for five years. If nothing happens, I'll start my own theater company or whatever.... I'm not going to spend my whole life waiting for the phone to ring.'"

The X-Men and Wolverine

The X-Men series was created in 1963 by two Marvel Comics legends, writer Stan Lee (1922) and artist Jack Kirby (19171994). The story originally focused on Professor Charles Xavier, who scoured the earth to find human beings who had been born with a genetic mutation that gave them each a special power. Xavier's goal was to provide a safe haven for the mutants, who were scorned and feared by society, and to help them harness their potentially dangerous gifts. The core group of X-Men consisted of five teenagers: Cyclops, Angel, Iceman, Beast, and Marvel Girl. The villain in the story was the evil Magneto, who believed that "normal" humans were inferior and had to be punished for their past treatment of mutants.

Since then, the series has undergone numerous transformations. Superheroes have been added and subtracted, villains have come and gone, and spin-offs have been created that concentrate on specific characters. One particularly popular character is Wolverine. Wolverine was created in 1974 by writer Len Wein because Marvel Comics had no Canadian superheroes. He was introduced in an Incredible Hulk comic as a secret agent of the Canadian government who had ultra-super powers. Several months after the Hulk comic was released, Wein was given the task of adding new characters to The X-Men series. As a result, Wolverine found a permanent home.

Wolverine is one of the toughest and most ruthless of the X-Men, and his mutant powers are many. He is incredibly strong and fast, and his keen sense of smell allows him to track almost any living creature. One of the most amazing things is that his skeleton has been infused with adamantium, a particularly strong, nearly indestructible metal. Wolverine has retractable claws built into the backs of his hands made from this metal. When the claws project through the skin of his hands, the flesh tears and bleeds, but because of Wolverine's self-healing powers, he mends quickly.

Jackman did not have to wait by the phone for long. Almost immediately he was offered a plum role on the popular Australian television series Corelli. The program not only gave Jackman his first big break, it also gave him the chance to work opposite his future wife, Australian actress Deborra-Lee Furness. Following Corelli, Jackman appeared in a number of other TV shows. He also began to earn a reputation for his work on the stage in the Australian productions of Beauty and the Beast and Sunset Boulevard. In 1998 Jackman headed to London, where he drew even wider attention for his portrayal of singing cowboy Curly McClain in the Royal National Theatre production of the musical Oklahoma! Critics and theater-goers were so taken with Jackman's charming performance that he was nominated for an Olivier. The Olivier Award is the most prestigious theater honor in Great Britain, and is named for the renowned British actor Sir Laurence Olivier (19071989).

Sharpens claws as Wolverine

Just a few short years out of drama school, Jackman had become the hottest actor in Australia. He not only had television and stage credits under his belt, he also found time to appear in two films, Paperback Heroes and Erskineville Kings, both released in 1999. For his turn as Wace in Erskineville, Jackman received a Best Actor nomination from the Australian Film Institute. Although he did not take home the prize, he was given an even bigger honor when he was named the Australian Star of 1999.

Jackman may have been the biggest ticket in Australia, but he was not big enough to be considered for an ambitious movie project called The X-Men that was under way at Twentieth-Century Fox in the United States. The X-Men movie was based on characters from a Marvel comic-book series of the same name, and although the characters had legions of followers in the comic-book world, they were not well known by the general public. Executives at Marvel and Fox, however, felt the story had a timeless appeal, especially for a younger audience, since it focused on the exploits of a group of outsiders who are shunned because they are different. There was also the promise of a special-effects spectacular, because what made the X-Men different was that each was born with a special power. For example, Cyclops can fire beams of energy from his eyes.

The character slated to be at the center of the movie was Wolverine, a shaggy mutant with keen animal senses and razor-sharp metal claws that spring from his hands. British actor Dougray Scott (1965) was Hollywood's first choice to play the brooding Wolverine, but when another film obligation got in the way he was forced to back out. This left the studio in a bind just as the movie was about to begin shooting in October of 1999. Director Bryan Singer decided to take a gamble and tapped newcomer Jackman to replace Scott. When Jackman received the call he was stunned, especially since he had auditioned for the role ten months earlier. As he laughingly told Lori Blackman of CNN.com, "I think I'm in the record books for the longest audition in history."

The gamble paid off when The X-Men far exceeded everyone's expectations. There was a buzz about the movie months before its debut, and comic-book fans, eager to finally see their favorite superheroes on the big screen, camped out in front of theaters to get tickets. When the film was released in July of 2000, it took in a record-breaking $57 million during its opening weekend, and by the time it went to DVD, worldwide ticket sales totalled almost $300 million. The movie also spawned a lucrative marketing franchise that included video games and action figures. By 2001, it looked like superheroes meant super business.

Big-budget star

In the process Hugh Jackman became an overnight celebrity. Diehard X-Men fans praised Jackman for his faithful portrayal of Wolverine. This was quite a compliment, considering the fact that the fictional Wolverine stands five-foot three inches tall, and Jackman is over six feet tall. In addition, Jackman's chiseled good looks and mutton-chop sideburns made him America's newest heartthrob.

Studios lined up to sign the hunky Australian, and in 2001 Jackman had a banner year, appearing in no less than three movies, including Swordfish, a suspense drama starring John Travolta (1954). He also co-starred opposite Meg Ryan (c. 1961) as a time-traveling suitor in Kate & Leopold, and he played the object of Ashley Judd's (1968) affections in Someone Like You. Jackman performed admirably in all three films, especially in Kate & Leopold, where he proved he could handle a romantic comedy as well as an actionpacked thriller. None of the movies did well at the box office, however, and critics considered the films to be fairly forgettable.

In 2003 it seemed to many that Jackman was back where he belonged when he reprised his role as Wolverine in the X-Men sequel, X2: X-Men United. The movie not only repeated the success of the original X-Men, raking in an astonishing $85 million during its opening weekend, it was also considered by most critics to be even better than the original. Jackman, as Wolverine, was given a lot of the credit even though he was just one of an ensemble cast.

Jackman was believed to be such an integral part of the big-budget fantasy's success that writer-director Stephen Sommers created a movie called Van Helsing specifically for him. As Sommers told Benjamin Svetkey of Entertainment Weekly, "I wrote Van Helsing with Jackman in mind. I'm not sure what I would have done if he had said no." But Jackman did not say no. He jumped at the chance to play monster-hunter Gabriel Van Helsing, who, in his sweeping duster and broad-brimmed hat, pursues the likes of Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, and the Wolf Man. When Van Helsing opened in May of 2004, it received mixed reviews. Some critics dismissed it as "summer silliness," but they also gave kudos to Jackman for his intense performance. Many, like Leah Rozen of People, wondered when the actor was "going to get a movie worthy of his true talent."

The Boy from Oz

Jackman claimed that taking the Van Helsing role was part of his plan to further his career. As he explained to Svetkey, it was a way to "make sure the projects kept getting more and more interesting and the parts more and more challenging." If some questioned his choice of playing the part of a monster-killer, others questioned Jackman's choice in 2003performing on Broadway in The Boy from Oz, a musical about the life and death of singer-songwriter Peter Allen (19441992). But Jackman was itching to flex his acting muscles, and Allen was an Australian legend. As Jackman explained to Furnish, "[Allen] may not have been the greatest singer or piano player or dancer in the world, but when he performed, he just lit up the stage."

Beginning in September of 2003, Jackman himself lit up the stage in The Boy from Oz, singing twenty-one songs per show in eight shows per week. Those who had known Allen were amazed by Jackman's uncanny ability to capture the essence of the exuberant showman. The resemblance was particularly noticeable when Jackman, like Allen, interacted with his audience. For example, during one performance Jackman was interrupted by some latecomers, so he strayed from the script and chatted with the ladies, ultimately forcing them to stand up and show off their outfits. When an actor ad-libs, it can be a disaster, but Phil McKinley, the Oz director, called Jackman a dream to work with. And he predicted great things for his leading man. "Hugh's going to have this amazing career where he truly will be an all-around superstar performer," McKinley commented to MSNBC News.

Although critics were not particularly kind to the show, Jackman received the highest marks for his demanding role. He also generated an enormous following. A group of devoted fans, who called themselves the Ozalots, went to see him perform twenty or thirty times in a row. By June of 2004, Jackman had created such a stir that it came as no surprise when he won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical.

Time with Oscar

In October of 2004, when the run of The Boy from Oz ended, Jackman was only too eager to take a break. As he told Katie Couric, his plans were simple: "As soon as I finish ... I'm going to just hang out with Oscar." Oscar is Jackman's young son. He also explained that he might find time to fit in some gardening and cooking. Not the most adventurous schedule for a man known for playing dynamic characters on stage and screen, or for the fellow who consistently makes People magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People" list. But those who know Jackman have described him as very relaxed and down-to-earth. That may be because he has studied philosophy for more than ten years, and Jackman has claimed that this helps him put his fame into perspective. As he told Furnish, "My studies have helped me.... To see the rollercoaster quality [of fame]. I mean, success in this business is very much determined by public opinion, and we all know how fickle that can be."

For More Information

Periodicals

Furnish, David. "Hugh Jackman: From an X-Man to a Song and Dance Man, Hugh Jackman is Redefining the Words 'Leading Man.'" Interview (May 2004): pp. 98104.

Scott, A. O. "Full Moon, Romance, and a Demon Rustler." Review of Van Helsing. New York Times (May 7, 2004).

Svetkey, Benjamin. "Monster, Inc. Hugh Jackman Pursues Gruesome Creaturesand the Summer's First Smashwith Van Helsing." Entertainment Weekly (March 26, 2004): p. 22.

Web Sites

"Big Tony Winners." CBS News: The Early Show (June 8, 2004). http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/06/07/earlyshow/leisure/main621619.shtml (accessed on June 24, 2004).

Blackman, Lori. "'Wolverine' Hugh Jackman" CNN.com: Showbiz Today (July 19, 2000). http://www.cnn.com/2000/SHOWBIZ/Movies/07/19/sbtst.jackman/index.html (accessed on June 24, 2004).

"Comics: The X-Men." Marvel Enterprises Web site. http://www.marvel.com/publishing/showcomic.htm?id=4 (accessed on June 30, 2004).

Couric, Katie. "Hugh Jack(Man) of All Trades." MSNBC News: Dateline NBC (May 7, 2004). http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4925357 (accessed on June 24, 2004).

"Hugh Jackman Relishes Performing." MSNBC News: Entertainment (May 11, 2004). http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4893079 (accessed on June 24, 2004).

"Hugh Jackman's Big Year." CBS News: The Early Show (June 4, 2004). http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/06/03/earlyshow/leisure/celebspot/main620969.shtml (accessed on June 24, 2004).

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Jackman, Hugh 1968–

JACKMAN, Hugh 1968–

PERSONAL

Full name, Hugh Michael Jackman; born October 10, 1968, in Sydney, Australia; son of Chris Jackman and Grace Watson; married Deborra–Lee Furness, February 1996; children: one daughter, (adopted) Oscar Maximillian. Education: University of Technology–Sydney, B.A., journalism, 1990; studied drama at Actor's Center, Sydney, Australia, 1991, and at Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, 1994. Avocational Interests: Playing piano and guitar, playing golf, and windsurfing.

Addresses:

Agent—Endeavor, 9601 Wilshire Blvd., 3rd Floor, Beverly Hills, CA 90210; Lou Coulson Agency, 37 Berwick St., London W1F 8RS, England. Publicist—Nancy Seltzer & Associates, 6220 Del Valle Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90048.

Career:

Actor.

Awards, Honors:

Variety Club Award, musical theatre performer of the year, Mo Award, musical theatre performer of the year, 1997, and Green Room Award, best male actor in a musical, all for Sunset Boulevard; Laurence Olivier Award nomination, 1999, for Oklahoma!; Australian Star of the Year, Australian Movie Connection, 1999; Australian Film Institute Award nomination, best performance by an actor in a leading role, 1999, Film Critics Circle of Australia Award, best actor—male, 2000, both for Erskineville Kings; Chicago Film Critics Association Award nomination, most promising actor, 2001; Saturn Award, best actor, Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, Blockbuster Entertainment Award nomination, favorite male—newcomer, MTV Movie Award nomination, breakthrough male performance, MTV Movie Award nomination (with others), best on–screen team, 2001, all for X–Men; Golden Globe Award nomination, best performance by an actor in a motion picture—musical or comedy, 2002, for Kate & Leopold; Teen Choice Award nomination, choice movie actor—drama/action adventure, 2003, MTV Movie Award nomination (with Kelly Hu), best fight, Empire Award nomination, best actor, 2004, all for X2; Teen Choice Award nomination (with Kate Beckinsale), choice movie chemistry, Teen Choice Award nomination, choice movie actor—drama/action adventure, 2004, both for Van Helsing; Drama Desk Award nomination, best actor, Theatre World Award, Theater Wings Award, best actor in a musical, Antoinette Perry Award, best performance by a leading actor in a musical, Outer Critics Circle Award, best actor, TDF/Astaire Award, best male dancer, 2004, all for The Boy from Oz.

CREDITS

Film Appearances:

Wace, Erskineville Kings, Southern Star/Palace Films, 1999.

Jack Willis, Paperback Hero, Polygram Filmed Entertainment, 1999.

Wolverine/Logan, X–Men (also known as X–Men 1.5), Twentieth Century–Fox, 2000.

Eddie Allen, Someone Like You … (also known as Animal Attraction), Fox 2000 Pictures, 2001.

Stanley Jobson, Swordfish, Warner Bros., 2001.

Leopold Alexis Elijah Walker Gareth Thomas Mountbatten, Kate & Leopold, Miramax, 2001.

Wolverine/Logan, X2 (also known as X–Men 2, X–2, X–Men 2: X–Men United, and X2: X–Men United), Twentieth Century–Fox, 2003.

Himself, The Uncanny Suspects (documentary short film), Twentieth Century–Fox, 2003.

Himself, The Second Uncanny Issue of X–Men! Making "X2" (documentary; also known as The Second Uncanny Issue of X–Men), Twentieth Century–Fox, 2003.

Himself, X–Men Production Scrapbook (documentary), Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2003.

Himself, X–Factor: The Look of X–Men (documentary), Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2003.

Roger, Standing Room Only (short film), Buena Vista, 2004.

Voice of Gabriel Van Helsing, Van Helsing: The London Assignment (short film), Universal Home Video, 2004.

Title role, Van Helsing, Universal, 2004.

Himself, Van Helsing: Behind the Screams (documentary short film), Universal Studios Home Video, 2004.

The Fountain, Warner Bros., 2005.

Television Appearances; Series:

Kevin Jones, Corelli, Australian Broadcasting Corp., 1995.

Duncan Jones, Snowy River: The McGregor Saga (also known as Banjo Paterson's The Man from Snowy River), Nine Network and The Family Channel, 1996.

Host, InFashion, Foxtel, 1997.

Television Appearances; Miniseries:

(Uncredited; in archive footage) Curley McLain, Broadway: The American Musical (documentary), PBS, 2004.

Television Appearances; Movies:

Eric Ringer, Halifax f.p.: Afraid of the Dark, Nine Network, 1998.

Television Appearances; Special:

Hey, Mr. Producer! The Musical World of Cameron Mackintosh (also known as Hey, Mr. Producer!), PBS, 1998.

Host, Fox Studios Australia: The Grand Opening (documentary), Nine Network, 1999.

Curly McLain, Oklahoma!, 1999.

Himself, The 2000 Blockbuster Entertainment Awards, Fox, 2000.

X–Men: The Mutant Watch, Fox, 2000.

Presenter, The 2001 MTV Movie Awards, MTV, 2001.

Co–presenter, The 74th Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 2002.

Himself, The 56th Annual Tony Awards, CBS, 2002.

Himself, AFI's 100 Years … 100 Passions, CBS, 2002.

Presenter, The 59th Annual Golden Globe Awards, NBC, 2002.

Himself, The 2003 MTV Movie Awards, MTV, 2003.

Himself, The 57th Annual Tony Awards, CBS, 2003.

X–Pose: X2 Mutants Uncovered, Fox, 2003.

Himself, Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards '04, Nickelodeon, 2004.

Himself, Van Helsing: The Man and the Monsters (documentary), Sci–Fi Channel, 2004.

Himself, The World of Van Helsing (documentary), 2004.

Host, The 58th Annual Tony Awards (also known as The 2004 Tony Awards), CBS, 2004.

Himself, AFI's 100 Years … 100 Songs, CBS, 2004.

Mr. Slatterly, Making the Grade, MTV, 2004.

Television Appearances; Episodic:

Brady Jackson, "Just Desserts," Blue Heelers, 1995.

Himself, The Panel, Ten Network, 1999, 2001.

Himself, GNW Night Lite, Ten Network, 1999.

On the Record with Bob Costas, HBO, 2001.

Himself, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, NBC, 2001, 2003, 2004.

Himself, Rove Live, Ten Network, 2001, 2003, 2004.

Host, Saturday Night Live, NBC, 2001.

Himself, Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, BBC, 2002.

Himself, "Halle Berry," Revealed with Jules Asner, E! Entertainment Television, 2002.

Himself, Secrets of Superstar Fitness, 2002.

Himself, Parkinson, BBC, 2003.

Himself, Frids film, TV3 Danmark, 2003.

Himself, Live with Regis and Kelly, syndicated, 2003.

Himself, Late Show with David Letterman, CBS, 2003, 2004.

Himself, The View, ABC, 2003, 2004.

Himself, Inside the Actors Studio, Bravo, 2004.

Himself, T4, Channel 4, 2004.

Himself, This Morning, ITV, 2004.

Himself, Total Request Live, MTV, 2004.

Himself, Ellen: The Ellen DeGeneres Show, 2004.

Himself, "Hollywoodin kierraetysbuumi," 4pop, 2004.

Himself, Enough Rope with Andrew Denton, Australian Broadcasting Corp., 2004.

Himself, "Vinokas elokuvamusikaali," 4Pop, 2004.

Coming Attractions, 2004.

Stage Appearances:

Curly McLain, Oklahoma, Royal National Theatre, London, 1998.

Billy Bigelow, Carousel, Carnegie Hall, London, 2002.

(Broadway debut) Peter Allen, The Boy from Oz, Imperial Theatre, 2003–2004.

Also appeared as Gaston, Beauty and the Beast, Australian production; Joe Gillis, Sunset Boulevard, Australian production.

RECORDINGS

Albums:

The Boy from Oz (original cast recording), Decca Records, 2003.

Video Games:

Voice of title role, Van Helsing, Vivendi Universal Games, 2004.

OTHER SOURCES

Books:

Newsmakers, Issue 4, Gale Group, 2004.

Periodicals:

American Theatre, November, 2003, p. 15.

Entertainment Weekly, December 22, 2000, p. 43.

Interview, May, 2004, p. 98.

People, November 13, 2000, p. 160; May 14, 2001, p. 95; May 12, 2002, p. 89; May 12, 2003, p. 99.

Time, October 20, 2003, p. 72.

Variety, June 25, 2001, p. 71; May 26, 2003, p. 45; May 17, 2004, p. B8.

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Jackman, Hugh

Hugh Jackman

Actor

Born October 10, 1968, in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia; son of Chris Jackman (an accountant); married Deborra–Lee Furness (an actress), February, 1996; children: Oscar Maximilan. Education: Studied journalism at the University of Technology, Sydney; attended Actor's Centre, Sydney; theater diploma from the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts, 1994.

Addresses:

Agent—Creative Artists Agency, 9830 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90212–1825.

Career

Actor in films, including: Paperback Hero, 1999; Erskineville Kings, 1999; X–Men, 2000; Someone Like You, 2001; Swordfish, 2001; Kate and Leopold, 2001; X2: X–Men United, 2003; Standing Room Only, 2004; Van Helsing, 2004. Television appearances include: Law of the Land, 1995; Blue Heelers, 1995; Corelli, 1995; Snowy River: The McGregor Saga, 1996; Halifax f.p.: Afraid of the Dark (movie), 1998; Making the Grade (movie), 2004. Stage appearances include: Beauty and the Beast, 1995–96; Sunset Boulevard, Melbourne, Australia, 1996; Oklahoma!, National Theatre, London, England, 1998; The Boy From Oz, Imperial Theater, New York City, 2003. Host of the Antoinette Perry (Tony) Awards ceremony, 2003, 2004.

Awards:

Named Star of the Year in Australia, 1999; Astaire award for best male dancer, Theatre Development Fund, 2004; Antoinette Perry (Tony) award for best actor in a musical, League of American Theaters and Producers and the American Theatre Wing, for The Boy From Oz, 2004.

Sidelights

Actor Hugh Jackman followed fellow Australians Mel Gibson and Russell Crowe into Hollywood stardom and a top ranking as the big screen's newest romantic hero. A versatile performer, his roles have ranged from the cowboy Curly in the popular stage musical Oklahoma! to Wolverine, the mutant hero of the X–Men films. In 2003, he made a surprising move by signing on to play the lead in a Broadway musical for a year's run. In The Boy from Oz, Jackman starred as the late singer/songwriter Peter Allen, the Australian once married to Liza Minnelli and known for penning a raft of treacly pop tunes. Entertainment Weekly's Benjamin Svetkey noted that Jackman, though a talented singer and dancer, headed toward potential "careericide" by taking the Oz part, but "it turned out to be a shockingly smart choice," Svetkey asserted. "Jackman's performance in Oz has wowed critics even if the show hasn't and made him a rare bright light in a rocky Broadway season."

Jackman was born in 1968 in Sydney, Australia, the last of five children in a family that had emigrated from England just a year before he was born. When he was eight years old, his mother left and returned to England, informing Jackman's father, an accountant, by telegram of her whereabouts. Jackman credits his father for holding the family together after the devastating event. "He, more than anyone, has instilled in me a sense of pride and dedication," the actor told Weekend Australian's Bryce Hallett. "When Mum left, Dad did the week's shopping every Saturday morning and learned to become a fine cook. All the family are big achievers."

Jackman attended a private school in Sydney where the uniform for boys included a kilt. Gangly during much of his adolescent years, he bore the nickname "Worm" for it, but he was also an extrovert and skilled rugby player. He entered the journalism program at the University of Technology in Sydney, but as he told Bruce Wilson in a Sunday Herald Sun interview, "my heart wasn't in it. I thought, it's damned hard to get a job, and when you do get a job there's going to be bits of it you don't like.… And so I went for acting, where it is probably ten times harder to get a job." One early low point in his career was a job with the National Parks and Wildlife Foundation in Australia, which required dressing up in a giant koala suit and handing out leaflets. "I lost track of how many times I passed out," he recalled in an Entertainment Weekly interview.

Already involved in community theater, Jackman left journalism school early to enroll in a one–year course at the Actor's Centre in Sydney. The instructors at the school initially disliked him, he confessed to Belinda Luscombe in a Time article. "They admitted it later, after they were my friends," said Jackman. "I was very clean–cut, hammy and let's–put–on–a–show. They were very Beckett and Chekhov." He then landed a place at the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts in Perth, but was offered a part in a in hugely successful Australian soap opera, Neighbours, that same week. Neighbours had provided breakout roles for Russell Crowe, Kylie Minogue, Guy Pearce, and Natalie Imbruglia, among many others, but Jackman turned down the part.

By the time he finished the Academy in 1994, Jackman already had an agent by then, thanks to a job at a Melbourne fitness club he had taken to help pay the bills. The wife of cinematographer Dean Semler (Bruce Almighty, Dances With Wolves) was a client of the gym, and one day she told Jackman, "'I'm a white witch,'" Jackman recalled her saying, as he told Los Angeles Magazine writer Margot Dougherty, "'and you're going to be a big star.'" The Semlers helped him find an agent, which led to a role in an Australian television series, Corelli, in 1995. From there he landed the lead in Disney's Beauty and the Beast stage musical in Australia, though producers were initially wary of his inexperience and would not even let him audition at first.

Jackman's impressive talents, however, caught the attention of renowned stage director Trevor Nunn, who cast him as the lead in the musical Sunset Boulevard, the 1950 film classic adapted for the stage by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Jackman played the part in Melbourne in 1996, and went on to roles in two Aussie films, Paperback Hero and Erskineville Kings. Landing the part of Curly in the London revival of Oklahoma! in 1998 would make him a star on a more international stage. The classic American musical enjoyed an impressive run at London's National Theatre, with Queen Elizabeth II in attendance once. More importantly, a largely female contingent of journalists from Britain's print media wrote enthusiastically about Jackman, his acting abilities, and his heartthrob looks. New Statesman reviewer Kate Kellaway called him "intoxicating to watch," while others tagged him as Down Under's next important export and musical theater's newest star.

Jackman and his wife, actress Deborra–Lee Furness—whom he had met on the set of Corelli—had only recently relocated to Los Angeles when he won the lead in the much–anticipated X–Men movie, the big–screen adaptation of the cult Marvel Comics series. Jackman was cast as the furry, sharp–clawed mutant Wolverine, and the part effectively launched him Stateside. He co–starred with Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, and Halle Berry, but Jackman's character had little dialogue, and so he prepared for the role by watching the Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry movies and Mel Gibson's post–apocalyptic hero in Road Warrior, as he told Melbourne Herald Sun journalist Nui Te Koha. "Here were guys who had relatively little dialogue, like Wolverine had, but you knew and felt everything," Jackman said. "I'm not normally one to copy, but I wanted to see how those guys achieved it because I'm relatively inexperienced on the big screen."

X–Men was a box–office hit in the summer of 2000, and Jackman earned high marks from New York Times critic Elvis Mitchell in an otherwise negative review. "Wolverine, well played by Mr. Jackman, is perhaps the only other semi–rounded character who animates the picture besides Xavier and Magneto," Mitchell noted, mentioning the Stewart and McKellen roles. "He lives to fight, a boisterous tragic hero without complication." The star turn in X–Men, twinned with Jackman's lanky good looks, suddenly made him hot box–office property in Hollywood. Casting directors were eager to put him in romantic comedies or action films as the dashing hero, and he covered up his Australian accent convincingly to play opposite Ashley Judd in Someone Like You in 2001, based on the Laura Zigman book Animal Husbandry.

Jackman went on to play a computer hacker in a little–seen heist film, Swordfish, alongside John Travolta, and then delivered the accent of a nineteenth–century British aristocrat in Kate and Leopold, the third film of his released in 2001. A cute Meg Ryan vehicle largely dismissed by critics, Kate and Leopold nevertheless helped boost Jackman's profile immensely. Reviewing it for the New York Times, Stephen Holden noted that the actor "lends Leopold's haughty pronouncements enough good humor to keep his character from turning into an insufferable twit."

Jackman admitted to one misstep along the lightning–fast trajectory of his career: turning down the lead that later went to Richard Gere in the movie version of the musical Chicago. "I just felt I was too young for the part," he told Svetkey in Entertainment Weekly. Instead he reprised Wolverine for X2: X–Men United, in 2003, which earned more laudatory reviews than the first. Time's Richard Corliss found it a longer, more complex film, and "Jackman, on the verge of stardom for three years, grows ever more appealing."

The buzz surrounding Jackman continued to grow: Entertainment Weekly termed him the new "It" leading man of 2003, while Elle's Jesse Green asserted "his is an unusually virile kind of charm—part beef-cake, part heartbreak." Having conquered Hollywood, Jackman was surprised to win over New York as well: after a successful one–nighter as host of the 2003 Antoinette Perry Awards—the ceremony better known as the Tonys, which honors Broadway's best shows and stars of the past season—Jackman was approached to take the lead in a big–budgeted stage production that would be the first Australian musical to make it to Broadway, The Boy From Oz.

Oz was a daring role for any actor. It was based on the life of flamboyant singer–songwriter Peter Allen, who died of AIDS–related complications in 1992, and its title was a play on the slang term for Australia as well as Allen's link to Wizard of Oz star Judy Garland. Born into an impoverished rural family, Allen became a popular entertainer in Australia before Garland discovered him singing in a Hong Kong hotel in 1964. Though he was bisexual, Allen was briefly married to Garland's daughter Liza Minnelli for a time in the early 1970s. He wrote a number of popular tunes that were featured in The Boy From Oz, including "Don't Cry Out Loud" and "I Go to Rio," his signature song, which he often performed with maracas and a balloon–sleeved shirt on 1970s–era television variety programs.

Jackman was signed to sing and dance through The Boy from Oz for a one–year run, a rather unusual move for a film actor, whose agents consider such long–term commitments inadvisable. While the Broadway show earned mixed critical assessments, it broke box–office records at the Imperial Theater. Reviewers termed it fatuous at best, but most gave high marks to Jackman. Hilton Als of the New Yorker termed him "a charming, wildly hardworking performer," but one who "has been put in the awkward position of having to prove that Allen is worthy of our attention." Writing in Entertainment Weekly, Lawrence Frascella called it a "sexy, ingratiating performance.… Forget Wolverine. This slim, loose–limbed Jackman bumps and grinds his way across the stage, winks flirtatiously at the balcony, and endlessly flashes his irresistible smile. Even more surprisingly, he possesses a big, throaty Broadway voice, which serves him best during Allen's bombastic ballads."

Though Jackman was often seen around New York with his wife and toddler son, Oscar, in tow, rumors arose that he was gay because of the Oz role, which amused him greatly. He was also tagged in the press as the epitome of the "metrosexual"—the urbane, well–groomed urban male. People named him one of its 50 Most Beautiful People in 2004.

His next film roles included Standing Room Only and Van Helsing. The latter was predicted to become the summer of 2004's must–see movie and perhaps even revive the entire monster–movie genre from Hollywood's golden era of the 1930s and '40s. Jackman was cast as the titular Roman Catholic priest who moonlights as a vampire slayer. Van Helsing was loosely based on a character from the 1897 Bram Stoker novel Dracula, and also featured a wolfman and Frankenstein. Director Stephen Sommers (The Mummy) cast Jackman because, "I needed a man for the part, not a boy," he told Entertainment Weekly. "And the only guys out there are either in their 20s or cost $15 million. Ewan McGregor and Viggo Mortensen were the only other possibilities, but they already have their big swashbuckling franchises."

In 2004, Jackman hosted the Tony Awards for the second year in a row. He won a Tony that year for best actor in a musical for his role in The Boy FromOz. Rumors also arose that Jackman might take the lead in Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain, or become the next James Bond. In an interview with the Herald Sun, Jackman was cavalier about his future. "I'm the same as anyone else in the audience," he told journalist Simon Ferguson. "I get sick of seeing the same faces after a while and I know that this amazing run of roles I've been getting will one day just grind to a halt and nobody will want to know me for ages."

Sources

Books

Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, vol. 28, Gale Group, 2000.

Periodicals

Daily Variety, May 20, 2003, p. 1.

Elle, September 2003, p. 252.

Entertainment Weekly, November 16, 2001, p. 98; May 9, 2003, p. 49; June 27/July 4, 2003, pp. 26–29; October 24, 2003, p. 114; March 26, 2004, p. 22.

Herald Sun (Melbourne, Australia), June 13, 1998, p. 4; June 30, 2001, p. W4.

Independent Sunday (London, England), July 19, 1998, p. 7.

InStyle, December 1, 2001, p. 193.

Interview, September 2003, p. 170.

Los Angeles Magazine, August 2000, p. 38.

New Statesman, July 24, 1998, p. 41.

Newsweek, June 18, 2001, p. 53.

Newsweek International, March 25, 2002, p. 68.

New Yorker, October 27, 2003, p. 108.

New York Times, July 14, 2000; March 30, 2001; December 25, 2001; May 2, 2003; October 17, 2003; October 27, 2003, p. E1.

People, May 14, 2001, p. 95; May 13, 2002, p. 89; June 9, 2003, p. 22; December 1, 2003, p. 88.

Sunday Herald Sun (Melbourne, Australia), March 21, 1999, p. 14.

Time, May 5, 2003, p. 79; October 20, 2003, p. 72.

Time International, June 9, 2003, p. 66.

United Press International, December 3, 2003.

Weekend Australian (Sydney, Australia), October 26, 1996, p. R10.

CarolBrennan

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