Many times, on Hugh Jackman’s shoots, the most important thing happened away from the camera. Specifically, in a corner, where an elderly man was sitting waiting. And silent. Apparently, he spent the wait between crossword puzzles and sudokus. Although, from time to time, he looked up at the actor, just to send him a signal. His eyes always conveyed the same thing: approval, support, pride. “He saw everything I did. He never had a bad word. Much of what I am I owe to him”, the interpreter told a few weeks ago Guardian. The man’s name was Christopher. It was his father. And he couldn’t be at the filming of his last movie, The son. He died in Australia, just as Jackman embodied thousands of kilometers away, in London, the role he would have liked the most: a parent.
It is not surprising that the actor (Sidney, 54 years old) associates the same adjective with the film over and over again: “Personal”. Because of how the feature film by Florian Zeller, which can be seen in Spanish cinemas, crossed paths with his life and shook it; because his character, Peter, faces beauty, vertigo and terror that every parent knows and can be summed up in one word: upbringing; because it was the role that affected him the most in his career, according to what he himself recounted in a meeting with international journalists last September, at the Venice festival; because he started going to therapy in the middle of the process; and because, ultimately, he changed him even as a person: “Thanks to this film I have begun to share my vulnerability with my children. And I see the relief in him. I thought a lot about the relationship with them: how much you help them, push them or let go to let them go. Being a father also means making mistakes: there is no role that is a greater lesson in humility”.
The project itself actually started off with a kind of modesty, according to the director. So much so that Zeller explained in Venice that he, at first, he did not believe. The divo chosen for an almost unreal number of years in a row by the magazine People as one of the 50 most handsome beings on the planet; the very famous Broadway star; the desired face and body of Wolverine; the impeccable dancer and singer; the best living summary of why common mortals envy Hollywood. Well, that mythological creature signed a letter addressed to the filmmaker in which he begged him to take him into account as a possible protagonist of The son. A chat by video call followed. The creator had sworn to himself to meet him and take time. After eight minutes, however, he gave her the role.
“I don’t usually do this kind of thing. But for some reason, he felt that he needed this trip, that she really wanted it. It happened still at the height of the pandemic, we did not go out, we were nervous. I don’t think he admitted it at the time, but he was probably untangling threads that had parallels with Peter,” says Jackman. Deep down, the character faces the daily fight of many. And the usual feeling of always being late for everything: moving forward with her own life, his happiness, his partner, his professional goals. And take care of his two children: the newborn and a teenager in crisis, the result of their previous relationship. Paternity, daily fears and mental health are mixed in a film that for Jackman is above all “of humanity”. What did not prevent criticism from being merciless with the film. With the exception, yes, of his performance.
You won’t mind either: Jackman has often shared that he doesn’t read the reviews. Not because his very poor vision without contact lenses doesn’t help. The fact is that his high “sensitivity” was the only concern that his father expressed when he announced that he would be an actor. That is, once again, Chris’s affection supported him in his choices. “He taught me great values. He was never interested in things like fame or money. He always insisted on education, on treating people well and keeping your word,” the interpreter told Guardian.
By then, the mother had already left, when little Jackman was eight years old. Although precisely visiting her once in the United Kingdom he fell in love with the theater. So he began to step on stages and, shortly after, sets, while his initial dream of being an international journalist lost steam. Until, in 1995, work and intimacy mixed to revolutionize his existence: the Australian series correlli gave him the first spotlight and a co-star, Deborra-Lee Furness, to whom one day, years later, he said “I do.” They have been together for more than a quarter of a century, and have overcome even the cancer he suffered and the two miscarriages she suffered. The couple have two adopted children.
Jackman usually defines it as “the pillar” of his life. In her career, on the other hand, her turning point came with the leap from the small screen to the big one. Or rather colossal, in her case: with her debut as Wolverine, in X Men (by Bryan Singer, 2000), his talent pulled out all the claws. Although, among so many sequels, he also had to use them to free himself from pigeonholes: “I have never felt trapped. Although there was a brief period in which I thought that only action films reached me. I was always surprised that it happened. Just like I had never sung before my first musical. I have never chosen my films to label myself or send messages to people. I love the variety. And now I am more careful to choose. In his new vision, he has even felt free to reincarnate Wolverine soon.
Among other things, because he has already shown that he can do anything. Superhero mega-productions, but also more sophisticated cinema, with authors like Christopher Nolan, Denis Villeneuve or Woody Allen; performing, dancing, even succeeding as a musician, as the reception of his concert tour revealed. Although few things like a son to hold on to the ground. According to the specialized website Imdb, Jackman once caught his son Oscar letting out a friend: “My father is not that cool. The truth is, he has nothing to do with Wolverine.”
He certainly seems to be a better guy than his most famous character. He had, like everyone else, his moments of rebellion: a devout Christian as a young man, like his family, he ended up moving away from religion. And he reduced the “explosive rage” he felt as a teenager. But the truth is that in his world he is also known for his kindness. A guy that his wife and other members of his family often follow on set, according to Imdb. And a man to whom the same website attributes the following sentence: “A handwritten letter is the best. I don’t know where some of my awards are, but I know exactly where each of those missives is.” Or this other one: “I love acting. And I respect him a lot. But I don’t think it’s more of a challenge than teaching eight-year-olds or any other career. I try not to make it more important than it is.”
In the Venice talk, Jackman once again claimed the balance between private and professional space. And he compared his work to coaching a soccer team: “It is a job with a lot of insecurity. You never know where it’s going. You work for a while and then no one calls you in five years.” Between cameras and scenarios, it should not be his case. But, once again, the Australian went to the values that were instilled in him: “I see it as a personal journey. I became an actor to answer more crucial questions than ‘how to be famous’. Surely Chris Jackman made some mistake in raising Hugh. Everyone, after all, does. But it turns out that his son still upholds his teachings. How not to be proud.
All the culture that goes with you awaits you here.
The literary novelties analyzed by the best critics in our weekly bulletin
Subscribe to continue reading
Read without limits