Hugh Jackman Interview: Flushed Away and More Wolverine

Posted by: Sheila Roberts

MoviesOnline caught up with Hugh Jackman at the Los Angeles press day for "Flushed Away” this weekend.  Hugh talked about his role in the new animated feature in which he voices a rodent named Roddy who gets flushed down the toilet from his posh home into an exciting adventure in the sewers of London. Hugh also updated us on his upcoming "X-Men” spin-off, the highly anticipated "Wolverine.”  Hugh is a great guy and we really appreciated his time. Here’s what he had to tell us:

Q: Have your kids seen the film (Flushed Away) yet?

HJ: My son has seen probably 20 minutes. Sort of a 20-minute version of it. He’s very excited about it because he had just turned four when I started work on it and now he’s six and a half almost. Every time I would do a session, he would ask me what happened so I’d tell him the next installment. Of course he’d want a half-hour version of it. Basically the version he’s heard is sort of like the talking version, like "Lord of the Rings” kind of thing. He might be a little disappointed with some of the characters I’ve invented to sort of pad it out a little bit. They’re not actually in the final cut of the movie but there’s just enough bumps on the head, slapstick, fart jokes to really give a go for him. (laughter)

Q: What did you make up for him?

HJ: What did I make up? Oh, I can’t remember now. I make up stories for him probably 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.

Q: Is he really creative?

HJ: Very. That’s his thing. 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 Pharoah.’ I was like, ‘Excellent. We need one of those in the family. That’s good.’ We’ll have this instant pass to the afterlife. This is great. (laughter)

Q: How did they feel about "X-Men.” Have they seen it or is it a little too violent for them?

HJ: I’ve shown about 20 minutes of "X-Men I” to Oscar but I figure it’s still a little weird for him to see his father slicing people in half. Well, he’d probably like it. It’d probably give him license to go crazy. Get a tan at school so I thought I’d probably better not do that.

Q: What did you think of Rodney’s choice of the tuxedo over the Wolverine costume?

HJ: 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 either until I saw the movie. When I was working on it (hums), that was it, you know. I thought it was brilliant but probably it’s my choice not to go with the Wolverine costume. (laughs) That probably would have been a bit too much.

Q: When I was watching it, what I really loved about the film was both you and Kate…I felt like you guys were reading together. There was an amazing chemistry you had from a cartoon. Did you ever work at all together or was it just…?

HJ: No, but I do know Kate and we do actually get along very well together. The thing is, to be honest, Kate is one of the best actors going around so she can make anything work. I think what happened was once she started to record more and I was recording, I would listen to her a lot. Sometimes I would even play her to me so I could hear her and I also had a fantastic woman called Susan who would read opposite me and she was at every session that I did in New York or here. She was great. She would read every part. I mean she was incredible. She’d go from Toad to Rita to Sid and Whitey to all of them. The frogs. She did all of them. And so I always had someone to work with.
 
Q: Kate is just phenomenal, isn’t she?
 
HJ: Yes she is. She’s one of my favorites.
 
Q: In terms of the animation, I know a lot of the time they’ll have someone tape it and they’ll use a lot of the mannerisms and facial features in the final. Did you see a lot of what you’d done when you were doing the voice work in the finished product?

HJ: I do see some similarities. It’s a little frightening to see yourself looking like a rodent but he’s an adorable one, right? A pampered pet shall we say? But 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, yeah, it was interesting.

Q: Does it bother you that the slugs steal your thunder?

HJ: No. I loved them. You know what’s amazing about the slugs. I don’t remember them ever being…except for that first bit, ‘Aah! Aah! Aah!,’ that’s the only thing… and how the slugs were invented. That was so fantastic. They were brilliant.  They steal the show. I agree. Oscar loves the slugs. That’s my son. He thought the slugs were his favorite thing.

Q: What’s been the time line of all of these projects? Have you been working non-stop for a couple of years?

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. I think I started on this January 2004. I can’t remember. It’s been a couple years. Then when I finished that I did "The Fountain.” I had a bit of time off when my wife did a film and then I did the Woody Allen movie, "X-Men 2,” and then "The Prestige.”  So we had a bit of a gap in between.

Q: I can’t believe there was any time off in between that.

HJ: There was probably a month off in between each. Some people say you work hard but hey, most people work 40 hour weeks a year. I’m lucky if I do 40 so it’s not that bad. But people say, ‘Ah, he’s so busy.’ I hate to say it but you’re busier than me.

Q: Is the fact that you’ve started producing changed your schedule at all?

HJ: It does. Ultimately it will free things up for me because we have the (inaudible) right now of shooting a film in New York and that’s one of the goals, apart from doing movies I love and roles I want to play and also being able to give back in areas as a producer. I can do films in my home town. New York is where we’re based so now I can do a film and sort of force the issue rather than the film going somewhere else. I can make sure that film is happening where I live and that way I can be with my family instead of pulling up roots so that’s a great decision. It’s great for me. It’s a great feeling walking on set as a producer . I went on Thursday and sort of the two thoughts come into mind. The first thought was like ‘Wow, look at all these jobs I’ve created for all these people. This is so fantastic.’ And then about a minute later I’m like, ‘Why are they all standing around?’ (laughter) ‘Let’s go. C’mon, people. (clapping his hands) Let’s go.’

Q: Do you find it hard to find yourself as a producer and then as an artist? Or is it an easy transition?

HJ: Easy. I find that easy. I find myself now a little bit … already I’m like, ‘C’mon guys. We’ve got to get going.’ Whereas as an actor, you’re like, ‘Oh, we’ll finish it tomorrow.’ It’s a little bit like that. You’re a little more…you know what’s going on… I know what’s at stake. I know what the budget is. I know how many days we can go over now and how many we can’t. It’s actually a thing that I think all actors and directors should be one day. I just did a film with Chris Nolan and that guy is so aware of every part of the filmmaking process and so responsible with it. And there are some directors who aren’t. They’ve got their vision of the film and if the film goes way over the budget, they don’t even think about it. Well, I think everyone should have a go at producing at some point. It’s always easier to say, ‘Oh, they’ll extend.’ But it’s not ‘they,’ it’s someone’s money.

Q: What can you tell us about Wolverine?

HJ: We just now have the 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. Obviously you know of him but for the fans who don’t, he’s probably one of the hottest writers going around town. Spielberg and everyone are after him. He was beating down our door to make this movie because he’s the most passionate Wolverine fan. He’s followed him since he was nine.  It’s one of those rare combinations where you have a writer who all these Oscar-winning directors are wanting to write for and he’s like (uses funny voice) ‘I want to do Wolverine.’ 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. I’ve got a couple movies coming out so if I see you guys maybe in about a month I may be able to let you know. So we’re close. And then I’m shooting a movie with Baz Luhrmann and Nicole Kidman next year in Australia. And then we plan to do "Wolverine” after that.

Q: Will that preclude doing more X-Men movies?

HJ: For me? In the immediate future, yeah. I think the plan is to do the Wolverine movie. You know, I don’t know what the future is for that franchise. I’m not sure there’s no more X-Men movies. I have heard talk about a movie about the younger X-Men. Sort of a more kid-oriented kind of thing which I might have 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.

Q: What intrigues you the most about Wolverine?

HJ: Well, to me, he’s one of the great screen archetypes. I think he’s like when I was growing up Hans Solo, Mad Max and Dirty Harry. Those were all the kind of roles I loved, you know. And that’s what Wolverine is. He’s the 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. At the same time, there’s no BS about him.

Q: So now that you’re a producer and an actor, do you wind up spending a lot of time talking with David Benioff about the character? Do you let him do his thing and then check in with him?

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

Q: I can’t believe this whole thing started only about six years ago with the first "X-Men.” How has your Hollywood journey been?

HJ: Well, the great thing about doing the 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’re not him.’ (laughter) 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.’ And he’s like, ‘Yeah…’ He wasn’t happy about that. (laughter) So it was this great kind of thing because I had these … The movie really opened up my career for me. It gave me great opportunities that I’d never had before. So it was something I’ll always be forever grateful for.

Q: Do you get perks like tables at restaurants and stuff?

HJ: Particularly Bubby’s restaurant in New York. You heard that story?

Q: No.

HJ: Vinny, the maitre d’ there, has a full size color tattoo of Wolverine on his back. When I first went in there, the waiter says, ‘By the way, Vinny want to say hi.’ I look over to the desk, where they sign in the book over there, and he ducks down underneath and I was like, ‘This is odd.’ Eventually he came over and he was sweating and shaking and he says, ‘Oh, man. I can’t believe I’m meeting Wolverine.’ And I say, ‘Ah, you’re a fan?’ ‘A fan?!’ He took off his top in the middle of the restaurant, but he’s the manager, and we ended up, my wife is laughing her head off, we ended up taking photos the two of us in the theme by posing down. (laughter) It was crazy. So yeah, it does help.  It got me through customs once actually.

Q: How’s that?

HJ: When I first got to Canada, you probably know the whole thing, but I was very rushed in getting there so…

Q: For this last one?

HJ: The first one.  So my visa was coming through and so I went there and it wasn’t fully through yet and so I went up there and I just said, ‘Look, I’m coming over. I’m going to work on a movie, "X-men.” I’ve come to work in Canada.’ And he says, ‘Well, you haven’t got a working visa.’ ‘Well, no, I haven’t officially started work yet and the working visa is coming through. I’m actually not sure if I got the part yet.’ Which was sort of true because I hadn’t signed the contract but I knew I had the part. He looked at me like that and he goes, ‘What movie? What are you doing?’ And I said, ‘X-Men.’ ‘X-Men?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘What are you, an animator?’ I said, ‘No, I’m an actor.’ ‘What do you mean actor? Like in a cartoon? What are you doing?’ I said, ‘No, they’re making a movie.’ ‘They’re making a movie? X-Men? You’re kidding! So what are you doing?’ I said, ‘Hopefully I’m playing the role of Wolverine.’ ‘Wolverine? Yo, Jeff! I’ve got Wolverine in the movie!’ and he’s telling it to all his buddies and I almost got a police escort out of the place. (laughter) So this guy, the typical customs guy, was ready to send me back, you know. Then all of a sudden I was ushered through.

Q: Is Happy Feet going to be your normal voice or are you doing a character for that?

HJ: I do a character. I play a character called Memphis who thinks he’s Elvis Presley. I’m a penguin who thinks he’s Elvis.

Q: Have you done an Elvis voice before?

HJ: No, never. In fact, 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 his character was called Memphis. (laughter) I said, ‘George (Miller), is this a reflection on my ability to…?’ And he said, ‘I was only ever after the essence of Elvis.’ You know, really, I was like, ‘Thanks, man.’

Q: With this and "Happy Feet,” is this something you want to do more of? This kind of voice over work?  Is this exciting for you?

HJ: No, I loved it. I wouldn’t say it’s easy work. It’s actually difficult, the acting, 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 make-up, no nothing and for four hours you can do the entire script. You ad lib and you play around and you do things and it’s … You get a lot done and it’s sort of easy in that way but I really enjoyed it and I loved these movies. Look, I’ve got a six-year-old and a one-year-old. Probably at least twice a week I’ll go to an animated movie of some description playing in my house, right? So it’s good to actually be involved in one of them. I think I’ve seen "Shrek” a hundred times. (laughter)

Thanks guys!

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