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.
Agent —Creative Artists Agency, 9830 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90212–1825.
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.
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.
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 From Oz. 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."
Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, vol. 28, Gale Group, 2000.
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.
— Carol Brennan