Hugh Jackman: Acting & Music
Few success stories are similar to that of Hugh Jackman. His propulsion into mainstream consciousness proved that a kid from Sydney, Australia could introduce himself to Hollywood after changing his course in life later than most.
Before he was known worldwide, a young Jackman experienced adversity. His mother left when he was only eight years old, leaving him and his five siblings under the care of their strict father. He did his best to make sure that the six kids knew how to take care of their home and help the family.
Jackman first took to the stage at age five, when he played King Arthur in a production of Camelot. However, he did not dream of stardom all his life. In fact, as he told 60 Minutes Australia, he only got back into acting around thirteen or fourteen because his “friend, he said, “you’ll never kiss a girl, you go to an all-boys school.”” So Jackman tried out for an starred in a production of My Fair Lady in 1985 with that very goal in mind. The production was put on with the help of an all-girls school, and Jackman got his kiss.
Later in his life, Jackman attended and graduated from Sydney’s University of Technology in 1991, where he majored in Communications. Towards the end of his undergraduate program, Jackman decided to take a drama class to meet his credit requirements for graduation. This decision turned out to be one of the most vital of his life, as it would lead to the reignition of Jackman’s love for the theatrical arts.
Jackman then decided to pursue acting full-time. He stayed in acting school until 1994, attending the Actors Centre in Sydney for one year and the Western Australian Academy for Performing Arts for two more. Jackman felt at home with his career choice, telling Shave Magazine in 2011, “I constantly pinch myself about the fact that I am doing what I do.” Soon after his final year of school, Jackman’s professional career took off.
In 1995, Jackman starred in the prison drama Correlli, where he would meet his future wife, Deborra-Lee Furness, who was his character’s love interest in the show. This was his first professional acting job, and it would launch him into several more Australian-based leads over the early years of his career. Once he branched out from Australian roles, he garnered considerable recognition from his role as Curly in the London production of the musical Oklahoma. Jackman told 60 Minutes Australia, “You’re aware that you’re in something which is a hit… you’re at the premier theatrical venue in the world.”
After the release and positive critical reception of Oklahoma, Jackman’s versatility as an actor was on display. The variety of roles that Jackman took on early in his career made him an exciting young prospect for Hollywood, where he soon exploded in the early 2000s.
Jackman got recommended for Wolverine’s role in Brian Singer’s 2000 action/science fiction film X-Men by fellow actor Russel Crowe, who turned down the part. Jackman was hesitant to accept the role at first, but was won over by the script. To prepare for X-Men, Jackman studied Mel Gibson and Clint Eastwood — and even used Mike Tyson’s fights as a reference for the action scenes.
Co-starring with Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, Jackman garnered respect for his role as Wolverine. Several other movies followed in 2001: two romantic comedies titled Someone Like You and Kate and Leopold, and the action film Swordfish. All of these, along with X-Men, equated to four movies in 18 months. By the time 2003 came around, Jackman had broken onto the Broadway scene with a lead role in the autobiographical play The Boy From Oz by Peter Allen.
The Boy From Oz tells the story of an Australian entertainer who becomes famous and faces various life challenges, including succumbing to AIDS. Jackman’s portrayal of Peter Allen set him up to win multiple major awards, including a Tony award for Best Actor in a Musical, Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical, Theater World Award, and more. This was the first time many Americans saw Jackman as a singer, which made him even more famous. He would go on to host the Tony Awards in 2003, 2004, and 2005. For hosting the 2004 Tony Awards, he won an Emmy for Outstanding Individual Performer in a Variety, Musical or Comedy program.
From this point on, Jackman starred in many more notable films, including Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige in 2006 and Les Misérables in 2012, which gained him a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor. Perhaps most notable from Jackman’s film career is Wolverine’s continual work, whom he portrayed in ten films. Jackman also returned to Broadway several times with leading roles in A Steady Rain and The River in 2009 and 2014.
In 2017, The Greatest Showman was released, in which Jackman starred as P.T. Barnum. This was one of the various times Jackman had a significant singing role in a Hollywood film. Throughout 2019, Jackman went on a tour titled The Man. The Music. The show, where he performed songs from the soundtrack of The Greatest Showman.
In mid-2021, Jackman is set to return to Broadway and star alongside Sutton Foster in The Music Man. Dates have varied due to the Covid-19 Pandemic.
Edited by Joanna Gerberding