“Spirituality connects me better to life” – Hugh Jackman
Logan arrives on DVD and Blu-Ray this week after its cinema run. As Hugh Jackman faces up to a life without his most famous alter ego – Wolverine — Jackman talks conclusions, inspirations, faith and contemplating his future …
Though many actors have turned in a career-defining performance of sorts, few thespians can look to a character that not only has given them their break but has continued to shape their entire cinematic legacy for nearly 20 years. For Hugh Jackman, that story has just come to an end in the shape of Logan, his ninth and final outing as the animalistic mutant Wolverine.
Having seen his rise to Hollywood super-stardom kick-started by his original appearance in Bryan Singer’s 2000 mutant bonanza X-Men, Jackman’s subsequent career has seen him tackle everything from epic sweeping westerns (Australia) to iconic 19th Century-set Parisian musicals (Les Miserables). But the one role that has defined that career is Wolverine.
“Logan is a love letter to Wolverine fans,” the 48-year-old says. “This character has been within me for 17 years, but it wasn’t until this film that I felt I really got to the core of the character. When I’m 80 and my grandkids ask me, ‘Which one of these films should I watch?’ I want to say that this is the movie that defines the character. There was a lot at stake for me and my love for the character.”
Jackman’s commitment has been repaid in the form of rave reviews from audiences and critics alike, and while the decision to hang up his claws after all this time was by no means an easy one, the Sydney-born star knew it was “the right time” to let go.
“What I liken it to is asking my wife to marry me,” he explains. “You’re terrified of doing it, terrified of the response, but as soon as you do it you know in your heart it’s the right thing and nothing has ever felt more right.
“I had the same feeling shooting the last scene with Logan. I’m happy I’m done, and I mean that in the best possible way. I’m happy that I’m done because I’ve arrived at a place where mine and Logan’s paths are meant to veer in different directions and it’s time. In my gut, I know it’s the right move for both of us. I know because this movie, to me, is perfect. It was a calming feeling, because there was every possibility that I would have very opposing, conflicting emotions of poignancy and bittersweet pining. None of that was there.”
This sense of calm hints at Jackson’s mentality off-camera. Known as the ‘nicest man in Hollywood’ – a moniker he dismisses with the words “it’s amazing how common politeness is deemed to be extraordinary” – Jackman, whose parents were Christian, has long since followed the School of Practical Philosophy and applied its teachings to his everyday life.
“I meditate,” he reveals. “I keep it spiritual because I think it connects you better to life. There are things driving me that aren’t all healthy—[needing] approval and respect to fill some hole who-knows-where in me,” he said. “Am I worthy? All those fears. Through acting, I’m able to find a level of bliss and peace and calm and joy. And it feels natural.”
When he performs he says he can “feel what everyone’s searching for, the feeling that unites us all. Call it ‘God.’ Before I go onstage every night, I pause and dedicate the performance to God, in the sense of ‘Allow me to surrender.’
“When you allow yourself to surrender to the story, to the character, to the night, to the audience, transcendence happens,” says Jackman. “And when that happens, there is nothing like it on the planet. It’s the moment people experience when they fall in love, which is equally frightening and exciting. That’s what it feels like.”
One way in which Jackman is using his status to give back to those less fortunate than him is through the Laughing Man Foundation. Launched in 2011 with former criminal prosecutor David Steingard, the Foundation was born out of a 1999 trip to Ethiopia where Jackman met Dukale, a young coffee farmer who was working to lift his family out of poverty – a struggle captured in the 2014 documentary Dukale’s Dream.
After being inspired by Dukale’s story, Jackman returned to New York and set up Laughing Man Coffee, through which farmers in developing countries could use his status in order to ply their caffeinated wares. All the profits of this venture are in turn used by the Foundation to support educational programmes and burgeoning entrepreneurs in the developing world.
“I am religious and I was brought up with a sense of giving back,” Jackman reveals. “I am given opportunities, more money than I could ever need. If you see money or fame as energy, then use it to help others. Paul Newman did that. That’s what inspired me to start Laughing Man.”
“People recognise me more for the coffee shop than they do for my movies!” Jackman laughs. “But when I saw Dukale working so hard to supply for his family, having to use the trees that other farmers were using to shelter their plants from the sun as firewood to keep his family warm, I knew that I could use my fortunate position to give these farmers a way of reaching a wider consumer base.”
Jackman continues: “What I have always considered with faith is that it’s the most personal thing, but the element of our lives we maybe share the most. And if it leads us to go good things for others then why not.”
But with Logan’s release leaving a Wolverine-sized hole in his life, and having had to deal with a persistent if not immediately life-threatening form of skin cancer for which he has undergone five small surgeries, the level-headed star is looking to a future where his wife, Deborra-Lee, and their two adopted children – Oscar and Ava – always come first.
“I think the older that you get you think, ‘One day, I’m not going to be here,’” he admits. “It can’t help but creep into your mind, and it’s a terrifying thought. I want to be there for my kids, I want to be there for my wife, and probably in the last few years I’ve educated myself to not always be so hung up on scheduling and goals and what’s coming next. I like to walk, appreciate my surroundings and take a moment to give thanks for what I have in my life because I know I’ve been very lucky in so many ways. You just hope that continues for as long as possible.”
Jackman is currently in pre-production for his role in a surprising new project about the Apostle Paul, a film he notes is about Paul’s “conversion, ministry and imprisonment” which he will produce with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.
Life after Wolverine will be interesting indeed.