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December 24th, 2013 by Marc Comments

With his raging, riveting performance in Prisoners, Hugh Jackman delivers arguably the most memorable performance of his career. The film stars Jackman as a vengeful father whose daughter has been kidnapped along with that of a friend. It’s a role that pushed the handsome Aussie to the limit of his own psychological endurance, especially in a scene where Jackman’s character tortures the prime suspect (Paul Dano) after the police release him for lack of evidence.

We caught up with the Wolverine actor, who has just finished filming X-Men: Days of Future Past in Montreal, to talk about the role and his career in general: “It’s difficult to imagine anything more distressing or horrific than the prospect of losing your child,” Jackman muses. “I tried to push myself beyond my own limits and then the director told me to take things up a notch. I told him, “I thought I did that already,” and he said, ‘No, you need to go further.'”

The 44-year-old Jackman lives most of the year in New York together with his wife and fellow Aussie, former actress Deborah-Lee Furness, and their two adopted children, Oscar, 12, and Ava, 7. In person, Jackman is the most amiable and gracious man alive. Though he claims to “hate chicken” because of his usual high-protein diet of five chicken breast per day, Hugh still likes to get up at dawn each day to do 45-minute workout sessions that help him maintain his fabulous physique.

FTN: Hugh, you’ve played in musicals, dramas, but very rarely in thrillers. What made you choose Prisoners?

HJ: I thought it was a very good script but I only signed on when Denis Villeneuve became attached as director. He was the kind of director who could add different layers to this kind of a genre film and bring out the drama and tension beyond the plot mechanics. I’m very happy with the result and I think it’s the kind of sophisticated thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat and makes you think very hard about how far you would go as a parent facing a similar predicament.

FTN: Is this one of the best performances of your career?

HJ: It’s hard for me to judge but it was certainly one of the most intense and satisfying.

FTN: We’ve seen you look angry as Wolverine, but your psychological state of mind in Prisoners goes beyond that…?

HJ: It was a cathartic experience. I found that pushing myself into exhaustion helped take me where I needed to go. One thing I learnt from my research into kidnappings is that sleep deprivation if one of the immediate consequences of being part of this situation – both for the parents and for the police investigators.

There’s nothing more challenging for an actor than to plunge into this kind of character and try to convey this extreme human experience.

FTN: What was your relationship like with your co-star Jake Gyllenhaal who plays the detective in the film?

HJ: I love Jake. We got to know each other pretty well during the filming and we hung out a lot. The most frustrating thing is that we only had about four or five scenes together and I would have liked to have had more. The scenes we did were very pivotal and very tense and Jake and I worked out a rhythm to our scenes that went beyond what I first imagined it would be like. Jake is an extraordinary actor and he worked very hard on developing his character and I can tell you for a fact that he added so many more elements and brought so much more to his role than was in the original script. That kind of thing you only get from a great actor and so it was a privilege to be able to work with him.

There’s nothing more challenging for an actor than to plunge into this kind of character and try to convey this extreme human experience.

FTN: Did you find that the role began to wear you down mentally?

HJ: It wasn’t easy. You need to put yourself into a heightened emotional state to show what it must be like to go through a harrowing experience like this. I also felt a responsibility as an actor to be as truthful to the sort of psychological trauma that parents of a kidnapped child would be suffering. I wanted to be as honest and respectful of that as possible.

We were shooting the film in Atlanta and my family wasn’t with me so that made it more draining. But I would fly back to New York on weekends to give my wife and kids a hug. I needed that.

FTN: Has making this film made you more conscious of the fact that there are sick people out there who do prey on innocent children?

HJ: Yes, no question. Once you are forced to imagine, even if only as an actor, that something as traumatic as this does actually happen, you start to watch and monitor your own kids a little more closely.

I’m more conscious of my children’s whereabouts and I probably worry more than I did before. Things like kidnappings can happen in an instant. As parents we all need to keep good eyes on our children.

FTN: What did your wife think of you playing in the film?

HJ: She understood it was pretty hard on my nerves. But Deb is the greatest woman in the world. She’s always supportive of me although she wants me to take more time off because I’ve been spending a lot of time working during the last two years. I’m also starting to feel a bit worn down but I love my work so much that it’s always going to be difficult to say no to good projects as they arise. I’m very conscious of being a good family man and father and I do worry about being away from home like any parent would.

FTN: Do you get homesick a lot?

Things like kidnappings can happen in an instant. As parents we all need to keep good eyes on our children.

HJ: Sometimes. But this summer for example while I was shooting X-Men I would fly back and forth between Montreal and New York several times a week when I was able to do that. I think everyone at the Montreal airport got to know me because I was going back and forth so often.

The most important thing for me is that my kids know how much I love them. My own father was very busy and was not the kind of man who shows his emotions or expresses affection easily. But I always knew he loved me and my brothers. He worked harder than anyone I’ve ever known so you will never catch me complaining too loudly about spending too much time on a film set. I’m very close to my kids and I’m very lucky to have a woman like Deb as their mother. I owe her so much.

FTN: Is there anything you have learnt as a father that has surprised you in terms of your relationship with your children?

HJ: You need to have more patience than you think you need! There’s no real manual which tells you how to react at different moments in their lives (Laughs) Children live in their own world to a certain extent and they don’t see things in an orderly fashion the way you as a parent might. So you need to understand that process and be encouraging as well as giving them a structure to their lives.

I have to remember that there’s no point in losing your temper with your kids because that doesn’t accomplish very much. You need to be firm and at the same time still show them how much you care for them and are trying to look out for them. I think you never stop learning how to be a better parent and my relationship with them has really evolved and grown over the years.

FTN: You’ve spoken in the past about how you needed to overcome certain lingering issues that you had with your own upbringing and dealing with your mother’s decision to leave your familiy when you were a young boy?

HJ: A lot of children grow up under difficult family circumstances and I don’t feel sorry for myself. I had a tough time for a while but I had a very good father who was always there for us and I could never even imagine what it must have been like to raise five kids on his own the way he did for many years. I don’t think I could have done that. You need an iron will and I never heard him complain about himself or his lot in life.

I long ago made peace with my parents. I saw that I needed to stop worrying about what might have been and accept how it was and how difficult things were for both my mother (who suffered from post-natal depression – ED) and my father. Life throws so many things at you and you have to be able to move on and have faith that your decisions will turn out to be for the best.

FTN: Your career is on such a roll right now. Will it be hard for you to relax your pace when it seems like you’re one of the hottest actors in the business?

HJ: (Laughs) I don’t know. I’m going to be working on a film called P.T. Barnum and I am currently preparing to play Houdini on Broadway so that’s going to take up a fair chunk of my time. I would like to do more theatre down the road especially since that would involved working in New York where we’ve been living for some time now.

FTN: Do you think you’ve achieved most of the goals that you set for yourself as an actor?

Life throws so many things at you and you have to be able to move on and have faith that your decisions will turn out to be for the best.

HJ: I realised a dream of mine to play in Les Miserables. That was one of the soaring moments of my career and my life and that satisfied at least one of my ambitions. I don’t think I’ve found as many great dramatic roles as I would have liked although certainly Prisoners is an example of the kind of project that takes me in the right direction..

FTN: The one recurring theme when it comes to the media’s perception of you is that you’re such a good man, one of the nice guys in the business. Do you ever get tired of that?

HJ: (Laughs) That’s not a bad thing. I try to be a good man and a good husband and father. I wish I could always live up to my own ambitions but I’m a pretty positive person and I have a good outlook on the world. Things are going well and I have no reason to gripe about anything as long as I don’t have to eat dried chicken breasts. (Laughs)

Prisoners is out now on DVD & Blu-ray

Marc is a self-confessed nerd. Ever since seeing Star Wars for the first time around 1979 he’s been an unapologetic fan of the Wars and still believes, with Clone Wars and now Underworld, we are yet to see the best Star Wars. He’s a dad of two who now doesn’t have the time (or money) to collect the amount of toys, comics, movies and books he once did, much to the relief of his long-suffering wife. In the real world he’s a graphic designer. He started Following the Nerd because he was tired of searching a million sites every day for all the best news that he loves and decided to create one place where you can go to get the whole lot. Secretly he longs to be sitting in the cockpit of his YT-1300 Corellian Transport ship with his co-pilot Chewie, roaming the universe, waiting for his next big adventure, but feels just at home watching cartoons with his kids….