NEW YORK – We’ve been waiting a long time for Hugh Jackman to sing on the big screen. From his Tony Award-winning turn in “The Boy From Oz” to his three stints hosting Broadway’s annual awards show to his lauded turn as Academy Awards host (arguably the best Oscars show over the past decade), Jackman has teased us with his impressive voice, sly dance moves and old school showmanship. Granted, producers have tried to get him to commit to a number of movie musical projects, but most of them have been stuck in development hell for years leaving fans to wonder if we’d ever see Jackman sing in his prime. That’s all changed with the actor’s SAG and Golden Globes Awards nominated turn as Jean Valjean in “Les Miserables.” And, in something of a surprise, it turns out that he had to campaign to get the role.
“I completely went after this. It was embarrassing how aggressive I was,” Jackman says. “I rang Tom Hooper and said, ‘Let’s have a meeting.’ He was just off winning the Oscar for ‘Kings Speech’ and he’d shot a commercial and just come back. And I said, ‘Mate, I love this part. I want to show you. I want to audition.’ And he said, ‘Whoa, whoa, settle down man. I haven’t even signed on to this picture.’ So, I was right in there wanting it.”
Eventually, Hooper realized Jackman was the perfect star to play the classic character and he was rewarded with the best performance of the Aussie’s career. Hooper has taken some shots from critics who aren’t fans of his incessant use of close ups in “Les Miz,” but Jackman is a huge fan of what “The King’s Speech” director accomplished.
“He’s so bold. He just takes so many risks,” Jackman says. “You don’t win the Oscar and take on a movie musical. Movie musicals are the riskiest things in the world. Are you kidding me? So, singing live. Making it fully sung through. The way he shot it. He did so many things no one had ever done before. And he really needs to get the Kudos for that.”
One of the more interesting and under reported aspects of the picture was the intense training Jackman went through for the role. Sure, the entire cast had to strengthen their voices to sing live on set all day, but Jackman went through a physical transformation to try and accurately depict Valjean’s condition as he leaves prison at the beginning of the film.
“Definitely as hard as any ‘Wolverine’ movie I’ve done,” Jackman admits. “Getting skinny is one thing, but he has to maintain his strength. I was in the gym for about three hours a day. For the first day of shooting I learned a little trick from my trainer there of not drinking any water. In a way, it sinks your cheeks and your eyes, because it was important for the story that he be unrecognizable. So, that was the goal. We went for it man.”
You can watch the complete video interview with the always charming Jackman embedded at the top of this post.
“Les Miserables” opens nationwide on Christmas day.