Overcoming fear of success in sequels

Hugh Jackson needed a push to do `Van Helsing'

May 03, 2004|By Ron Dicker | Ron Dicker,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

NEW YORK - When director Stephen Sommers asked Hugh Jackman to play the lead in his $150 million monster romp Van Helsing, Jackman hesitated. He had just reprised his role as the Ginsu-clawed Wolverine in X-Men 2, and he felt his career was at a delicate juncture.

"I thought I was going to do a smaller independent movie after that to do something different," he says. "I was reluctant to be in another summer popcorn movie."

Jackman told Sommers, the creator of the modern Mummy series, that if Van Helsing became a hit, it was sure to spawn a sequel and generate more demands on his time. Then Sommers cut him off.

"I think you're the only actor in Hollywood who's nervous about being in two successful franchises," Sommers told him.

Jackman, of course, finally agreed to do the titular part of the Dutch vampire slayer and occult expert, and his handsome mug will fill thousands of screens when the movie opens Friday to start the action-adventure season.

Since October, he has had a chance to show off his song-and-dance chops on Broadway as the flamboyant performer and fellow Australian Peter Allen in The Boy From Oz. Jackman, 35, had made his way to Hollywood on the strength of his Curly in a 1998 London staging of Oklahoma! It also became the link to Van Helsing. In the audience one night was Bob Ducsay, who would later produce Van Helsing for Universal.

"Hugh couldn't have been on the stage more than five minutes when I'm thinking, `Who is this guy?' " Ducsay says. "The level of charisma that he brought to the role, the strength that he brought to the role, the physicality he brought to the role in a musical, of all things, somehow seemed to apply here."

It also applied to The Boy From Oz. Jackman's exuberance has overcome mixed reviews for the overall show. Already tabbed to host the Tony Awards for the second year on June 6, he is also likely to receive a Tony nomination when the candidates are announced May 10. Jackman has molded such a signature performance that producers have not bothered with an understudy when Jackman has gone on vacation or fallen ill.

That alone has made the pressure greater than headlining a big-budget movie.

"With the stage show, it's changed in that, if I'm sick, the show's off," he says.

So what has propelled him through the grind?

"B-12 [vitamin] shots, man, seriously, and a very understanding family," he says.

Jackman is downsizing again for Darren Aronofsky's new movie, The Fountain, in which he plays three characters in a tale that revolves around the Fountain of Youth. Jackman recently made a short film directed by his wife, Deborra-Lee Furness, called Standing Room Only, about a line of people outside a West End theater. He and Furness have an adopted son, Oscar.

Discussions have begun for X-Men 3 and a juicy rumor has floated about Jackman becoming the next James Bond. He says he started the gossip with a "facetious" comment but now the idea does not seem so far-fetched. "There's always that fantasy in every boy," he says.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.