Movie Talk

'Prisoners' Q&A: Hugh Jackman on the Wolverine-esque Berzerker Rage of Vigilante Dad Kelly Dover

Thelma Adams
Movie Talk

Editor's note: The interview below was conducted last month to discuss the VOD release of 'Prisoners,' now available on Blu-ray and DVD.

Want to get on Hugh Jackman's good side? Appreciate that while the 45-year-old Australian's role as a desperate father who brutalizes his missing daughter’s alleged kidnapper (Paul Dano) in "Prisoners" is getting plenty of critical acclaim, it's not that much of a departure from his popular superhero, Wolverine.

"A lot of people said I didn’t play a character like Keller Dover before but I think I did a similar role," Jackman, who described himself as even-tempered, even boring on the phone, explained to Yahoo Movies when we mentioned that we thought his portrayal of Wolverine was also intensely dramatic. "Director James Mangold was so on me every day with 'The Wolverine.' It was so interior. It's easier to be flashier or quick, but Wolverine is masking a lot of hidden pain. Thanks for noticing. A lot of people don't. A lot of characters I play are very different from me."

And sometimes those characters even sing.

Yahoo Movies: Who is Keller in "Prisoners" — and how close is he to you personally?
Hugh Jackman
: We’re quite different in many, many ways. I can totally understand almost anything that someone does in that situation. The movie opens with a normal Thanksgiving setting and then you watch four people diverge wildly when the unthinkable happens. I have a soft spot for people like Keller: playing them and in life. I think life for this father and husband is a struggle. He's desperate to maintain control and power over his life. At the beginning, we see the best version of him — and then we watch him unravel. Life does come easier to me, socially, whereas my character has a lack of faith and trust in anyone or any institution. His father committed suicide. He battled alcohol. I get the picture of a man who's an everyman — but he's not looking for a pat on the back.

Q: In contrast, then, your life is nowhere near as catastrophic — but boring?
HJ: I'm an even-tempered boring person. I’m very measured. I was by no means a goody two-shoes but I very rarely got in trouble. I was always the one that said, "I'm done." In my early twenties I always had the natural brakes that others lacked. I’m often attracted to characters that are off the wall because they are so different from me.

[Related: Q&A: Jake Gyllenhaal Takes No ‘Prisoners’ When Playing a Man with a Badge

Q: Your last three characters — Dover, Wolverine and Jean Valjean in "Les Misérables" — all struggle to hold themselves to a higher standard in extreme circumstances.
HJ
: I'm really attracted to these stories of "ordinary" people in "extraordinary" circumstances. My character in "Les Misérables" is 100 percent that kind of man. For "Prisoners," I read so many stories about parents and families in this same situation, where people literally go mad. What is the breaking point? It's foolish to think there isn't a breaking point.

Q: In speaking recently to Robert Redford about his solo sailor in "All Is Lost," he said that as an actor he was drawn to the same thing: What is a character's breaking point and why do some endure beyond it?
HJ: I just saw that movie. Robert Redford was so good and so restrained. I totally went along for the ride. It's fascinating. I find the power of the mind is one of the great mysteries of life. It is the "master" more than anything. Nothing gets more in the way. The mind can be a terrible master and an incredible servant. How do you get that balance?

Q: If you weren't an actor, what would be your profession?
HJ: I often joke I could be an emcee. My wife calls me Senator Jackman. But I would be a frustrated politician because I would hate the tough bits of politics. Kissing babies, fine!

Q: What was your biggest career faux pas?
HJ
: Turning down "Chicago" was a bad career choice. I thought I was too young to play the part. When I saw the film I thought, 'Why didn't I do makeup?' I watched the movie with sweaty palms all the way. Gere was brilliant. My wife said to take the role but I had the idea that I was a 31-year-old guy and nobody would take me seriously when I said, "I've seen it all, kid."

Q: Did you get over that idea by the time you played Jean Valjean since he ages decades over the course of "Les Misérables?"
HJ: When Jean Valjean came along I wasn't going to make the same mistake twice. I said, "I don't care. Makeup!"

Q: Following last year's "Les Misérables," there are no big musicals at the movies this holiday season. Are there any musicals on your horizon?
HJ
: I'm doing workshops right now on a new musical. I’m loving it, how difficult it is. "Houdini" that’s what I’m working on right now. And a movie called "Barnum" that has been on back burner for three years. All of a sudden the music came in and there’s a lot of momentum. It’s nice to do a musical where not everybody dies.

[Related: 'X-Men' Will Exceed Fans' Expectations: Hugh Jackman]

Q: My favorite contemporary musical is "The Drowsy Chaperone" — it won a Tony and nobody dies. They just dance, dance, dance!
HJ : What a coincidence! The script just hit my desk, with Geoffrey Rush attached.

Q: Rush is the moving force behind bringing the musical to the screen. He's on board for the narrator, the Man in Chair, a part he played onstage in Australia. What role did they offer you?
HJ:
Adolpho.

Q: He's the Latin lover. He has one of the best, silliest songs and the cheesiest Spanish accent. Now that would be another character that is very different from you — and a universe away from Wolverine.
HJ: And Geoffrey Rush is far too much fun.

Q: Recently, you told David Letterman that you're in the doghouse with your wife because you've been so busy. It seems like you’re still juggling multiple projects. Have you crawled out of the doghouse yet?
HJ: I'm definitely two front legs and head out. She wrote a huge upper case "NO" and stuck it on my computer. It's NO-vember and I’ll honor that line. I think.

Watch Hugh Jackman in the trailer for "Prisoners":

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