Real Steel – Hugh Jackman

Jackman`s other interests include sports such as rugby, cricket, swimming, basketball and kayaking. Contrary to common belief, he rarely goes to the gym and would rather play sports. “I prefer something fun, to me the idea of just pumping is something boring and painful,” the actor stated. He`s also a humanitarian, extending help to impoverished countries by advocating microcredit to probable entrepreneurs. Despite being a non-techie person, he has also utilised social media such as Twitter for his charity work. And, as a reputable Broadway actor, he and Daniel Craig made history when they raised over USD1.5 million during the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS fundraiser in 2009. That just goes to show the actor`s power to influence change, and such stature is why we think he was eyed to head the billing in Dreamworks` latest movie about making a change, when given a second chance.  

His latest movie is Real Steel, a boxing drama set in the future, where robot boxing is popular and a struggling promoter has to grapple with the problems related to boxing and also when he finds out that he has an 11-year-old son.

In this LA exclusive, Jackman tells us about being a father in real life, his preparations for the movie, what he thinks of boxing, and how much of a sports fan he is. 

What was your first impression after reading the script?
That it was more than I thought it`s gonna be. The human story stood out as the spine of the movie, and that`s sort of what I loved. I was reading the script, I was around thirty-five pages into it when my son comes up and snoops, “Dad, would you read it to me?” so we sat down as I tried to do two things at once. So I started to read and he didn`t want me to stop. And then after that he asked me read the Real Steel script to him again, it was funny cos I`ve never read so much script in my life. It`s a movie that he likes and I like too.

Your son is the same the age as the boy in the movie. Did he like the idea that the boy is the smarter one? Maybe at least in technological stuff?
Not technologically. I thought it` gonna be a big thing, but he`s really not into that. I took a walk with him yesterday, we were walking the dog, I`m not trying to exaggerate but he was mumbling things like names of trees. So I asked him where did he knew those and he answered, “I read, don`t you notice”. And he knows the names of every indigenous tribe in Africa and every country on the planet, what kind of artwork they do; he taught me three countries that I never knew existed, or if you wanna know anything about herbs, he knows a lot of stuff that I don`t know about.


The movie takes place in sort of a post-UFC kind of universe, what are your thoughts on the future of martial arts and boxing? How do you think it will develop?
I can`t see boxing to be ever fully replaced. I understand there is a limitation but it still seems to be the pinnacle. I can`t see it being surpassed but I thought it`s an interesting thing. I`m sure there will be a fascination and it does definitely play in its making. Technology advances, it can become easy to make these character robots. That can be like ten years in the future.

To think that there`s no actual human damage, do you think that takes away the audiences` interest?
That`s the thing we don`t know. If people can satisfy that part, they may do away with boxing and that may become the number one sport. But there`s something primal about boxing that`s always been around and will always be. In my country we call it rugby, there`s always some form of legalised violence, which is probably a necessity. Because if we don`t do that people might just be killing each other on the streets.

So this film is sort of an example where technology might lead us to the future. Are you a tech freak, up to date with the latest gadgets, etc.?
Definitely not up to date. I`m passive, part of the population that`s just going along with the ride. I`m not particularly moved by it but when it works for me I kinda love it. I have a computer, and a Mac Air which can probably do a lot of things than just load emails and surfing, and I`m sure it does. But like my brain, I`m only using ten percent of it and I`m using the same of my computer. [laughter in the background]

Have you tweeted a lot for your charities?
Yeah, I just started using Twitter. I reluctantly got into it but now I am quite enjoying it because you can talk about charitable things. I tweet three or four times a week.

So it`s actually you who sends your own tweets?
Yeah, the real Hugh Jackman you can find is the real Hugh Jackman. And I also just got in on Facebook. I was convinced by this company that my agency`s involved with. They said there`s three hundred fifty seven of you and one of them has half a million people who thinks you`re talking to them.


Do you consider yourself as a lover or a fighter? When you were growing up did you get into any fights?
No I didn`t get into any fights, and I rarely started them. I can`t say I was out looking for fights but I had a short fuse. I was a part of rugby growing up so there it is.

That means you can legally bite someone`s head off?
Yes, pretty much and I remember often getting that Wolverine feeling of just losing it on the rugby field. But you know after five minutes of trying to mow everybody down you get exhausted and you get over it, it sort of works.

Were you interested in boxing and martial arts?
My dad, he`s English and he`s the army champion so I kind of grew up hearing a lot about boxing. And then my brother and I started beating the crap out of each other after hearing about those boxing lessons. But it was taught to me as some kind of a very honourable sport, not just some blood-thirsty kind of thing. So I always loved it and one of my favourite movies of all time is Rocky. I also remember being a teenager trying out martial arts but I figured it`s way too much hard work. I attended a few classes in school and you really have to commit but I was doing way too many things.

For you, what is the best way to follow sports or watch sports?
Live. Going there is always the best, that`s the great joy. Growing up, my dad used to take us to theatres and sporting evens. I remember when I was about nine years old, there was one day he came over on a Thursday night and there was a huge cricket game which was called a Centenary Test. My dad drove us to Melbourne which was about a twelve-hour drive. We`re gonna watch two days of cricket and drive back, we had to miss two days of school and the only two days of work my father ever missed. So yeah, we were nuts, sport nuts.

Is your son into sports?
Not at all, couldn`t care. And it kills me. (laughter in the background) The only time I can get him into it is if it`s bed time and I ask him to watch with me. So he feigns interest so he can stay up late, and I let him so we can have those moments like, “Yeah that was great, why did they let the ball bounce on the floor?”.

What, in terms of preparation, did you have to do for this movie?
There`s a little of boxing preparation but mainly it`s about physical appearance. I should be looking like an ex-father and (director) Shawn was like, “Let it go a little bit”. So if I let it go and just train I would look like I have never had a fight in my life. So I was training quite hard and was eating and it was great. I remember coming in for the first fitting about a month before filming and he has like, “I think you were a little too fat”, I was about twenty to twenty-five pounds bigger. So he told me, “I understand your reasoning, but maybe we can pull it back a little bit”. And then I think what fascinated me most is that I talked a lot to Sugar Ray not about boxing and the world of boxing but he really talked to me about the loneliness of a boxer even if you`re champ, and the pursuit of that goal, how you can let things slip by and not realise how important they are until later, he was very open about that. And what I love about Charlie (Kenton) is that he`s someone who`s in a desperate place, he`s disappointed with himself, disappointed with how the cards have sort of played for him in life, and he`s a little cynical and bitter and he`s settling into this world where it`s easier to be cynical and bitter about anything out there than confront that fear of fighting or letting yourself down. And in this movie, what I love about it is that he gets another chance which can be more frightening than the first. Because when you know what`s at stake and you screw it up, it`s worse than screwing up and you didn`t know. And that`s very hard to live with. So my preparation for this movie was more on the character and the emotional state of the character.

After a long day on the set, how do you unwind? Or was there a time for that?
Well, I am a meditator. I meditate at the beginning and end of the day and there`s no better way to unwind than that. But you know when you`re lucky to have kids, the moment you walk into the house, whatever your day`s been, it`s all erased and that`s probably the greatest.

You were talking about sports and your son not so much being into it. But he`s obviously into the stage as he had performed for the first time?
He loves music, and he kind of loves the atmosphere of the theatre. He`s gonna be a theatre rat in some way. He said to me, “I just love this place, being on stage, and the people talking and running backstage”, so he`s got the bug. And he would even hang around with me when we were rehearsing, he`d play the drums. He`s very musical.

So these robots in the movie are not as impressive as the Transformer robots. Do you think that would be an issue for the film?
Well to me they`re impressive, they`re very life-like. Because actually for half of the film, they`re real. We built three of them, so all the close-ups were real. And that puts pressure on the people in visual effects because when you have a real thing, they`re hard to control because they have a personality and when you do the visual effects it has to be at that same level. This is not Transformers, this is not about bigger is better and more amazing, this is about personality and what I`m impressed about is that all those robots seemed to have a life. I can believe kids having cards, having favourite robots, I can believe people cheering for them and following their story so you know, to me it`s impressive, it`s not bigger or all that. And I think that`s why I love the movie. In fact for a year and a half they were like, “Oh no, you`re doing that robot movie” and I was like you`ll see, it`s more than that.   

I think it`s interesting that your girlfriend in the movie is the one who knows who to put a robot together, and your child as well.
Yes but what I like about this movie is that my character was kind of forced into this world to being promoter/owner of robots and I hate the sport. The sport was the single thing that took away my livelihood which is boxing. So he kind of eclipsed it which is what I think is great. He`s forced into it and he`s bad at it, he`s failing and desperate.  He`s constantly surrounded by failure and confronted by it so it totally makes sense not to be interested in robots. It`s just a means to make money, he doesn`t believe it, doesn`t like it, it`s just somehow the only thing he knows and somehow he can still make bets, still bet big, still have a wheel and get out. So it totally makes sense that she knows everything about it.

You mentioned how you like to listen to the Rocky theme while in the gym. How often do you go, or is it something you still enjoy as you get older?
I used to work in a gym for four years and never once lifted a weight. I used to like the feeling you get when you did rugby training, it`s physical. There`s a thing in the gym called circuit class/circuit training, that to me is a workout. Or I play tennis or go surfing, I prefer something fun, to me the idea of just pumping is something boring and painful. But sometimes I still have to do it for the job, but I stop as soon as I don`t have to do that. Like right now, I`m as fit as ever cos I`ve been singing and dancing for two weeks. I probably lost ten pounds, I feel so fit I can run for ten miles. So to me, that`s the idea.

Real Steel opens 6 Oct.