The ‘X-Man’ in Hugh Jackman

CONVERSATIONS - Ricky Lo - The Philippine Star

SINGAPORE — His stamina is remarkable, incredibly so. I’m sure there’s an “X-Man” in him.

A few hours after he flew into this Lion City from Beijing for the world promo of his latest screen caper, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Hugh Jackman was merrily doing the Blue (no, not “red”) Carpet in front of the Shaw House, having “selfie” with the screaming fans occupying every space behind the barricades along the way. With him were co-stars Peter Dinklage (as Dr. Bolivar Trask, the inventor of the enormous robotic weapons called Sentinels and whose aim is to unite the human race by eliminating the mutants, its evolutionary rivals) and Chinese actress Fan Bingbing (as Blink, the mutant who has the ability to teleport herself, others and large objects).

Happily, Hugh was not wearing the plaster that covered a small wound on his nose left by a surgery on his basal-cell carcinoma (said to be the most minor form of cancer), an image flashed by TV newscasts and the social media around the world. He didn’t seem to mind the oppressive summer heat in his effort to please the fans who waited for him (and company) since that morning.

According to The Straits Times, Hugh visited a clinic early that morning to have the surgical stitches removed and then had eggs and Kaya toast for breakfast at a café in China Square before taking a short rest.

The Blue Carpet was followed by a screening at a Shaw Theater upstairs. I leave it to you to find out how exciting this new X-Men movie is, opening nationwide on Wednesday, May 21, nationwide, from Twentieth Century-Fox. Hugh reprises his role as Logan (a.k.a. the indestructible mutant Wolverine), who travels back to 1973 to sort out issues involving Trask.

His sense of humor was endearing and his charisma was infectious.

At the general presscon morning of the next day at the Ritz Carlton where he and his entourage were billeted, Hugh was his usual engaging self, answering questions no-holds-barred. During the open forum, a journalist playfully asked Hugh if he used his metal claws to consume his steak at the restaurant.

“Are you insulting me?” Hugh asked back. “Are you challenging me? Come over…let’s go,” he told the journalist as he stood up and walked backstage. Shouts in the hall. Did Wolverine make a barbecue out of the journalist with his metal claws? After a while, Hugh came out half-dragging the journalist who play-acted as if he was badly beaten. Laughter in the hall, followed by applause!

“I have a son who is 14,” he said after the laughter died down, answering a question. “He was born while we were making the first X-Men so it feels like a part of me,” adding in answer to a follow-up question, “yes, I would love to do an X-Men movie with my son and turn the franchise into a family business. Father and son X-Men. How about that?” He laughed.

In a previous interview, I asked Hugh if he ever discussed with his family the life-threatening scenes that he does for the franchise.

“No, I don’t,” he said. “But I do tell them about the scenes when I get home. I have a very supportive wife.”

Told that he was lucky to have a “supportive wife,” Hugh replied tongue-in-cheek, “I describe her as a lioness. You don’t cross my wife, I warn you. She will take you down. You know why I call her a lioness? You see, if someone says anything bad about me, she immediately leaps to my defense. When she reads something bad about me on the Internet, she will rip up that computer. So,” he added with a laugh, “you better be careful with what you write about me, or she will rip you up, too. Be very afraid, hahahaha!”

Directed by Bryan Singer (who has been doing the franchise since the original, also the producer on the current one), X-Men: Days of Future Past brings together the well-loved characters from the original X-Men film trilogy to join forces with their younger selves from the past (X-Men: First Class) in order to change a major historical event and fight an epic battle that could save the world’s future. Aside from Hugh, actors from the original are on board, including Halle Berry, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen and Ellen Page. The new players include (aside from Dinklage) James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Anna Paquin, Nicholas Hoult and Jennifer Lawrence who is so unforgettably lovable as Raven/Mystique who mutates into varied characters in the wink of an eye.

Later that afternoon, I did a one-on-one with Hugh (my fourth after Australia, Les Miserables and Wolverine). Excerpts:

Nice to see you so well, so healthy…minus the plaster on your nose.

“Thank you. Feeling good. It’s good to be here in Singapore and thank you for coming (to the junket).”

Back with your lethal claws, huh!

“I’m very excited about the movie.”

You’re Wolverine and you can mutate, regenerate whatever in your body needs regeneration. Can you do it? (Joke!)

“Oh, you mean my nose? I have a mild form of skin cancer (basal-cell carcinoma) taken out the other day.” (Adding with a laugh) “I don’t heal as quickly as Wolverine does.”

How does one get that kind of cancer and how do you avoid it?

“It’s a sun damage mainly from since I was a kid. I wasn’t much into wearing sunscreen back then. I’m an Australian with English parents and English sort of blood, so I was very much at risk, something that we didn’t know back then. The important thing is to wear sunscreen when you go under the sun. That I do now. I undergo regular skin check-up.”

Hugh, you lost more than 25 lbs. for Les Miserables (as Jean Valjean) and you worked out really hard for Wolverine. Did you do any special training for this movie?

“You know, for so many years I’ve been playing Wolverine and my diet involves eating more often. I used to eat three times a day and now I’m taking five to six small meals per day. My energy is much better. Even when I was losing weight for Les Miz, I was eating several times a day because that way my metabolism keeps going.”

And you keep doing that up to now?

“I kind of have more time. I realized that I take a minimum of six months to get into shape. It’s a pretty extreme body shape that I’m working out hard for, extremely lean, and that takes time. Luckily, I had 12 months to do it before I shot for Wolverine and then I did another movie before I started working on this X-Men.”

In a scene in Wolverine, you are shown being given a rub-cleansing by two women in the bathtub. Now in X-Men, one scene shows you getting up from bed after making love with a woman and you stand fully naked in front of the mirror…luckily with your back to the camera. How do you feel during the shoot of such scenes? You will excite millions of women around the world. Did you do a special workout for that?

“Oh yeah! I remember exactly when we shot that scene…May 21. If you ask a body double to do it for you, he will have to follow a specific program to get a certain body shape and that’s how I treated it. Your diet has to be changed drastically for weeks before, you don’t drink any liquid for 36 hours before the shoot so you dry up and you look much leaner and tighter. All these things I had to do to make sure that I was in peak condition.”

You have a Chinese mutant in the current X-Men (played by Fan Bingbing). What about a Filipino mutant in a future X-Men movie?

“That would be great! I think we should really have one. You know, the X-Men is becoming more and more international not only among the fans but the storyline, and that’s exactly how it should be. Our world is getting more interdependent. We’re all coming together on many things. I think we need to come together in the spirit of tolerance and acceptance. There should be more characters in the world and in the movies, too.”

Good idea!

(Joking) “Maybe you could be the first Filipino mutant, why not!”

Actually, there are several Filipino actors who could play the role.

“I will have to see.”

At 45, you have been doing the X-Men franchise for 14 years and that’s one-third of your life. How do you see yourself and the franchise 14 years from now?

“I have no idea. I don’t even know what I’d be doing next year. The prospects excite me. You know, part of being an actor or being an artist is that you have to listen to inspiration along the way. Fourteen years ago, I didn’t even imagine I would be here. Who knows where we all would be 14 years from now. But you know, the franchise is in better shape than ever. It can go in any direction. It’s an exciting world and the franchise can go on forever.”

I presume that the Logan/Wolverine character now feels like second skin to you.

“Yeah. I will get in trouble with my wife if I say it. But, yes, I feel like it’s a second marriage. When you play a role, you have to know him, you have to love him, you have to absorb him, you have to be not just like him but him.”

After the one-on-one, although having a photo with the star-interviewee or getting his autograph is a no-no among the journalists invited to the junket, I took the risk (like I did during my previous encounters with Hugh), followed what the fans did during the Blue Carpet and asked Hugh if we could do a “selfie.” He said, “Why not?” and took my iPhone, moving me a bit here and a bit there to get the right lighting. Click!!!

Yes, Hugh Jackman is very accommodating in his own “selfie” way and that’s why journalists have learned to be on familiar footing with him.

(For more on Hugh Jackman and co-stars Peter Dinklage and Fan Bingbing, watch Startalk at 4 this afternoon on GMA.)

(E-mail reactions at [email protected]. You may also send your questions to [email protected]. For more updates, photos and videos visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on www.twitter/therealrickylo.)

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