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Hugh Jack(man) of all trades

You probably know him better from his movies, like the “X-Men” series, a futuristic battle between good and evil. In Hugh Jackman's latest film, he travels back in time a couple of hundred years, playing Dracula's arch-enemy in what some critics are calling the ultimate monster movie.
/ Source: Dateline NBC

If you want the inside story on what it takes to succeed in the world of show business, ask Hugh Jackman -- he's a jack of all trades. He can dance, sing, act, and right now, he's doing all three on the Broadway stage. But you probably know him better from his movies, like the “X-Men” series, a futuristic battle between good and evil. In his latest film, he travels back in time a couple of hundred years, playing Dracula's arch-enemy in what some critics are calling the ultimate monster movie.

Hugh Jackman is having an identity crisis. On Broadway, he's the flamboyantly bisexual song and dance man from down under, Peter Allen. But on the silver screen, he's the 19th century buffed vampire slayer, Van Helsing.

Jackman: “He's got the mask. He’s sort of mysterious. He's got this reputation. He has lots of testosterone flying around. But he's a guarded and reluctant hero. And you know, it's the polar opposite, you're right, the polar opposite of Peter Allen. Peter would've loved him, you know.”

Couric: “That's right.”

Jackman: “And he'd go, ‘God, he's sexy.’"

Couric: “So hot.”

Will the real Hugh Jackman please stand up? From the bright lights of Broadway to the darkness of Transylvania. In "Van Helsing," Jackman stars as a supernatural secret agent, sent forth to eliminate evil. It was the kind of role the filmmakers thought he was perfect for.  

Couric: “Steve Sommers, the director of ‘Van Helsing,’ said you were the only actor he wanted to play this part, saying, ‘Van Helsing had to be someone women would love and guys would trust.’ That's quite a compliment, isn't it?”

Jackman: “I do remember Steve. Now you've got to remember I'm in Prague about to go to Broadway playing Peter Allen. So I hadn't done any—“

Couric: “You must have been very confused, by the way.”

Jackman: “I hadn't done any tap dancing really in my life. So I had to learn to tap. I had in my trailer this wooden slab made by carpenters. And I was in my Van Helsing costume with tap shoes on tapping away in between set-ups. And I feel this presence behind me. And I turn around. And there's Steve peering his head in the door then--'do not tell a soul about this. No one.'"

But the word is out about Hugh Jackman. The 35-year-old Australian actor is on Hollywood's most wanted list -- thanks to rave reviews for his energetic performance in "The Boy from Oz," a string of hit films including "X-Men I & II," and his four-year streak as one of People Magazine's most beautiful people.   

Couric: “I mean you are a triple threat, because you can dance, you can sing, you can act… and you can play rugby!”

Jackman: “I'm a quadruple threat.”

Couric: “Right.”

And of course, there are those “James Bond” rumors. Not bad for an Aussie. But Jackman does have the right DNA for 007. His parents and four older siblings were all born in England. But Hugh was born in Sydney, after the Jackmans immigrated to Australia in 1967. 

Couric: “You were pretty much raised by your dad because your mom left when you were just eight.”

Jackman: “Yeah.”

Couric: “Because her mother got sick in England. Is that right?”

Jackman: “Yeah. Mum had a pretty tough time. So she went over there because her mum was very ill. It's weird, even the day she left I remember knowing she was in England. And I never was overly angry about it.”

Hugh's father was an accountant for Price Waterhouse, but the math was much tougher at home than it was at the office.

Jackman: “There'd be my dad and five kids, you know. I mean Dad is probably the most ideal candidate for father of the year. I mean, he never got one. It doesn't happen that way. But he's an extraordinarily selfless, amazing man.”

Hugh grew up attending private schools, then majored in journalism at the University of Technology in Sydney. But when he found himself a few credits shy, he reluctantly enrolled in a drama class. 

Jackman: “And my teacher was very, sort of left-wing. I decided to do this class because everyone said you don't have to do anything. You just turn up. So I turn up, and he decided for the first time in 10 years to do a play. And everyone had to be in the play. And I was like, I don't have time for this. I'm doing my journal-- I don't have time for this. So I went up to him. And of course, he cast it in a very egalitarian way. The class list [was] in alphabetical order… and [he] just drew a line. I get the lead.”

That was it for Hugh Jackman, journalist. He happily spent the next three years submersed in the arts, training in opera, drama, and musical theater. Next thing you know, the eclectic actor from the Outback was starring in roles ranging from Curly in "Oklahoma,” to Gaston in "Beauty and the Beast."

He met his wife, actress Deborah Lee Furness, doing the Aussie TV show "Correli." But it was his performance as Joe Gillis in the musical "Sunset Boulevard," that made Hollywood realize Hugh Jackman was ready for his close-up.

And from Wolverine in “X-Men,” to werewolves, "Van Helsing" is more like the PG-13 version of "Monsters Inc."

Universal Pictures, which will soon merge with NBC, gave "Mummy" director Steve Sommers  $150 million to spend on resurrecting this legendary band of bloodsuckers. Not surprisingly, the special effects took a bite out of his budget. 

Couric: “I mean, you've been in movies, Hugh, with other special effects. For example, The X-Men.”

Jackman: “Yeah.”

Couric: “But this was sort of special effects brought to a whole new level.”

Jackman: “It was-- the movie was huge. There're one part of this movie that's completely humiliating. Occasionally, they use a digital double of me, so it's not even a stuntman, because it's impossible to do, right.”

Couric: “Right.”

Jackman: “Without killing yourself.“

Effects artists at Lucas-Digital's Industrial Light and Magic needed to create a three-dimensional bust of Jackman's head that would be superimposed into action sequences too dangerous for live actors. 

Jackman: “So, in order to do that, I have to sit completely still. And then you have to animate this action sequence, without moving your body. So, someone will be yelling out, ‘Aright. So, you're going to jump off a cliff and then you're going to be taken by a vampire…’ So you go, ‘Whoa.’ And they go, ‘Alright, here Hugh, cut. We really need it bigger, man. It's got to be a lot bigger.’”

Couric: “So, when they say bigger, what did you have to do?”

Jackman: “And you're like, you know, like what the hell am I doing, you know?”

But Jackman insisted on performing as many of his own stunts as possible. That's no double kissing Kate Beckinsale.

Couric: “I was going to ask you how your wife, Deborah, feels about your love scenes. Does that ever bother her? I heard that you guys had a pact that you could each enjoy one love scene.”

Jackman: “Yes, exactly.”

Couric: “In your career?”

Jackman: “Yeah.”

Couric: “Or per movie?”

Jackman: “In career.”

Couric: “Oh. That's limiting.”

Jackman: “Yeah. Hers was Antonio Bandaras.”

Couric: “I have to say I can see that.”

Jackman: “Good choice?”

Couric: “That's very dangerous territory to go into.”

Jackman: “Very dangerous.”

Couric: “You know.”

Jackman: “I haven't mentioned mine. It's a good—“

Couric: “Who would be your dream person? Go ahead. You can tell us, and we won't tell Deb.”

Jackman: “No, I'm reserving that. Because I've been pretty lucky. I've had Halle Berry. I've had Ashley Judd and Meg Ryan, you know. I've done pretty well so far.”

Couric: “But you haven't enjoyed any of them? Is that what you're trying to tell us?”

Jackman: “No, no. Professional only. There was one make-out scene I had to do with one of Deb's best friends. And that was-- it was a full-on sex scene. And that was really odd.”

Couric: “Do you wear like little underpants during that?”

Jackman: “Yeah. There's a little thing that goes on, yeah. Well, hopefully not that little. But anyway…”

Whether he's baring it all on set or on stage, Jackman's in the shape of his life. He's got to be, in order to sing and dance his way through 21 songs per show, eight shows per week.  

Couric: “I saw you during a matinee. Lots of ladies from New Jersey really like you.“

Jackman: “Thank you. This woman in the middle of the show yells out, ‘I want to bite your ass!’ You know, I think calling their bluff usually just silences them…. Say let's get the lot on this woman. Well, in no time she's down the front ready to go. So, I just hung my butt out over the edge of the orchestra and she bit away.”

But come September, when Jackman finishes his 10-month long run on Broadway, he'll be trading in his maracas for a Magnadoodle -- playing dad to his four-year-old son Oscar. 

Jackman: “As soon as I finish with ‘The Boy From Oz,’ I'm going to just hang out with Oscar.  And I can't wait. You know, publicity people always say, don't tell people this. But for me, hanging out with Oscar, gardening. I love gardening. I love cooking. I'll be in heaven. I suppose I'm meant to say bungee jumping and all that.”

Couric: “Oh, that's OK. Women all over America just fell more in love with you.”

Jackman: “Yeah. And every guy just went—[sticks finger down throat].”