Hugh Jackman

X-Men 2

Interviewed by Anne Smith

Hugh Jackman's career has blossomed since replacing Dougray Scott at the 11th hour for "X-Men". The Aussie actor has subsequently starred alongside John Travolta in "Swordfish", Ashley Judd in "Animal Attraction", and Meg Ryan in "Kate & Leopold". Now he's cutting up rough once more as Wolverine in "X-Men 2".

Why have you got long hair at the moment?

It is a little fantasy of my wife's! I am doing this film set in 1890 [Van Helsing] - an action, adventure, swashbuckling type of film. He hunts down monsters of all varieties.

The scene with you running through the tunnel in "X-Men 2" must have been hard to do...

Something that was about 1/8 of a page turned out taking about a day to shoot. The bit in the tunnel, where I am naked, is just one small part of it. Where's the CGI budget when you really need it?! I came out in a g-string and dressing gown. It was a closed set. We got to the end of the very first take and there's me running through the tunnel - heavily back-lit I am told, so you can't see anything. I have got the claws and I raise them in the air and scream. And then I ran round the corner... they had gathered 30 women to stand there waving $5 notes - including James Marsden's mum, who was on set that day. Imagine the dilemma of having claws but wanting to cover yourself up! I didn't know what to do!

How was it working with Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen?

It was fantastic. When I started to study acting, there were a few things that I remember. One was a play I saw called "The Master Builder" [by Ibsen], which I saw twice and I was mesmerised by it.

Another was a series of tapes by John Barton about playing Shakespeare, that every actor should see. And Patrick Stewart's version of "The Merchant of Venice" being on that and him playing it was mesmerising. I also saw Ian in 'the Scottish play' [Macbeth] with Judi Dench, which was amazing.

When I started, it was more a dream, to be honest, of being in the West End rather than Hollywood. So to be working with Ian and Patrick for my first Hollywood picture was just fantastic. To me, these are Pacino and De Niro. They are the English version. On a worldwide scale, they have more of a range of talent. I was in awe. Ian pulled me aside on my first day and we had a little bit of a chat, which made me feel more relaxed. I was more nervous working with these guys than of the Hollywood machine.

Comic books have got quite a geeky image. Do you think X-Men and other comic books have de-geekified the image of comic books?

I never read comics as a kid, and when I was slipped the comics under my trailer door, Bryan Singer didn't want us to read them. He was very frightened that we would come out with these 2D characters, and I was amazed at how helpful they were, the images more than the story. The images, and how they capture emotion or an action sequence in just, say, three images - I have to say I used them as inspiration for some of the fighting stances or techniques. The way Wolverine stands and how he looks. I think the stories, as well, are epic.