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Time has no hold on Hugh Jackman
Point of View

Time has no hold on Hugh Jackman

Friday, 08 January 2016
By Frank Rousseau
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8 min read
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Ambassador for Montblanc and Qantas, the Australian star is clearly at home surfing time zones. Interview with an actor who keeps life and career firmly on track.

What made you say "yes" to Montblanc?

The brand is known the world over for its dedication to making and selling only quality products. To be invited to become part of this family is an offer you can’t refuse. In fact it’s something to be proud of! Today I’m wearing a Montblanc Meisterstück Heritage Perpetual Calendar. This is a globetrotter’s watch and perfectly suited to life on the move. It certainly stands up to the life I lead! I understand it goes through over five hundred hours of testing. One of the things I most appreciate about this high-precision watch is that it always shows the correct time, thanks to automatic winding!

You're constantly on the move, from one time zone to another. Is this something you enjoy?

You bet! It’s also true that the further away from home I am, the closer I feel to my roots, to my true identity. I do spend a lot of time away from friends and family, but on the other hand as a kid I was always dreaming of travel and adventures in faraway lands. I remember how every day I would look at the map on my bedroom wall. My brothers and sisters were already backpacking around Europe, and I couldn’t wait for it to be my turn. This was when my mother was living in England.

I like to lose track of time every now and then, simply by going out and meeting people.
Don't we experience our most memorable journeys, our greatest adventures, when we stop looking at our watch and live the moment to the full?

Absolutely. I like to lose track of time every now and then, simply by going out and meeting people. Getting to know the locals is the best way to get to know a country, its way of life, its hidden side. Above all it’s a chance to open up to others. I remember how, after leaving high school in Sydney, I went off into the outback. I’d decided to spend summer there, helping build houses for two Aboriginal communities. I was in for a shock. As soon as I got there, I could feel magnetic forces rising out of the ground and taking hold of me. Most of all I was fascinated by these people I thought I knew. People I saw every day but didn’t actually know that well at all. The Aborigines taught me to listen to and respect nature. They also taught me not to become blinded by the desire for possessions. “Sharing” is a word I heard them use over and over. Basically, they taught me not to be materialistic. To be honest, I felt so at home on their ancestral land that I was considering staying there. When I told my father what I had in mind, he could see where I was coming from but still suggested I go on to university. Which I did. In fact that’s where I realised I wanted to be in films or on stage!

So where do you most like to spend time today?

I have different favourite spots around the world. Gwinganna, in Australia, is one. It’s not far from Byron Bay, which is another place I like to hang out. In a completely different style, I love Tokyo. There’s nowhere else like it in the world. Wherever you go in Europe these days, you find the same brands, the same stores, the same mood. It’s become very uniform. In Tokyo, it’s different. It’s like landing on another planet. In another dimension! I love the fact you completely lose your bearings. Japan is full of contrasts. You can be strolling around an ultra high-tech city, catch the bullet train, and a few hours later find yourself in a fishing village where time seems to stand still. I stayed in an amazing place. I spent a week working in the house Miyazaki had lived in when he made Ponyo. My son and I took advantage of shooting there to climb Mount Fuji.

Is it true you like Paris?

It is. I got to know the city better during location work for Les Misérables [a film adaptation of the musical in which Jackman plays Jean Valjean]. I actually have a story about that. The car I’d hired had sat nav. I was driving through one town when I saw that the next intersection was Avenue Victor Hugo. I stopped and said to my wife, “Look at that, Deb! An avenue named after Victor Hugo. Talk about a coincidence!” We even pulled over and took a photo. A few miles down the road, we were driving through another town when we came across Rue Victor Hugo. That’s when we realised that just about every town had a street named after the great writer! Now, whenever I come across this photo and see myself standing there, grinning like an idiot in front of the “Avenue Victor Hugo” street sign, I can see how anyone watching must have thought I’d completely lost the plot!

If you had the power to stop time, where would you set the hands of your time machine?

One of the moments I’ll never forget is the day I met Dukale, a 27-year-old Ethiopian coffee farmer. He had put everything he had into his plantation. This one man’s determination was keeping an entire community alive. I helped him plant seedlings and carry sacks of coffee. His coffee was so good, I realized I had to do my bit and help him develop his business. This inspired me to set up Laughing Man Worldwide, a tea and coffee company. The concept was simple: to only buy from farms and plantations in Ethiopia, Papua New Guinea, Peru and Guatemala, and give back a large share of profits to these families who grow tea and coffee using natural methods. The money is also used to send children in these communities to school, so they can enjoy a better future.

We inevitably associate the march of time with "growing old". How do you feel about this?

I’ll be filming my last Wolverine. My projects now involve playing older men. For example, I’ve been offered a role as the father of a 37-year-old woman. Funnily enough, I’d already auditioned with that actress but to play her lover! I must have aged something terrible! Less than ten years ago I was her lover and now I’m her dad!

Hugh Jackman
Hugh Jackman
What's your idea of luxury?

To know that as an actor, I’ve never had to take a role simply to pay off my debts (laughs). Success didn’t come to me very young, and at the end of the day that’s not such a bad thing. I had to wait until the age of thirty before I was considered bankable. Before playing Wolverine, I was just an Aussie import who never imagined he would one day see his face on cereal packets and chocolate bars. It hasn’t always been easy, but this is how you learn. Before success came knocking on my door, I used to fly in almost comical conditions. Often I was put on the very last row of the plane. You know, the seat next to the toilets with the back that doesn’t recline. That’s also luxury: being able to travel in complete comfort, without getting elbowed by your neighbour as he tries to eat his lasagne! (laughs)

I read that you weren't a good student at school, and that you spent most of your time with your eyes on the clock…

I was an average student who wasn’t particularly interested in doing his homework. But I haven’t done too badly. I’m living proof that even without straight As, you can shine in your career. I’ve always believed in my dreams and been wary of anyone who tried to bring me down to earth. It’s true that I did get into trouble for clowning around in class, probably to get myself noticed. An actor in the making, you could say! (laughs)

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