Hugh Jackman voices the role of Easter Bunny in the upcoming animated movie, Rise of the Guardians, and will next star in the big screen version of Les Miserables, opposite Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway. The Australian actor is married to actress Deborra-Lee Furness, who he met when they both starred in the television series, Corelli, and with whom he is raising their two adopted children, Oscar, born May 15, 2000, and Ava, born July 10, 2005, in New York City. A jack of all trades in musical theatre, comedy and drama, Jackman is ruggedly good looking, and was voted the Sexiest Man Alive in 2008. He’s a three-time host of the Tony Awards, and won an Emmy for one of these appearances. He hosted the 81st Academy Awards in 2009.
How close did you ever come?
I had a guinea pig, close. But my kids want a rabbit, so there you go.
Now or even before?
Before. My daughter in particular. She’s into rabbits.
What did you believe in as a child?
All of them – the Easter Bunny, tooth fairy, Santa Claus.
Until what age did you stop believing in them?
Well, I definitely remember my dad in Australia, we camped on all our holidays and Christmas, of course is summer time, so I remember being in a tent, and when I think about it, there are five kids and my dad in a five man tent, and he’s valiantly trying to leave a stocking by our head, and I remember waking up and seeing my dad with a stocking in his hand (laughs) because he had trod on my hair, and I thought, I think I am meant to close my eyes now. Then the next day he told me, and I remember crying my eyes out, and my brother was laughing his head off. I was eight, probably eight years old.
This was a traumatic experience right? This is why you became an actor.
That’s it. Totally.
Did you make the Easter Bunny more Aussie?
Yeah. Well they had an idea of making him Australian, and then I tried to put in as many phrases as I could.
How are you with your kids? Do you let them live with their fantasy, with their magical world?
Excellent. Let it go on as long as possible, I think. It’s magical, why not? And it’s interesting, my son has turned twelve and on some level he still believes in it and he knows a lot of his friends don’t, and he kind of feels sorry for them. But who’s to say? There are many things, even as an adult, and we don’t call it Tooth Fairy, we don’t call it Santa, but a lot of people I know believe their spirits are wandering around. People believe in ghosts, people believe in many things that we can’t literally see, so who’s to say? Maybe they are right. So do I believe there’s a bunny leaping, no, (laughs) but are there things to believe in the imaginary world? Yeah, sure. So even as an adult, I think it’s probably a good thing to keep alive. So my belief is, as long as they want to believe in it, I am there for them. It is a dilemma, because my son at times has said, ‘Dad, what’s going on, some people say it’s true, some people don’t, is it true?’ And I just constantly try, and I don’t know how long it will last, I say, ‘Well, what do you believe Oscar?’ It’s just important how you feel, what do you think? And he says, ‘Well I think they are real.’ I said, ‘Well then they are.’ That’s all I say.
Who or what helped you to find out who you are?
Still going, man. Still working it out. But that’s why we are here really, isn’t it? So my father and my mum, particularly my dad, I think, had an influence on my life. He’s quite a religious man but I would say a very practical religious man. He doesn’t talk about it a lot, but he always encouraged that inner journey which I would say I am still on, definitely.
It would be sad if it ends one day, wouldn’t it?
Well for me, that’s everything. Way more important than the journey outside, as magical as that is, the inner journey is way more important.
This movie is also about dreams. Are you an intense dreamer?
No. I think I am just too tired and I sleep through it all. I used to dream a lot, and I remember when I was a kid, it’s really fascinating that idea of the boogie man because I remember being terrified of the dark, and terrified of going into the house alone. I remember running from room to room, all those things. In fact, my brother played a practical joke on me which probably put me in a state for years. I used to hear about boogie man under your bed and my brother would say ‘Oh no, he’s there, he’s there!’ And we shared a bedroom together. And for about a month, I would occasionally feel this tap on the bed and I was like, ‘I think there’s something there.’ Like just one tap or two taps, and I would go off to sleep and I never had the guts to actually look under. Finally when I did, I want to say after a month, my brother was there and went, Boo!’ So for a month every night, he had been under my bed. Cruel right?
This is how brothers are.
We’ve seen you lately on interesting pictures like rehearsing or training for being once again “The Sexiest Man Alive”…
(laughs) Training for it!
So how has that been for you?
I don’t think that’s getting me on the cover of any magazines that particular look. It’s been incredible. It’s an incredible film and project, I feel proud to be part of it, I think. I don’t know if I ever worked as hard on a film to be honest. I play Jean Valjean and you see him when he is age 39 or whatever it is as he gets released from prison after being essentially in a labor camp for 19 years and we needed to see that and then with the Mayor and the character that he becomes, so physically actually it was probably the most demanding. Vocally of course, we sang everything live, so it’s been incredible.
But it’s something you are used to? Singing live?
Yeah, but not at eight o’clock in the morning and then continuing till eight o’clock at night, I don’t think I ever will get used to it.
And how did you grow the beard or did you have extensions on?
(laughs) No. I slept. (laughs) It’s like two-thirds my beard because I was doing a one-man show on Broadway and I didn’t think that would be great, so I started the day I finished and I had enough of a beard for them to be able to attach this to it.
What is Christmas like at your home, because this movie is opening close to Christmas, so how are you celebrating?
Well, we usually go to a midnight mass the night before. We come from Australia, my parents are English, and it’s still quite often in parts of Australia that we celebrate it. We have a hot lunch and ham and all that sort of thing even though it’s crazy sometimes in the Australian climate but we have the Christmas pudding and the whole thing. We do presents in the morning and we’d left stockings out and obviously the reindeer and Santa would come and there’s evidence of that. So basically it’s family. We have family and my wife’s family has a tradition of having all the Christmas orphans come around so there’s usually about 60 people at our place, so if there’s anyone that we vaguely know without their family, they end up coming to our place.
So if I was in Australia…
You’d be invited. (laughs)
Do you put on the Santa suit?
What are you talking about man? Santa comes.
Are you still buying presents yourself or do you have someone taking care of that for you?
I still buy presents. Well, let me be honest, my wife does the lion’s share of that. But I do shopping for the stocking, I don’t know why, I like all that sort of stuff, just the little bits and pieces.
Do you still have Christmas wishes? Are you buying everything that you see during the year and is there something that you are hoping to get?
Me? No. By the way, I’ve always been difficult to buy for because I like the idea of having everything I own in a backpack. That to me is the way I like things, as if you can just move and travel. Not my wife’s philosophy, not that she’s into things per se, not materialistic per se, but she gets a lot of enjoyment out of presents.
Where did this idea start, when did it start and where did it come from?
I’ve always had a love for traveling and actually now, I see my parents are both the same. My mother, every time I have a birthday or Christmas, she gives me something of hers, and generally something good like a cookbook or, like at our wedding, she gave me all her vintage cutlery. But she’s just like, ‘I don’t want any of this’ (laughs), so she’s just giving her stuff away whenever she can. On the last Father’s Day, the kids said, ‘Please tell me what you want, please, please.’ And so I racked my brains and I finally went, ‘I got it.’ I said, ‘Really great coffee, The New York Times and 25 minutes to myself.’ That to me was the greatest gift I could have. I didn’t get it. I got seven minutes.
Does this kind of a life present itself in a way that you imagined?
Beyond. I mean, I didn’t grow up as a kid wanting to be an actor, so I just always sort of loved doing it. And just being in a movie like this, playing the Easter Bunny, shooting Wolverine, then being in a movie musical in the caliber of Les Mis, it’s beyond what I could have imagined. I love acting. Basically I am like a weekend golfer, and someone comes up to you and says, ‘Would you like to just make a living at it? Would you like to be on the US Open and then play on the tour?’ That’s how it feels to me. I’m like, ‘Really? Me? Okay!’ And fifteen years later, they are still letting me do it. I absolutely love what I do.
What did you imagine when you first started out?
I had a five year contract with myself because I’ve been in so many jobs. I was 26 when I got my first acting job, so I’ve worked at, you name it, I’ve done it. And the thing I realized was the only businesses that were successful, were the ones where the owner, in a small business, which is what acting is, is the owner, basically works seven days a week for the first five years. That put everything into it, then it gets to a point where it might have a name or enough of a clientele to run itself a little bit, so I thought, ‘Okay, for five years, I’m going to do it seven days a week, I’m not going to wait for a phone call. If I start a theater company, whatever it is, I’m going to try and find a way every day, for my career and act.’ And so I had a five year plan and that was it. And so five years later, things were going okay and I was making a living at it and I renewed for another five years and now I am extending it for like ten years.
What the weirdest job you ever did?
Dressing up as a koala for the National Parks Foundation in Australia. I used to be Ranger Hugh, holding onto Cooey Koala, but the girl, Suzie, had this habit of fainting, and in summer can you imagine like summer, forty degrees in National Parks. It was the worst job that I ever had. I don’t know if it’s the world over, but 14 year olds think there’s nothing funnier than punching a six foot koala in the kidneys. (laughs)
So what was Plan B, if it didn’t work out?
Well, I was a journalist by training. I had majored in journalism, so that sort of was where I was going to vaguely head. I always loved the idea of radio, because again, backpack, didn’t need a sound-man, just sort of get to travel the world and you get to do your stuff, so that, if I had a dream job probably from acting, it would have been like when I was growing up, Mike Walsh, The Midday Show. A variety show, just daily, a bit of fun, that kind of thing.
How do you keep centered?
I’m a meditater, and twice a day I meditate, and it’s been a part of my life for twenty years. It changed my life and I think what that does is twice a day it allows me to come back to my center and who I really am, and drop all the labels, actor, father, husband, all the roles we play and just to experience myself in this. It’s impossible to put it into words, but I can tell you when I meditate twice a day it allows me just to be who I am. It’s a simple thing, it’s not a religious thing. It’s just that I find the practice of doing that reminds me of who I really am. And it’s always when I am calmest and happiest and it gives me enough of what I would call fine energy to be able to get on with the day. And you can get energy, Red Bull or coffee, but that’s not really the energy that nourishes you or anyone around you.
Who introduced you to meditating?
I attended a place called The School of Practical Philosophy, it’s got different places in London, it’s all around the world, and about 18 months into that, they offered meditation, which is a form of transcendental meditation and I took it and never stopped.
You seem to be a very disciplined man because you have to for your job. But are there times when you are totally undisciplined?
It’s kind of rare but I think that comes from a slight laziness in that for example, physically if I have to be, if I know in eighteen months I have to get ready for Wolverine, I find it easier to stay disciplined than to let it go for eight months, cause I know that the next nine months will be hell. So I would prefer to do it all the time.
Hugh Jackson is the voice of the Easter Bunny in the animated Rise of the Guardians opening November 20th. Les Miserables opens Christmas Day with Jackson playing the part of Jean Valjean.