Hugh Jackman: A showman speaks
With The Greatest Showman releasing tomorrow, Hugh Jackman, in this chat with Cinema Express, talks about playing the legendary showman, PT Barnum, and what it means to him
Hugh Jackman, known in India mainly as Wolverine, will be seen playing a showman in The Greatest Showman, a period musical. The actor has previously proved his mettle in this format in the 2012 musical hit, Les Miserables.
Excerpts from a chat with the actor:
You have done your fair share of theatre work. Did that make it easy to play this role?
Yes it definitely did! It gave me the confidence to do something that I would have otherwise never wanted to. This role required me to put in 100 per cent, and I think I did more than what was actually required. Oh, and I sang in the film, which wouldn’t have been possible without the prior training that I had. My doctor had said, ‘Do not sing, you’ve just had 80 stitches in your nose. They could split; you could get an infection’. So, I was like, ‘Don’t worry I’m not going to risk that. I’m just going to speak and someone else will sing it,’ but the emotion of the song and the moment took over me. The theatre work gave me a lot of confidence.
What is your take on circuses? Growing up, were you a regular attendee?
The purpose of a circus is to entertain the public, and at the same time, shock and awe in a good way. I remember being fascinated with circuses as a kid going to school, but I definitely didn’t imagine then that I would end up acting in a film around it.
The film is based on Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus which closed its operations on May 21, 2017 after 146 years. Did you interact closely with them?
I think this is the film that Barnum would like to see about his life — with some added drama — because he knew more than anyone that you have to create conflict and suspense to have a good story. He knew how to tell a good story and that you can’t always let the truth get in the way of that!
Having said that, a lot of the things you see in this film really did happen. Barnum was an innovator, or as we call people like him these days, ‘a disruptor’. He rewrote the book of showbiz. I don’t think there would be any reality TV if it weren’t for PT Barnum. In a way, he was the inventor of show business. Of course, there were shows before Barnum, but the idea of a show with mass appeal that made people happy was new. And yes, the team worked very closely with them to understand the nitty-gritty.
With La La Land winning big at the Oscars and The Greatest Showman now getting nominated for the Golden Globes, it seems like a great time for musicals.
Absolutely. I think there’s a view in Hollywood that a whole chunk of the film-going audience will never go to see a musical. La La Land brought a lot of people in — people who wouldn’t normally watch musicals. It reminds people that when it works, a musical makes spirits soar. We want people to leave the cinema happier than when they went in. The Greatest Showman is the perfect film to make you feel good about life.
What about the story convinced you to produce it?
Frankly, I didn’t need much convincing; I was excited about this project from the word go. The idea of making any film is entertaining people and The Greatest Showman is about entertainment. It couldn’t have gotten better.