In his new film, Prisoners, Hugh Jackman explores a fear that the inhabitants of the Marvel universe can never know. He plays a humble carpenter whose children are randomly abducted. Feeling failed by Jake Gyllenhaal’s spiky detective, he violently sets about finding the kidnapper on his own terms, and so an unsettling family drama becomes a grisly whodunit.
Making a film about child abduction preys on a universal fear – that something will happen to our kids…
Yeah, but I think it’s cathartic to watch it. Whether we like it or not, whether we admit it or not, these are fears that are there all the time, and we somehow find a way to push them down [within our psyche]. That’s the reason we don’t always go to see romantic comedies, because collectively we go to the theatre to exorcise these fears in a way, to think about them, to feel them. That’s part of human nature, we need to do that. It’s an important thing.
Was it cathartic to act?
It probably did change me in a way. My character has a line which is “pray for the best, prepare for the worst”, and I think by nature I’m more like just “pray for the best”. I don’t do the other bit too much. I’m fairly trusting and optimistic and after doing this movie I’ve realised that maybe that’s a tad naive. I certainly went home, held my kids a little tighter and wondered if I was doing enough to protect them.
Your character is a survivalist. It’s a much-maligned little sub-culture. What’s your view on them?
I was a little judgmental about the survivalist movement. I was like, “C’mon, do we really need six months’ worth of tinned ham in the basement?” But maybe it is a little naive to think that someone has got you covered. To think that the government will sort it out. Interestingly, I was recently in Montreal and there was something wrong with the water supply to the city so no one was allowed to drink tap water for 24 hours. And I thought… “What if that was a week? What if it was two weeks?” You realise we do have a collective trust and I’m not sure it’s 100 per cent earned.
Your character also goes to violent extremes to seek justice. It feels very real – a marked departure from your usual brand of film violence, where you’re wearing a giant set of claws.
My experience of real violence – the first time I ever saw a real fight in a bar – was very unsettling. It’s not the way it’s portrayed in movies. I remember we did the scene with me beating Paul Dano in a bathroom and at one point [co-star] Terrence Howard actually threw up. That’s when you know you’re in the right zone I suppose, because it’s meant to be unsettling. It’s not like anyone wants to do this… but all morals, everything, even your own personal safety, goes out the window when it comes to protecting your kids. None of that matters any more. An act of violence can turn everyone into a prisoner. Which is why it’s the title.
What starts as a family drama becomes a whodunit. When you read the script did you guess the end?
No. I’m very gullible. I’m the last person to catch anything in any movie.
They might reboot Wolverine one day. How do you think you’ll cope with a younger man on your patch?
I’m sure the little ego in me will have slightly sweaty palms, but most of me will be excited to see what someone else comes up with.
How much Wolverine merchandise do you have cluttering up your house?
I have a Furby from the first movie. Some guy came into my trailer at some point, one of the associate producers, and said “Hey, can you just say these sayings into a tape recorder?” I was like, “Yeah, whatever,” so I did it. Then my voice ended up inside all these toys. So from the first Wolverine, some of the merchandise actually has my voice in it. I was a little naive at the time because, of course I didn’t get paid for any of that. There is something less sophisticated about the merchandise from the first movie, which I quite like. There’s something a little uncomfortable about seeing toys that actually do look like you. Then I always imagine people are stuffing it in their freezer or sticking pins in it.
Finally, and arguably most importantly, what makes a good Aussie meat pie?
A good Aussie meat pie is all about the pastry and the quality of the meat in it. But the trick to eating it is the same as a hot dog you get from a street vendor: never ask what’s in it.
Prisoners is at cinemas from 27 September
(Image: All Star)