Hugh Jackman has been Wolverine for as long as I can remember. He wore those claws for the first time in 2000’s X-Men, and since then the character and actor have become one. The movie benefited from the presence of this lesser-known but sharp-looking Australian and the actor of course became an overnight celebrity. But in the 15-year period since X-Men, Hugh Jackman has done a lot of other work which at times gets overshadowed when he returns as Wolverine on the big screen. With Eddie the Eagle soon to hit the theatres where Hugh Jackman is not playing Wolverine, we decided to look back at his movies outside the X-Men franchise and list three great roles where he shines without the claws too. Moving chronologically…
A) Robert Angier in The Prestige (2006)
By the time Christopher Nolan’s movie The Prestige hit the theatres, the X-Men trilogy had come to an end firmly establishing Hugh Jackman as one of the best actors to portray a superhero on the big screen. Alongside Jackman in The Prestige was Christian Bale who had made a mark of his own as a superhero in 2005’s Batman Begins. The prospect of Wolverine battling Batman could be mouth-watering for a comic book fan, but what we get in Nolan’s epic movie is a clash of two fantastic actors in the world of magicians and illusionists. Hugh Jackman plays the magician Robert Angier who despises Bale’s character and holds him responsible for his wife’s death in a magic act that went wrong. As Angier, Hugh Jackman portrays a polished personality on the outside who holds within him a rage that burns through his heart; a rage whose magnitude comes out only later in the film. Playing Robert Angier showed the depth of Hugh Jackman’s skills as an actor, his ability to convince the audience to accept him as someone other than Wolverine – something that Hugh Jackman did not really get the chance to display until then, apart maybe from his role in Woody Allen’s Scoop (which also came out in 2006). With his effective, chilling and formidable role in The Prestige, Hugh Jackman as Robert Angier definitely leaves an impression.
B) Jean Valjean in Les Misérables (2012)
What Hugh Jackman achieves in Les Misérables cannot be swept away with a momentary glance or a simple nod of the head; it is after all the role which earned him his first (and so far, only) Oscar nomination. While we have loved him with his snarl in the X-Men franchise, nothing matches the intensity of Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of Jean Valjean in Les Misérables, an ex-convict who aims to turn his life around but is being hunted by a cop for breaking parole. Hugh Jackman is a driven man in this movie who has found a renewed purpose in his life, his heart full of strength, courage and a general affection for mankind. It is that display of transition, that change in human nature, which brings out the best of his talent. When he wept bitterly at the church and later begged for the life of young Marius, there were no thoughts of Wolverine left in our minds as our eyes moistened. Firmly and effectively, Hugh Jackman slips into a new skin once again. And for the first time, his baritone is put to good use too as his singing talents are nicely used on-screen.
C) Keller Dover in Prisoners (2013)
If a glance at Wolverine made you realise that Hugh Jackman was not a man to be messed with, then that feeling will get reinforced when you see him as Keller Dover. The 2003 crime thriller Prisoners had Hugh Jackman in the role of a family man with a wife and children. When his youngest daughter goes missing, Keller Dover takes matters in his own hands to find her. It’s an emotionally charged role – the haunted look of a father of a missing daughter is mixed with the aggression of a father searching for his missing daughter. With each step you can feel both, his pain and his determination, as Hugh Jackman’s search becomes our search. Under Denis Villeneuve’s direction, and along side Jake Gyllenhaal’s subtly layered performance, Hugh Jackman provides a raw human touch to his character which makes him absorbing to watch. The movie in itself earned rave reviews, with Hugh Jackman as Keller Dover being one of the big reasons. And with his era as Wolverine expected to end soon with the third solo Wolverine film, we are expecting more of these other fantastic roles that Hugh Jackman has shown he can deliver.