"Joe showed me a picture that had my face, a Marie Antoinette wig, a Louis XIV costume and all this bling. And I was like 'Oh, I'm in.'"
A two-day media junket, where the talent is subjected to an ongoing barrage of nine-minute interrogations by an unbroken stream of reporters, is enough to test the patience of the most even-tempered performers.
So it speaks volumes about the legendary and seemingly limitless affability of Hugh Jackman that the Australian actor is able to maintain good humour and laid-back charm during his recent press commitments for Pan, the upcoming re-imagining of the Peter Pan story, in which he portrays the pirate Blackbeard, the original nemesis of the boy who never grew up.
If the berserker rage Jackman regularly unleashes in his signature role as surly, steel-clawed superhero Wolverine is at all simmering, he's doing a great job of keeping it from reaching boiling point. There is, of course, more to Jackman than his star-making role in the X-Men franchise. Over a two-decade stage and screen career, he's proven himself adept in challenging dramas and charming romantic comedies. And then there are his talents as a song-and-dance man to be reckoned with.
"He used to put sticks of incense in his beard and light them so there was a cloud of smoke around his head as he emerged with his cutlass."
Strangely enough, his role in Pan — directed by Joe Wright of Pride & Prejudice and Hanna fame — gives him the opportunity to showcase many of these skills, with Blackbeard emerging as a fearsome villain, a flamboyant showman and a melancholic veteran of many, many battles.
Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter
"It was an embarrassment of riches," smiles Jackman, recalling the role. "It was a lot of scenery-chewing, playing to the back rows and having the time of my life, and then Joe randomly comes up with this idea at rehearsals where he handed out lyrics to Smells Like Teen Spirit and I make my entrance to a Nirvana song. There were no rules!"
In Pan, which, as you can imagine puts a few new twists on the origin of Peter Pan (played by young newcomer Levi Miller): "Adults had to be as children see them — ridiculous and frightening in equal measure," says Jackman. So while the actor's Blackbeard is torn between between vanquishing this young upstart and "almost wishing him to fulfil his greatest fear" he also had to a cut a larger-than-life figure. And that's where Wright had a few innovative ideas.
"I thought we were going to use the historical version of Blackbeard, which is quite theatrical and amazing, by the way — he used to put sticks of incense in his beard and light them so there was a cloud of smoke around his head as he emerged with his cutlass," laughs Jackman. "But no, Joe showed me a picture that had my face, a Marie Antoinette wig, a Louis XIV costume and all this bling. And I was like, 'Oh, I'm in.'"
Jackman has collaborated with the likes of Woody Allen, Christopher Nolan, Baz Luhrmann and Darren Aronofsky, and says he's come to realise that film is very much a director's medium.
"Actors can make three movies a year; a director makes a movie every two or three years. A great director knows that if they're lucky they can make ten movies in their life, so these great directors make tough choices — they don't go into things lightly. So whatever is on the page, the director may even be more important. That's been guiding me over the last ten years. Joe Wright is a director of the highest order and I was really keen to work with him."
Still, the stage frequently beckons Jackman, who believes that "being on stage makes me better on film and vice versa."
"When there are moments to put on a show, I really want to put on a show."
"After Pan I did a Jez Butterworth three-hander, a very poetic piece called The River," he says. "And it had a six-minute period in the middle of the play where I just prepared a meal with no dialogue and no one else on stage. It was just that for six minutes! I do like to go back and forth between stage and film, it's where I get the best out of myself, and I think I now enjoy film as much… but I'm most at home on a stage."
He'll get to feel very much at home later this year when he takes his stage show Broadway To Oz to five capital cities around Australia. "I obviously want the show to be fun and entertaining — a bit of a party — but at the same time, like Pan, it has moments of intimacy. I like to create an atmosphere, even though we're in an arena, of being in my living room, where people get to understand who I am and what I love.
"I'll sing songs from things I've been in and things I haven't, share stories about my life, make fun of myself and play with the audience. No two shows will be the same. And there'll be spectacle — I have an opportunity to do what I haven't done before, which is have a 35-piece orchestra, 20 dancers and incredible lighting. When there are moments to put on a show, I really want to put on a show."
And because variety is the spice of life, he'll then brandish the Wolverine claws one last time in a third solo movie featuring the iconic comic-book character. (When asked if he'll pop up in next year's X-Men: Apocalypse, he said "reportedly" with a smile.)
"I have announced that this next one I'm doing will be my last one, and that feels right," Jackman said of the upcoming sequel. "One thing that I'm finding in my middle age is a key to life is that rather than regret the end of a holiday or a weekend or a meal is instead think, 'That was great.' And this ride as Wolverine has been incredible and rewarding… and far longer than I thought it would be! So it feels like this is the time to say thank you."