Hugh Jackman, star of the stage and screen, was a natural candidate for the leading role in Universal’s “Les Miserables.” The actor has moved seamlessly between the stage and film throughout his career, winning a Tony for “The Boy From Oz,” and playing a pivotal role as Wolverine in the lucrative “X-Men” superhero franchise.
In “Les Mis,” he gets a chance to show moviegoers what they have been missing on Broadway: He sings his way through the demanding role as noble convict-turned-hero Jean Valjean in Tom Hooper’s adaptation of the hit musical.
The director goes so far as to question whether he could have made the movie without Jackman.
“I needed a fantastic singer who could sing the tenor part, an extraordinary actor who was the level of film star to carry the film and who had physical strength and the kind of grace and the moral compass to take on the spiritual nature of Jean Valjean’s journey. That’s a tough combination to find in one person,” says Hooper, who adds he “wouldn’t have done ‘Les Miserables’ if Hugh Jackman didn’t exist.”
Jackman found success on stage early, playing Gaston in “Beauty and the Beast” in his native Australia. “X-Men” director Bryan Singer cast him as Wolverine after seeing him play Curly in “Oklahoma!” in a West End revival in 1998.
The actor made his Broadway debut in 2004 as Aussie ’70s singer-songwriter Peter Allen in “The Boy From Oz,” and showed off his drama chops as a Chicago police officer in “A Steady Rain,” co-starring with Daniel Craig. That 2009 play shattered the record for highest weekly gross for any non-musical production ever on Broadway.
“Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway,” Jackman’s limited-run, one-man show, in which he performed some of his favorite musical numbers, also broke house records last year.
“Anything he chooses to do will sell out,” says Fred Zollo, who produced “A Steady Rain.” “He could a Las Vegas-style evening and it will sell out. He can do ‘Macbeth’ and the joint will sell out.”
“There is no one I know who an connect with an audience the way Hugh can,” raves Robert Fox, who produced “Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway” and “The Boy From Oz.” He calls the actor “one of the all-time greats.”
Jackman, who has hosted the Tony Awards several times and the Oscars once, received a special Tony Award this year for extraordinary contributions to the theater community.
He is preparing for another major Broadway role in “Houdini,” his first original musical, in which he’ll play the famous illusionist.
“We are well into the process,” Jackman says. Aaron Sorkin is writing the book for the musical, which is slated to hit the Great White Way during the 2013-14 season.
Jackman can’t wait to return to his theater roots. Says he: “I always feel at home on stage.”
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