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First-Time Director Michael Gracey on Working With Hugh Jackman on ‘The Greatest Showman’

For first-time director Michael Gracey, transitioning from commercials and music videos to feature-length films was “the difference between sprinting and a marathon.” The Aussie got his start working in visual effects but developed a knack for directing after working on music video “Karma” by 1200 Techniques. He combines his talents for musical biopic “The Greatest Showman.”

How did you start in visual effects?

Classically, it’s the child who looks up at their parents who says, “This is how the future is going to be,” and it’s the parents who don’t understand because they’re set in their ways. For me, it was the exact opposite. My dad sat me down at an IBM AT with a black screen and green text and said, “This is going to change the way that all image making is done in the future.” I looked up at him, the classic teenager, and said, “Yeah, Dad, everyone wants to look at green pictures.” He looked at me like I was the village idiot. It was such a disappointing moment for him. Year after year, I see the advancements in computer imagery and get reminded of my stupidity as a teenager. In “The Greatest Showman,” I’m back doing VFX myself, allowing me to craft exactly how something looks, one frame at a time.

How did you get the “Greatest Showman” gig? 

Like “Lost in Translation,” I worked on an advertisement where a Hollywood star was doing a commercial just for Japan. The star was Hugh Jackman. Since I’m Australian, they just assumed I knew him, and I didn’t correct them. On the first day of rehearsals, Hugh walks in, he sees me, puts his arms out and shouts, “Michael!” As we’re hugging he whispers in my ear, “Yeah, mate, they think I know you, so just go along with it.” So we pretended like we were best friends the whole shoot, and we had so much fun. When Hugh said, “Let’s make a movie,” I wasn’t even that excited, and to this day he reminds me.

He called back?
Traditionally what happens is that you never hear from that actor again. In Hugh’s case, true to his character, he sent me a script for the first draft of “The Greatest Showman.”

Things you didn’t know about Michael Gracey


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