Visiting stars often walk the red carpet at the Japan premiere of their movies, but not Hugh Jackman. The 40-year-old Aussie showman roared into Roppongi Hills Arena on a Harley-Davidson and spent 40 minutes shaking hands and signing autographs with fans before the premiere of X-Men Origins: Wolverine (titled X-Men: Zero for Japan). He also clowned around with actors Ryuta Sato (Rookies) and celebrity Naomi Kawashima (above), whose patissier husband provided a big cake for the occasion.
Jackman is certainly having a great year. In the past six months, he has hosted the Academy Awards to critical acclaim and, as part of a documentary, popped into New York cafes and restaurants unannounced with a camera crew to ask diners what they know about products from developing countries. He visited Ethiopia in August in his capacity as world ambassador for the Global Poverty Project, and this month hosted New York’s Fashion Night Out to raise money for two charities (The September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center, and the NYC AIDS fund). Currently, he is appearing in a Broadway play with James Bond star Daniel Craig, in his return to the stage there following his electrifying performance in The Boy From Oz six years ago. Jackman said he is at a great time in his life, but acknowledged that in show business, “You never know how long you will last.”
For now, though, he’s in Wolverine mode. In X-Men Origins, the fourth in the Marvel comic series about mutants, and a prequel to the first three films, we learn about Wolverine’s relationship with his fierce half-brother (Liev Schreiber).
“There’s drama, there’s action, and there’s me naked. Well, there was me naked, but they cut the nude scenes out,” Jackman said with a laugh. “I’m shirtless a lot, though.”
Jackman predicted that audiences will find the story intense. “The relationship between the two brothers is at the heart of the movie and, as you all know, nobody can push your buttons like family,” he said. “It’s a good study to see how the character got to where he did in the first X-Men film.”
Ever busy, Jackman has at least ten other projects in the works, among them The Greatest Show on Earth, in which he will play P.T. Barnum, and the musical Carousel. Nor is the X-Men franchise finished. Jackman has already signed on for X-Men Origins: Wolverine 2, which is partly set in Japan.
“X-Men fans know that this story is one of the greatest parts of the series, and I have longed to bring it to the big screen,” he said. “It looks at Wolverine’s inner torment as he battles his animal instinct and tries to make his way as a samurai warrior. We’ll be coming to film here a few years down the track, and I invite all of you to audition.