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Hugh Jackman on Australia

Published November 26, 2008 in Movie Interviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of 20th Century Fox

Hugh Jackman's Wolverine fans might not care about Australia, but he's every bit the action hero in this period epic. As The Drover, Jackman rides in the thick of cattle stampedes, and he wanted to measure up to the cinema's best horsemen.

Hugh Jackman Journeys to Australia

"I remember, and I've seen lots of footage, John Wayne, he jumps on that horse and rides off," Jackman said. "Clint Eastwood in all those spaghetti westerns, you see him sail on a dollar, get on it and woosh, off into the sunset, you see it. For me, that's the benchmark. The benchmark is, I suppose, to make, particularly as I'm playing an Australian outback drover, I want people in America and all over the world to go, 'Oh, this guy, yeah, all right, all Australians are brought up on horses and they live in the outback. This is just what they do. Oh, I see, all right.'"

Real drovers are cool, but the movies helped Jackman just as much in prep. "As an actor, it's such a rare opportunity to feel at times Clint, at time Clark Cable, at times Indiana Jones. I felt like in one movie, I probably did what I'd be lucky to get in maybe five or six years of movies, so many different sort of elements and styles. However, Baz [Lurman] did an extraordinary amount of research and made that research a bible to us and to all the actors, to anyone working on the movie and why we call it the Baz Library. The Library was filled with books, many of which I read. It also was filled with music, with audio tapes of people talking from the era, of DVDs, real footage of drovers to a three hour compilation of every thing that has ever been put on film with a horse, a cow and a man. So there was unbelievable research material. There was a couple of books which I read which probably were more informative of the character than anything else and yes, there are winks and nods and there are references to so many of those iconic characters but we had to kind of make it new and fresh and idiosyncratic."



Playing The Drover was no picnic though. He tried to tough it out, but sometimes the outback got the better of him. "As an actor, you don't want to be poncin' about with the umbrella above your head and doin' this, pounding my Evian and all of this sort of thing. So I sat on the horse and the first AD said, 'Baz'll be ready in about five minutes.' I said, 'No, man, I'm fine, I'll stay on the house.' A half hour later, 'Listen, it might be another five.' 'No, no problem.' After that half an hour, I felt this hand in my back and I said, 'What are you doing, mate? I'm fine.' And he says, 'No you're not, you're at a 45 degree angle to the house. He's kinda holding you like this.' I said, 'Yeah, I might need 10 minutes.'"

Jackman became a horse whisperer though. "It starts by bareback riding because the only way you can really develop a relationship with the horse of trust is to not have a saddle on. I learn a lot about parenting from riding a horse. It's the same thing. You can whack a horse, I've seen people do it. They whack 'em, they kick 'em, they do all that and you can get a horse to do something, but I was very lucky to have two trainers who taught me how to make the horse feel it's their idea. I'll tell you, as a parent it is the greatest thing I've ever learned. But when you get on a horse bareback, to a horse, they know that you trust them. And then you just for days, you kind of have to go wherever they want to go. Whatever it is, if we were riding up a hill, they want to jump over the fence, you just go with them and just say, 'It's okay, whatever you want to do, I'm there.' And then just gradually, you say, 'Ah,' make a little suggestion. 'How about we kind of go here or how about leading off this hind leg here? Now let's switch. Let's lead off this side.' And the horse kind of wants to do it. When you have that, it's kind of exhilarating."

Australia is out in theaters now.

For the trailers, featurettes, posters and more movie info, go to the Australia Movie Page.

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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of 20th Century Fox

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