Wolverine star on mental health issues

Hugh Jackman

Hugh Jackman

Actor Hugh Jackman has said he was “a hot mess” making his latest movie, The Son.

The 54-year-old X-Men star explained, “I definitely realized how vulnerable I was.”

He plays a successful lawyer with a teenage son (Zen McGrath) from a previous marriage who suffers from depression.

Jackman told the BBC the film’s subject matter and his return to acting after not working during the Covid lockdowns caused him “anxiety”.

And then his father died while he was making the movie.

“My dad never actually missed a day at work in his life,” says Jackman, explaining why he didn’t take time to grieve. “I imagined what my dad would say and he would say, ‘Go to work.'”

Nevertheless, making The Son was difficult and the pressure took its toll.

“I would be one of the least [likely] people I know I would describe as a hot mess, but I definitely was during this.

Jackman suffered sleepless nights playing the role of Peter, a workaholic with a new partner, a young baby, an ex-wife and their troubled teenage son. The star says he is still consulting a therapist who helped him with the filming.

The film’s producers also employed psychiatrists on set in case cast and crew members needed to talk about the disturbing material.

“This was the first time I’d seen something like that on a movie,” says Jackman, “and people were using it and it was necessary.”

While intimacy coaches have become commonplace when filming sex scenes, Jackman also advocates for mental health support.

Hugh Jackman

Jackman’s other major roles include starring in The Greatest Showman

“There’s a little piece of the old-fashioned part of my brain [that thinks], ‘Well, that’s for you to work out.’ If you need to see a doctor for any reason, your foot, your mental health, you know, you work that out.

“But I think it would definitely be a sign from an employer that we understand that it’s very, very important to take care of the whole person, not just pay them, but take care of their well-being in all forms.”

See-Saw Movies, who produced The Son, partnered with the Film and TV Charity, which has developed a free industry-wide resource to destigmatize poor mental health in film and TV.

The charity’s 2021 Looking Glass survey found that nine in ten people working in the sector have had a mental health problem.

The Whole Picture Toolkit provides guidance and advice on how to support mental health and wellness on set and pre- and post-production and has been adopted by 35 productions to date.

Jackman says he hopes The Son will spark conversations about mental health issues “that are urgently needed”.

He says, “There’s a real lack of knowledge and ignorance and shame around the subject and I think it’s something we need to face very, very soon.”

The film, which explores absent parenting and the effects of divorce on children and adolescent mental illness, is hard to watch.

While The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw praised the “beautifully composed and literate drama”, not everyone was a fan of The Son, which premieres at the Venice Film Festival and opens in the UK in February.

David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter said it was “a depressing movie about depression, while Kevin Maher of The Times dismissed it as” a tired predictable piece of family values ​​hokum.

However, Jackman has already received a Golden Globe nomination for best actor for his role in the drama.

It comes at a time when some are questioning the future of gendered acting categories in awards shows.

Jackman says he’s “a big fan” of having one gender-neutral acting category where all performers compete.

“That would be a really positive step. I don’t understand why it’s split into just two genera when we all know it’s a much larger spectrum.”

Wolverine's UK premiere in 2013

Jackman is perhaps best known for his role as Wolverine in the X-Men series

Acknowledging that he “might have just shot myself in the foot” as his own chances of winning would be cut in half if there was one non-binary acting category instead of separate Best Actor and Actress categories, he adds: “What whatever the mix is, maybe we should just break down one of those categories that are divisive and unnecessary.

If the past is anything to go by, Jackman could be clamoring to take home an award this season. The Son is co-written and directed by Florian Zeller, who directed the 2020 drama The Father, which won star Sir Anthony Hopkins his second Oscar.

Sir Anthony, famous for his roles in The Silence of the Lambs, the Thor films and Westworld, makes a cameo appearance in The Son.

And Jackman provides a fascinating insight into how Sir Anthony still works after more than six decades on screen.

“He filmed for one day. He emailed the director Florian every day for six months. Florian said to me, ‘I got as many emails about this one scene in a movie as I did for The Father, where he was in every scene. is. .’ He takes it so seriously.”

And that careful approach continued on set.

“At one point he wanted to do his close-up again. And I pulled Florian aside and said, ‘But what he did was so incredible.’

“And he said, ‘Oh yeah, I have everything I need, but I think he just misses acting. He hadn’t acted in 18 months. I think he just misses it, he wanted another chance.'”

The Son represents a departure for Jackman, who played Wolverine in nine blockbuster films – and is returning for at least one more.

He also made a name for himself in movie musicals including Les Misérables and The Greatest Showman and on Broadway, where he currently stars in The Music Man. So how does he choose roles?

“I’m always looking for things that I haven’t done before, that challenge me, that scare me,” says Jackman.

“And by the way, when I did Wolverine, it always freaked me out too. That’s also a million miles away from who I am.”

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