Get your adamantium claws ready, folks – you’ll need them to grab your slice of cake to celebrate the 53rd birthday of Hugh Jackman! Don’t worry, the cake is shaped like Frankenstein’s head on purpose, and the party magician with his robot assistant is all in keeping with the theme. While Jackman is best known for his role as Logan, aka Wolverine of the X-Men movie franchise, Jackman’s history with fandom media is long and rich, be it sci-fi, fantasy, or even steampunk. Jackman has done it all in his storied career, and today we’re going to celebrate the lesser known gems right alongside the blockbusters he’s got to his name.
Born October 12, 1968, in Sydney, New South Wales in Australia, Hugh Jackman’s parents were British citizens that relocated to Australia as part of the post-WWII “Ten Pound Poms” immigration scheme in 1967, one year before he was born. Being of Australian birth to British parents, Jackman holds dual citizenship in both Australia and the United Kingdom. Jackman’s parents divorced when he was eight, leaving him to live with his father and two brothers, while Jackman’s mother returned to the UK with Jackman’s two sisters.
Growing up, Jackman had big dreams and an avid imagination. He wanted to travel, and has been quoted as saying he would pore over atlases and, because they serve food on planes, decided at one point he wanted to be a chef on a plane. Fortunately, Jackman also enjoyed singing and dancing, and during his final year studying Communications at the University of Technology, Sydney, Jackman began to realize his hobby might be something more. Taking a drama class to accrue some missing credits, he played the lead in a production of Václav Havel’s The Memorandum, and in his own words found he felt more at home in that one week with his castmates than he did during his entire educational tenure at university.
Jackman’s early career was defined by coming from behind. During his studies in “The Journey,” a one year acting course at the Actors Centre in Sydney, he often felt like a dunce, struggling at every turn. He credits this feeling with giving him added drive, feeling as if every audition was a make or break situation where he had to be at his best to get the gig. This took him to his first major project, appearing on the Australian TV series Correlli, where he acted alongside high profile Australian actress Deborra-Lee Furness. Once again pushed to come from behind, his work on the series got him noticed – especially by Furness, who he later married.
After Correlli, Jackman went on to trod the boards, starring in various productions where he made a name for himself that gradually got him noticed. After some smaller film projects such as Paperback Hero and Erskineville Kings, his big break came when Russell Crowe, for whom the role of Wolverine in X-Men was originally written, suggested Jackman for the part instead. On the back of this movie, Jackman’s star rose fast – and while his background in theatre made him a prime candidate for many leading man roles and romantic heroes, Jackman swiftly became a presence in fandom genres that kept him steadily in the public eye while he gathered mainstream accolades.
One of the first roles Hugh Jackman took after the first X-Men film was that of the eponymous hero in Stephen Sommers’ Van Helsing opposite Kate Beckinsale. The film, which is predominantly a tribute to the Universal Monsters such as Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolfman, features a great many steampunk elements in the laboratories of the Holy Order and the weaponry Gabriel Van Helsing uses. After the conclusion of the initial trilogy, Jackman co-starred with Rachel Weisz in Darren Aronofzky’s The Fountain, playing three different yet interconnected characters in a film about space travel, scientific research, and mythical fantasy. He also starred in The Prestige, a historical film about early stage magic with science fiction elements brought forth by the involvement and inventions of Nikola Tesla. He also played prominent roles in robotics heavy films such as Real Steel and Chappie, and took on the role of Blackbeard in Pan.
Through all of this, Jackman has remained a mainstay in the world of X-Men, reprising his role as Logan in post-trilogy films like First Class, Days of Future Past, and Apocalypse. He has also starred in the origins story X-Men Origins: Wolverine and The Wolverine, which follows his days after Last Stand and hearkens back to his part in the events of WWII. He has also stayed close to his theatrical roots, starring on Broadway in The Boy From Oz and playing P.T. Barnum in The Greatest Showman.
A Renaissance man by any viewpoint, there is no question that Hugh Jackman has earned his stripes not simply as an entertainer and actor, but as a genre mainstay. His range and versatility has ensured he will never live and die by his role as the Wolverine – even if he did play the role for the last time in the finale of Wolverine’s saga, Logan. He’s a talent to be rivaled, and today we raise a glass to celebrate another year in the life of this storied artist, and wish him the best for whatever the future brings.
Happy Birthday, Hugh Jackman – here’s to you, bub.
Liz Carlie, the Mad Woman with a Box, a regular book reviewer for SCIFI.radio and a regular guest on ‘The Event Horizon’. She has been in and around science fiction fandom for years, and works with the American Red Cross on blood drives at science fiction conventions all over Southern California.