While Hugh Jackman has appeared as Wolverine nine times in the past 17 years – sometimes in a cameo, other times fully fleshed out, like in Logan – he’s definitely found time to explore several other genres in Hollywood. From a computer hacker in Swordfish and a famed monster hunter in Van Helsing, to a Clint Eastwood-esque cattle driver in Australia and an obsessed magician in The Prestige, Jackman has proved time and again that he is a showman of epic proportions.
Rarely, though, does he dive into the areas of movie musicals despite his Tony award-winning theater background, with Les Misérables being his only entry in the genre since his breakthrough role in X-Men in 2000. But that’s about to change with Jackman’s next film.
According to Variety, Jackman – in his trademark engaging and energetic style – introduced at CinemaCon Thursday footage of his long-gestating passion project The Greatest Showman, a musical story with original songs about 19th century Barnum & Bailey Circus ringleader P.T. Barnum. Jackman plays Barnum in the film, and the footage reportedly included co-stars like Michelle Williams ballroom dancing in New York City, Zac Efron tap dancing on a bar counter and Zendaya (Spider-Man: Homecoming) doing calisthenics on a trapeze.
In presenting the footage to theater, Jackman wasn’t afraid to note that musicals are a risk in Hollywood. The timing of his risk, luckily for Jackman, comes after the success of La La Land, and the songwriters on The Greatest Showman happen to be Justin Paul and Benj Pasek – the same tunesmiths who wrote the songs for La La Land (along with composer Justin Hurwitz). Jackman said:
“This movie is about taking risks … and that is what is going to propel this business”
Jackman told the CinemaCon crowd that the film is a “is a fantastical rags to riches tale” and celebrates “creativity and what is unique about each and every one of us.” While sharing tales of his own dreams of making it Hollywood (including a meeting with his lookalike Eastwood), Jackman said:
“There’s not one person in this room who didn’t love movies more than anything else and wish that one day they could be in this business.”
With his last and easily best X-Men performance with Logan behind him, Jackman has more than earned his right dive back into his love of musicals with The Greatest Showman. Musical theater – most notably, his role as Curly in Oklahoma! – after all, is where he came from, before his serendipitous casting as Wolverine came through when Dougray Scott had to drop from the role. The success of the X-Men films, subsequently, has afforded him the opportunity to do Broadway, including his Tony Award-winning turn in The Boy From Oz.
No matter what character he’s played, it’s been crystal clear to movie fans since the first time he bared his claws as Wolverine that the charismatic Jackman had a magical screen presence, and he’s amply proved since that time that he has the passion to engage audiences with any role he takes on. As P.T. Barnum (who according to legend, once said, “There’s a sucker born every minute”), Jackman won’t have to sucker anybody to come to the theater in December to see The Greatest Showman. Movie fans already know the natural-born showman more than has the wherewithal to deliver.