In addition to earning nominations for Golden Globe, Critics' Choice and Screen Actors Guild awards for his heart-wrenching performance in the 19th century Paris-set movie musical "Les Miserables," the married father of two children also was presented with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The accolades come after a physically and emotionally grueling film shoot for which he lost considerable weight, then dealt with issues such as poverty, mercy, abandonment and redemption on a daily basis for months.
Told by a reporter at a recent New York news conference that he was nearly unrecognizable as an emaciated, bearded slave at the beginning of the movie, the handsome and once-again healthy looking Jackman replied with a smile, "I'm so thrilled to hear you say that!"
He went on to explain how he and director Tom Hooper were determined to drastically change his look -- not just shave his beard and put a gray wig on him -- so it would be believable when Javert, the policeman obsessed with finding Jackman's ex-con Jean Valjean, hesitates in positively identifying him years after he breaks parole and reinvents himself as an honest businessman.
Jackman said Hooper told him, "'We actually have an opportunity here for all the characters to show the time, scale of all these things.'
"And he said: 'I'm going to make you unrecognizable. If people in your life aren't saying: "Are you sick? Something's wrong? What's going on?" You haven't gone far enough.'
"I did lose a lot of weight and then had the joy of putting weight on," noted the 44-year-old actor. "It was a 30-pound journey from the beginning, but I have to say, all that pales in comparison to what this lady next to me [co-star Anne Hathaway] did. Because at least I had time to prepare to do that. Annie was doing it over 14 days. And she lost ... "
Turning to the actress at the news conference, he joked: "About what? 300 pounds?"
Hathaway later told the gathered journalists she didn't want them to be simply "charmed by Hugh Jackman."
"Because we all know he's a miracle," she quipped. "We all know he can get up and make friends with everyone, but, sometimes, I think that keeps people from seeing his genius as an actor and I just want to say the reason that the line [in the movie] 'To love another person is to see the face of God' resonates with people is because you witnessed it in his performance the entire time. What he does in this film is inspiring and we were all inspired by him. He is absolutely our leader. I don't want the nice-guy thing to distract you from the fact that he is a serious and profoundly gifted actor."
"Les Miserables" opens nationwide Dec. 25.
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