Hugh Jackman Is Naked. Why?
Hugh Jackman is extremely willing to commit to the bit. This is, perhaps, not entirely surprising when you’re talking about an A-list actor and singer with a multi-decade career spanning everything from superhero movies to Broadway musicals. Still, it’s a whole hell of a lot of fun to watch Jackman grit his teeth at frenemy Ryan Reynolds in spoof ads created by Reynolds' Maximum Effort Productions. And it’s at least as entertaining to watch Jackman saunter in, naked save for a pair of boots, in a recent clip for the nearly 90-year-old Australian bootmaker R.M.Williams.
The bit, see, is that Jackman’s contract stipulates he can only wear R.M.Williams. He takes it too seriously. Nudity and hilarity ensue. We’re not talking Oscar-bait here, people. Just a good old-fashioned gag, delivered well. Which is why I wanted to catch up with Jackman to talk about how the ad came together, how he feels about R.M.Williams as the brand’s (very official-sounding) "global boot ambassador," whose personal style he looks up to, and what it’s like living with Wolverine’s mutton chops when you’re not on set.
You put together this R.M.Williams ad with Ryan Reynolds and Maximum Effort Productions, and I'm curious, why are you working with someone for whom you clearly hold such disdain?
Well, listen, I know he owns the company, but the real brains, obviously, is not him. I work with the other people that come in. But I'm a big believer that most good things come out of conflict, out of friction. So I just thought to myself, "Where can I find the most? Where can I find the most drama and conflict?" And Maximum Effort was it.
After I watched the R.M.Williams ad, I delved back into the archives, and I have to say, it's lovely watching you two together. The barely contained enmity is just a wonderful thing to see.
Yeah. We're working very hard on it. We try to build bridges. It's just a waste of time.
I don't know the legal ins and outs of Australia, but it does seem like you must be legally obligated to be an R.M.Williams fan.
It is. It's a weird law. I know most people in other parts of the world won't understand it, but yeah, you just have to wear it. It's really weird seeing newborn babies having those put on first, even before a nappy or a diaper. It's an odd thing. Wear them to bed. Thankfully they're good in the rain, so you can wear them in the shower. But you get used to it. It's just a weird quirk of Australia. It is bizarre that it's a law. But you end up getting used to it. Like most laws, you just get used to it.
You create a new normal.
That's it. That's it.
R.M.Williams Craftsman Boot, rmwilliams.com
Do you have a preferred model? Do you go for the Craftsman, the Turnout, the Gardener? I mean, honestly, how do you even figure it out?
The Craftsman was my first pair and they still, to me, somehow epitomize the classic—handcrafted, just beautiful and simple. I have quite a few pairs, but most of the ones I have would be the Craftsman. I also have a pair of the Sydney boot because I'm from Sydney. I like the Gardener boot as well, even though suede is probably not something you should wear when gardening. But I just like it, because I like that boot. Marc Newson did one, the Yard boot. They're really cool. And I like that loop at the back.
There's a lot to take in. I went to the R.M.Williams store in Soho and was a little overwhelmed by it.
Yeah. Well, look, they're all handmade. I've been to the factory. Eighty-eight pairs of hands with each boot. The signature thing is that one piece of leather that is each boot. Look, the pride of everyone that works there—there's 811 people working there down in Adelaide, in Australia. It's exciting to be there, to watch the care. Over the years [the brand was founded in 1932], you're going to end up getting a lot of varieties. But it really doesn't matter which one you get. You're going to get quality.
Jackman wearing R.M.Williams Craftsman boots.
You not too long ago celebrated your 52nd birthday. Do you have any wisdom to impart from year 52?
Stop counting at 40. [Laughs] I mean, that's the Hollywood rule, I think. Yeah. Just don't count them anymore and be grateful for each one. I know a lot of people as they get older, they want to hide away. And I'm just like, "Dude, what the hell? Let's just be grateful we're still here and we're around." My natural proclivity is to not make a big deal about that kind of thing. I don't know why. But my wife has really taught me just to celebrate it, even if it's on the, "Wow. Made it through another year," kind of metric. But I think celebrating life and the people around you, closest to you, is a good thing.
I’ve got to know: There was this Twitter video of you taking a bite of something and saying it was a slice of heaven. Do you remember that?
Oh, on my birthday. Yeah. That's called a Lady M cake. It's 16 crepes—super thin, French-style crepes—layered on top of each other. In between each layer is this matcha green tea cream sort of thing. It is just, you can't kind of believe it, as you cut into it, the feel of it, the taste of it, the texture is like nothing else. It is a slice of heaven. Don't do that every day of your life, just on your birthday.
You won't make it to 52 if you eat that every day of your life.
That's true. That's true.
I'm curious, as you were growing up, did you have any style icons, any people you looked to and wanted to emulate?
I really tried to emulate Bruce Springsteen for a while. My girlfriend was completely in love with him and I was incredibly jealous. But I figured, What's the point in fighting it? I got on the bandwagon, hoping. That's when I was about 17 or 18. But before that... I'm sitting here thinking about it. There was a TV show in Australia called A Country Practice. I think it was either doctors or vets, set in a country town. There was one doctor. I think his name was Brendan. That's the first time I remember going, "I want to look like that. I want that pair of jeans and that cool brown belt. Look at the boots that guy had."
It's probably why I like R.M. It comes from that world where you could somehow believably walk through a paddock and then walk into a restaurant wearing the same clothes. That kind of mix, I guess, was my... I think the character's name is Brendan. I remember the guy had really curly hair. Brendan. Country Practice. I think I can look that up while I'm speaking to you, because I might have completely remembered it wrong. Of course, to your readers, this will mean absolutely nothing.
Bruce Springsteen, one of the few guys whose style Jackman has tried to emulate, in 1975 in London.
I'm going to find photos. It's going to be okay.
Now I'm terrified I've said that, because that's what I remember thinking when I was 13. I wonder if it's going to hold up. A Country Practice. Brendan Jones. A Country Practice. Wow. Okay. The images are coming. There he is! There he is. Hang on. I'm getting a lot of close-ups. I'm not seeing... okay. I'm scrolling through. These denim jeans.
Shane Withington is the actor.
There he is. Anyway, that was... Shane Withington. Wow.
Do you still try to emulate Brendan Jones' look? Or do you have anyone that you still look at and say, "Damn, they're just really so well dressed?"
No. I think at 52, you've got to give all that up. You've got to just say, "This is me. This is how I dress. This is my style." If, at 52, you're still trying to be someone else, that's wrong. I mean, occasionally I'll just go, "Oh, that's cool. I like that." Or, "That hat looks good." But I'm at this point where the hat that looks good on you is probably not going to look good on me. You know what I mean? Let's just say the same as birthdays: Stop counting at 40, stop trying to dress like somebody else at 40. Let's just call it 40.
Jackman with the Wolverine mutton chops at a press conference for The Wolverine in 2013.
I like that. It's a nice round number. Changing it up for a second: I want to talk about the Wolverine facial hair, because I grew up reading X-Men comics. I was watching the movies since the first one came out. But I even remember in, was it 2000 with the first one?
Looking at you and thinking it must be so hard when you're not on set, living with that facial hair.
Yeah. And the first one, of course, no one knew what the hell was going on. But I would get a lot of weird looks, that's for sure. My wife has this thing on the computer screen that scrolls through photos from the 25 years we've been together. It always makes me laugh when I see me as Wolverine, because of course it's not the Wolverine hair. I'm generally at a birthday dinner, I'm smiley and like, "Hey!" And with these mutton chops, it looks extra ridiculous. I just, weirdly, got used to it. I know a lot of people think actors are vain, and I guess on some level they are, but my experience is, if you can't let go of it, if you're going to worry about how your hair looks, you're dead. Because every film, the director wants something different. It's never really going to be what you want.
I had to, for The Fountain, shave my head completely. That freaked out my family more than the mutton chops. My daughter was like, "Dad, you really look like you're from something from Lord of the Rings, and not in a good way." So yeah, it was always odd. Then of course, as the movies went on, it did make me a lot more recognizable to people as Wolverine. Because a lot of the time, people don't connect me with the character, particularly for the first four or five years. I actually had an argument in the street, where these two people were literally in front of me arguing, "That's the guy." And the other guy's like, "No, no. That's not the guy." I ended up pulling out my license just to prove that I was the guy, just to finish it.
I would have hated to be the guy who insisted that it wasn't you.
I remember thinking that, too. Like he's going to go, "Wow, dude. Sorry." But he was just looking at me like, "You just really let me down. I can't believe this is what Wolverine really looks like. No."
Jackman getting (very) comfortable in his R.M.Williams ad.
I want to wrap with a logistical question: Do you have any idea what the final upholstery cleaning, the deep clean wipe-down, was after you shot that ad?
By the way, it was pre-pandemic, let me be very clear, when we shot it. I'm just praying that there was no cleaning, that they just burnt it all. The whole set. Just burn the whole set. Either that or some set dresser with a weird fetish, I don't know. But a lot of that ended up being ad libbed. We were laughing a lot. So yeah, I actually never thought... I'm sitting here red-faced thinking, "Oh, that poor set dresser is going to be like, 'Ugh. I'm going to have to hand this back to the rental company somehow.'"
By the way, whatever your brain is thinking of how gross that would be, just add fake tan into that. It gets even worse. Right? Just, you shoot in February, the makeup artist is like, "Dude, we really need to put some color on you. You look like something out of a Benny Hill sketch right now."
It sounds like it was a really fun one to shoot.
Oh, mate. It really was. It's like, when you've just got to go for it. You're there. When you walk on set, no one wants to look at you. They're all looking to the side. Then, before long, we were all just laughing our heads off. Green socks that never stick around. All that sort of stuff.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.