Hugh Jackman is a man who needs no introduction. A movie star and household name, the 44-year-old Australian has earned worldwide fame and renown for a glittering acting career that has included starring roles in several Hollywood blockbusters.
Accolades and honours have rarely been in short supply, and the latest arrived only last week, when Jackman picked up the Golden Icon award at the Zurich film festival. Indeed, it was while in Switzerland for this event that the X-Men, Les Miserables and Wolverine leading man indulged his other major passion in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com.
Jackman explained, in fact, that it was dreams of excelling on the pitch, rather than on stage or on the silver screen, that had captivated him as a youngster. In an animated chat, this patriotic Sydney native also looked forward to the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ and another appearance in the game’s greatest tournament for his beloved Socceroos.
FIFA.com: So, Australia are in the World Cup for a fourth time...
Hugh Jackman: This is not something I was used to. I mean, we grew up watching the World Cup but we always just assumed that Australia would never make it. Over the last few years, the Socceroos have just been incredible and I think it’s great because young people are growing up thinking [qualifying for World Cups] is normal. Success begets success in that respect.
So we can assume you’ll be watching the World Cup in Brazil then?
Oh yeah. To be clear, I’m hoping to be in Brazil for it. I’m one of these people that, when you’re offered things because you’re famous, I’ll say, ‘No, I don’t want that. I’m not interested in that’. But tickets? Yes! Absolutely! Restaurants and tickets for football games, that’s me. I’ll be a wh*** for that, trust me! (laughs)
Is football particularly close to your heart?
I love the World Cup. To me, the Olympics and the World Cup are the purest international competitions out there. I played soccer until I was ten and then I moved on to rugby, but there is something I still find so beautiful about the game. My son is playing the game at the moment and I’m the assistant coach – well, really more the assistant to the assistant – in his soccer team. And, to me, anything that takes place once every four years and that cauldron of pressure that exists with [the World Cup], that’s what inspires me and turns me on.
So let’s say Australia go pretty far but then go out of the tournament. Who would be the next team you would support?
Brazil. I’ve always loved Brazil, although I’m not sure every year I would have supported them. But I can only imagine to a certain degree the pressure that is on the players in that country. I know that sport is like a religion in Australia, but nothing like soccer in Brazil. So for those players to win that World Cup at home, it would make that country so proud. It would change lives. Plus, they have similar colours to my country, so it’s easy to support them!
If you had to choose between Australia winning the World Cup and you winning an Oscar, what would you pick?
Wow. These are good, hard questions! Can I make it easier and say I’m playing for Australia? (laughs) I just want both! No, I expect nothing and everything’s a bonus. It’s easy for me, at my age and having grown up a soccer supporter in Australia, not to expect us to win the World Cup. I think it’s good to be the underdog in every situation.
Wolverine has been one of your most famous roles. Do you think he would have made a good goalie?
No, he’d keep on popping and slashing the ball. Plus, in the comic book, he’s only 5ft 3ins and there aren’t many 5ft 3ins keepers out there. I wouldn’t mind him in the midfield though. He could do some serious damage in there. Messi would be thinking, ‘I might just pass it to someone else. I don’t fancy going up against him.’
And if you had to play for one of the teams at the World Cup, who would it be?
Australia, of course! I’m an Aussie, I grew up playing cricket and rugby, and one of the greatest thrills - and most frightening things - I’ve ever done was to sing the national anthem before a New Zealand-Australia rugby match. I remember standing next to the team and just being there, so close, was a thrill for me. I grew up a real sports nut. All my dreams were not about becoming an actor, but about being able to play for my country in my sport or any sport. The truth is I just wasn’t that good.