X-Traordinary experience

Hugh Jackman showed up for the interview yesterday afternoon with small wounds on his nose.

"I had basal cell carcinoma, which is the most minor form of skin cancer. I had it taken out," he says.

He has said previously that being of English extraction and growing up in Australia, the threat of skin cancer is an everyday concern for him and other Australians of Northern European descent.

In the morning, he went to a local clinic to have the surgical stitches removed. The doctor opened the clinic for the 45-year-old actor at a very early hour of 6.30am.

"I'm very grateful to him and I've invited him and his staff to the premiere tonight so if you see a whole row asleep, it's probably them," he says at the press meet at The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore.

The premiere is for X-Men: Days Of Future Past, which opens in Singapore next Thursday.

In it, he plays Logan, also known as the indestructible mutant Wolverine, who travels back in time to 1973 to deal with events surrounding a weapons scientist Trask, played by Peter Dinklage, who is also in Singapore, along with Chinese actress Fan Bingbing.

In the movie, she plays the mutant Blink, who has the power of teleportation.

After the clinic visit, the Australian actor dropped in to have breakfast at a Ya Kun Kaya Toast cafe in China Square.

"Singapore is famous for its food, right? I had eggs and kaya toast. I think I had my yearly intake of butter this morning. It was fantastic," he says, grinning.

He walked into the kitchen to thank the crew, who seemed to be puzzled by the fuss over coconut jam and toast, he says with a laugh.

There are a few more X-Men and Wolverine movies left in him, and Jackman admits that it will be tricky to reconcile his own ageing with the fact that the character of Logan seems to stay the same age.

"Some people think he's immortal. He's not, he just heals quickly. He does age, just a lot slower than me," he says.

"It was interesting. We shot the future stuff, where my make-up seemed to take about three minutes," he says.

But for the scenes in which Logan is sent back to 1973, "my make-up seemed to take an hour. It will give you an idea of how hard it was to make me look younger", he says.

"There is a comic book called Old Man Logan and I am rapidly approaching that," he says.

Chinese actress Fan also had to spend time getting the right look. Four hours, to be exact, to look like the comic book character of Blink, the mutant with the ability to teleport across space.

Fan had to sport green contact lenses and red hair, in addition to the skin makeup. "It was very difficult for me," she says.

She had to spend two months in Montreal for the shoot on this, her first major Hollywood studio project in which she appears internationally.

Fan, who is one of China's most popular stars, had a brief appearance playing a nurse in last year's Iron Man 3, but the four-minute sequence, set in China, was spliced into the China-only version of the movie.

To ease her longing for her home in Beijing, she scoured Asian supermarkets for spicy instant noodles, she says.

She has been learning English for about a year now and plans to move to Los Angeles in July, where she will live for half a year, following up on offers that have come in for Hollywood projects.

Reverting to Mandarin, she says that major studios there are now seeing the power of the Chinese market, which gives Asian actresses like her an advantage.

However, the 32-year-old actress was not cast for her ethnic background, she says. She met director Bryan Singer and after 20 minutes, she was confirmed for the part of Blink.

"I asked him why he wanted me, when Blink's character is not Asian. He said that he just wanted someone who could wow the audience. I'm grateful to be given the chance," she says.

Likewise for Dinklage, whose career is white hot now because of his critically acclaimed and widely loved portrayal of antihero aristocrat Tyrion Lannister on the HBO series Game Of Thrones.

The 44-year-old American actor plays the mutant-hating military scientist Bolivar Trask in the new movie and is grateful that both his television and movie productions had modified their schedules to factor in his needs.

"We shot X-Men in Montreal, Canada, and I shot right up till the time I had to leave for Ireland to do Game Of Thrones. It's more the powers that be.

"You tell them clearly how much you want to do these projects and they have to figure it out... These are two massive projects, so it's incredible that they are able to accommodate my schedule," he says.

As Trask, he gets to use his real American accent, but on his hugely popular HBO series, he uses a plummy English one. While he has been in a few films, most notably the award-winning drama The Station Agent (2003), most fans know him from his current cables series and many assume that he is British.

This leads to situations in which some people look surprised when he opens his mouth, he says, miming the expression of shock. "The nicest thing is when British people do that. I take that as a compliment.

"It means I'm doing something right," he says.

He is not the sort of actor who stays in character, still using the character's accent, in between takes - "not like Daniel Day-Lewis", he says, referring to the actor's legendary habit of never breaking character even during shooting breaks.

"Obviously, it works for him, but I would feel self-conscious. And on the TV show, almost everyone is British, so to be having lunch with them still using that accent, they'd say: 'Are you making fun of us now?'"

This article was published on May 15 in The Straits Times.

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