LONDON - THE biggest misconception people may have of Australian hunk Hugh Jackman is that he's a gym rat. After all, he has one of the best bodies in Hollywood.
Being in tip-top shape plays an important part in portraying his famous big screen alter ego Wolverine, a role he's reprising for the fifth time in the new spin-off The Wolverine. The comic book mutant superhero made his debut in the blockbuster movie X-Men (2000).
It opens here on July 25.
But pumping iron on a regular basis in real life isn't necessarily the case for Jackman, 44.
The Oscar-nominated actor told The New Paper during a press junket at London's Corinthia Hotel last week: "I used to work in a gym for four years, but I never lifted a weight once. I used to go and do those circuit classes, which I enjoy doing because I used to play rugby and it was like rugby training."
"I like being fit, I like swimming in the ocean, but I used to look at these guys coming in for three hours a day, spend two hours in (front of) the mirror flexing their biceps, and I used to laugh and say 'you guys are idiots' over the loudspeakers. Trust me, I wish I could play tennis and get the Wolverine body, but you just can't, I'm sorry."
So work out he did, as well as adhere to a diet of chicken breast, fish and vegetables.
In The Wolverine, the titular anti-hero - along with his bulging muscles - travels to Japan, where he battles deadly samurai as well as his inner demons.
Jackman even went so far as to seek the advice of former US wrestling superstar-turnedactor Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, 41, when it came to bulking up and getting ripped.
He said: "He told me to eat 6,000 calories a day, train for three hours a day - two hours in the morning and an hour in the afternoon, and he said, 'you need time, you need a minimum of six months if you want to achieve the results you want', because I wanted to put on about 25 pounds (11kg) of lean muscle."
"I really started 18 months before, but then I got (the role in movie musical) Les Miserables, so somewhere in that period I had to lose a lot of weight for that, but I kept training through it, as soon as I started eating again, it came back quite quickly."
Jackman has proven to be a versatile actor who can go from something as physical as The Wolverine to Les Miserables, for which he received a Best Actor nomination at this year's Academy Awards for playing conflicted ex-con Jean Valjean, a role that he had coveted for years.
"I like challenging myself physically. It's probably a mixture of curiosity, of how far you can go and how far you can push yourself, what you can achieve. There's a great sense of satisfaction of doing something out of your comfort zone."
"Either you succeed or not, that's a good way to live life and that's how I try to teach my kids to live life, and not just stay within the things that you're comfortable with," said the Sydney native in his heavy Australian accent.
New X-Men movie
Jackman and his wife of 17 years, Deborra-Lee Furness, are parents to two adopted children, 13-year-old Oscar and eight-year-old Ava.
He is now in the process of filming his seventh outing as Wolverine in X-Men: Days Of Future Past, the most times an actor has played a comic book hero.
He said he still loves his job and that his life hasn't really changed much, despite rising from an unknown to become the third highest-paid actor in Hollywood in a recent Forbes 2013 ranking.
He reflected: "I think it helps being 30 when you get your first job, because by that point, I was married and a lot of my life was settled."
"When you're 30, you have a very different perspective than when you're 18 on everything in life. Most of the mistakes and stupid things that you do are when you're younger than 30 hopefully, so I didn't have to do any of that in the public eye. No one ever is particularly interested in my private life because it's pretty boring."
"Weirdly, it hasn't sort of happened overnight rapidly. After the first X-Men, no one recognised me on the street; I had X-Men fans arguing among themselves if I was the guy. I had to pull out my driver's licence at one point because these two people were making a scene. People had no idea, so it felt more gradual than for some."
US director James Mangold, who helms The Wolverine, had worked with Jackman on the 2001 romantic comedy Kate & Leopold and said in a separate interview with The New Paper that Jackman is still the same man, albeit much improved.
The 49-year-old added: "The wonderful news about him - and I'm sure you can guess the answer - is that very little has changed or is different about him. It is wonderful to work with him again; I hope to do it again before too long."
"I think he has got even better. I always thought he was great, but I think he's becoming a better, stronger and more confident actor."
"But he is still an incredibly gracious, loving and incredible human being who loves the people he's working with. I think part of it is he's a really good guy right down to the cellular level."
"I also think he became successful a little later in life than some actors, in the sense he was kind of a starving actor in his 30s when attention started to go to him. He wasn't one of these people who had been a star since they were 16 years old, and I think that affects a man."
"I think he has real friends and relationships and his feet are on the ground and I think that makes him a better actor and a better man."
Being a good father to his two precious children is also an important aspect of Jackman's life. Even coping with the paparazzi becomes a life lesson worth imparting.
He said in a warm, fatherly manner: "I wish for my children that they could have the privacy. As I say to them, this kind of paparazzi attention will go at some point, that shouldn't define your life."
"What should define your life are the things that are there forever, you got to find a way to deal with it. You don't flip the bird at them because there will be 10 more tomorrow, try and ignore it as much as you can. And I apologise to them, but I don't want it to define who they are, they should just live their life normally."
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