The Les Misérables juggernaut, which included a semaine of luncheons, receptions, parties and a glam premiere at the Ziegfeld Theater Monday night, concluded with a glittery Hugh Jackman salute by the Museum of the Moving Image Tuesday night at Cipriani Wall Street.
The Hugh Jackman salute was a star-studded turnout; Anne Hathaway, Liev Schreiber, Deborra-Lee Furness (Mrs. Jackman), Rachel Weisz, Eddie Redmayne, Mike Nichols, The Prestige director Christopher Nolan and Rachel Dratch gave brief speeches to praise Jackman and introduce clips from his many movies.
When I cornered Jackman early in the evening, he said he was “humbled” and “in shock” to be in such illustrious company as past honorees of the Museum of the Moving Image, including Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, Clint Eastwood and Alec Baldwin.
If he was tired, the handsome actor, who looked terrific in a tuxedo and perfectly tousled hair — the Wolverine whiskers are gone — didn’t look it, but credited that to “makeup.” Asked if it was strange to be honored at the relatively young age of 44, he quipped, “I’m 67. Didn’t you know?”
On the red carpet and during speeches, Jackman was called a modern-day Renaissance man, phenomenally talented, and incredibly nice.
On the red carpet Les Miz director Tom Hooper told me Jackman had to audition for his part like everyone else in the cast.
“It was good for them,” he said. For Jackman, it was a three-hour process with his casting director Nina Gold and a musical director. “We met up in New York last May, and it was like one of the biggest thrills in my lifetime to have Hugh Jackman standing right in front of you like that and belting out these songs,” said Hooper. “I realized I had a perfect Valjean, because he showed me that it was possible to reinterpret these songs, keep the power but make it work in the language of the cinema, the close up.”
“I can say I’m very happy to be here saluting him,” Hopper said. “The film wouldn’t have happened without Hugh Jackman. I couldn’t think of anyone else so perfect, with that combination, such a brilliant singer, a true musical theater star, such a brilliant film actor to film star and having the strength to play this character who’s meant to be legendarily strong, yet having the gentleness and kind of grace to play this role.
Hooper added, “He’s such a special guy, and he’s so nice. Fourteen weeks of shooting. Put him in the ocean. Put him up a mountain below freezing. However long hours he worked, however much he has to sing, he’s always gracious with the crew. He’s kind of inspiring. I don’t want to go too far because I’ll sound like I’m gushing, but he’s really kind of an amazing person.”
Anne Hathaway, who plays the tortured Fantine in Les Miz, looked gorgeous in a sparkly Nina Ricci dress. She was the last presenter of the evening and told Jackman it must seem “weird” to him to watch other people entertain him.
“You’re usually the one entertaining us. You’re usually the one singing and dancing like you’re possessed by Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire and the entire rat pack combined.” She added, “I cannot think of anyone else who deserves tonight more.”
Jackman gave a heartfelt and self-deprecating speech. The award the director of the MOMI gave Jackman looked like a gigantic glass sculpture. “Wow! It’s a vase. In Australia we call it something completely different,” Jackman quipped. “It’s just a glass. We would put some beer in it.”
“It is surreal, an overwhelming experience,” Jackman said, as he described the experience of being honored that night.
He noted that he’d just returned from Australia where he filmed The Wolverine (in theaters July 26, 2013), and that he loved being in New York, especially during the holidays. But he really doesn’t want much.
“I’m a pretty low-key guy. I just really want pretty much what I want every year, which is for a movie, with me starring in it, to open up Christmas day.”
He said there was one person he really wanted to thank, and that’s the casting director who got him his first job — the Australian television series Corelli in 1995, where he met his wife, Deborra-Lee. She played the prison psychologist, and Jackman played an armed robber.
“It was ten episodes with the basic theme being lust between the bars,” Jackman said. “I think our characters got it on around episode nine. In real life, it was about episode three. I did try in episode two, but Deborra-Lee had a very strict episode three rule. I respected that,” he deadpanned.
Jackman ended by telling his wife, “I love you with all my heart, and all of this I share with you.”
And then very true to his nice-guy image, Jackman posed for pictures with every well-wisher and guest who asked and was nearly the very last person to leave his glittery salute.