Hugh Jackson's all the rave in 'Leopold'

Posted: January 04, 2002

In his new movie, "Kate & Leopold," Hugh Jackman plays a 19th-century aristocrat who winds up wooing Meg Ryan and dispensing lessons in chivalry in modern-day New York. The movie has been receiving middling response from critics and audiences, but Jackman's performance has garnered nothing but raves. In addition to the best-actor Golden Globe nomination he recently nabbed, the 33-year-old Jackman has women of all stripes gushing about his gallantry.

Example: Film critic Carrie Rickey of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote in less a movie review than a mash note that "the irresistible force that is Hugh Jackman . . . swept me off my seat and into the movie. Not since Denzel Washington in 'Mississippi Masala' has the alchemy of actor and character reduced me to a puddle of desire."

Unfortunately for Rickey and women all over the planet, Jackman has been married to actress Deborra-Lee Furness for five years and is impossibly happy, calling his wife "by far the best thing" in his life. The two are so loving and romantic toward each other that Jackman says they "supply buckets to people we meet because we are vomitinducing."

That doesn't stop Jackman's female co-stars from effusively praising him. Halle Berry, who bared her soul (among other things) to Jackman in "Swordfish," calls him "one of the kindest men" she has ever met. Ryan says he's a "doll, a real gentleman," and Ashley Judd ("Someone Like You") believes him to be "the kind of man that every mother would want her daughter to marry."

Ever desperate to find out what women want, we spent some time with Jackman recently to see what all the fuss was about. While we didn't see any women melting into puddles, we did encounter a charming man, sincere in his beliefs and quick to poke fun at himself.

Q: So, let me just begin by saying that, on behalf of men the world over, I hate you. Maybe not you personally, but this Leopold guy. He's just way too good to be true.

A: Yes, you should warn men in your article to do something romantic before going to this movie. Otherwise, there might be some trouble.

Q: You didn't find him to be a bit of a fairy-tale?

A: I don't think Leopold was very abnormal for his time. It certainly seems fairy-tale-like in the present day, but I think that's the beauty of it because his behavior doesn't feel contrived at all. He isn't being manipulative. Chivalry is just part of his life, an art form that he practices to make people feel great and important and loved. It's definitely an art that's gone.

Q: You're nothing like Leopold?

A: He sets the bar too high for me. My wife's like, "Where's Leopold? Leopold wouldn't have left the toilet seat up!"

Q: Well, it's good to know that you're suffering from your art. But having talked to people who know you, I know you're a sucker for romance and sincerity.

A: OK, you've found me out. But I think that's a nice message from the movie: Sincerity works. It may not be as cool, but ultimately, sincerity will win, don't you think?

Q: What other lessons did you learn from playing Mr. Chivalry?

A: I had to take etiquette classes twice a day for an hour at a time so I could behave like an aristocrat. I learned how to walk upstairs, sit, dance, eat, bow. And the classes were a bit like a meditation. Life slowed down, even when I wasn't trying to be Leopold. Everything was a bit more relaxed, and I liked that.

Q: Your wife must have been thrilled that you learned how to ballroom dance.

A: My wife and I are actually into tango. We've done salsa dancing together, too.

Q: Men who are reading this are going to start to hate you again.

A: (Laughs) I can't help it. It's great. Tango is wonderful because my wife has actually broken her ankle and it often swells up. But tango is really slow and a lot more gentle. Bloody sexy, too. That's why you see men in their mid-50s at these tango clubs and they have drop-dead gorgeous babes on their arms. More men should consider that as a vocation.

Q: As long as you're dispensing advice, any other tips?

A: Surprise is the key - that and effort. The big ones - birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas - you've got to do something different. Women remember what happened the year before, and if it looks like you're putting in less effort, they're not going to be happy. So you've got to do something a little different. And I like that. Romance is about surprise and creativity and thought. And it doesn't have to cost a lot of money, either.

Q: OK. What did you do for your last anniversary? It was your fifth, right?

A: It was and, unfortunately, I had a night shoot. So my wife went out on a date with my leading lady. Meg took her out to dinner. The next morning, I got home at 7:30, and we went out to breakfast and, of course, there were flowers and presents and the whole thing. But I was so tired, I was kind of nodding off. There wasn't any wild lovemaking going on. It won't be a tough one to top next year.

Q: Give me an example of something you will have a hard time topping.

A: Once on Deb's birthday, I bought 300 roses and about 100 helium balloons. During the night, I tied the roses to the balloons, creating this Neverland of roses hanging about the house. It was gorgeous. I also wrote "I love you" with roses on the mirror.

Q: What about those of us who can't afford to buy 300 roses or who wouldn't dare tie 300 roses to helium balloons for fear of pricking our fingers on the thorns and bleeding all over the living room carpet? Is there anything that we can do?

A: Like I said, it doesn't have to be about money. Women will always respond to a bit of effort. I remember once my wife went away on a job for two days. I had just moved into a rented house and the back yard was a complete mess. So I had the weekend off and I started in on the gardens, spending 15 hours a day, both of those days, cleaning up and planting flowers. The look on her face when she saw it. ...

Q: Let me guess - good?

A: Every time we sat out there, I felt like a real man because I had built this garden. It was only two days of work but we got infinite pleasure out of it. *

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