Hugh Jackman talks 'Real Steel,' robot-boxing and why he loves all … –

Where else would a fabulously handsome, ridiculously successful, endlessly charming Hollywood heartthrob choose to spend his spare time but in Cleveland watching wrestling?
Hugh at the Q.
Perpetual knee-weakener Hugh Jackman brought his 1,000-watt smile to Quicken Loans Arena for a WWE Monday Night Raw event and got in on some of the rough-and-tumble gags for the packed house and viewers on USA Network. That was two weeks ago. But the purpose of his visit was to promote the Aussie's newest project, which comes out this Friday, Oct. 7: "Real Steel."
"This is my first time in Cleveland," he said. "I'm excited to be here. It's a big sports town, I know."
We were talking back stage (or is it back court?) in a room in the lower level of the Q before his appearance. The star of "Australia," "The Prestige" and multiple "X-men" movies, is tall, fit and graceful. No wonder he can sing, dance, host the Oscars and beat up bad guys with those Wolverine claws.
"Real Steel," which co-stars Evangeline Lilly and Dakota Goyo, is set in the near future. Jackman plays Charlie Kenton, a washed-up boxer who manages a new wave of eight-foot steel robot boxers. It's also a father-son story of redemption and second chances. The adorable, 11-year-old Goyo plays Charlie's long-neglected son.
What's the old saying, never work with children and animals because they'll steal every scene? What about children and robots?
"Robots are good because they don't eat any of the catering," quipped Jackman. "And this kid is unlike any other kid I've seen in Hollywood. He's very polite, quiet, an old soul, and a great actor. What was weird was after about three months, I turned to the director, Shawn Levy, and said, 'Man, I haven't been annoyed once by this fellow. I have an 11-year-old, and almost every day they're annoying at some point. So it was a great working experience, and I'm fully signed up to have scenes stolen."
Part of Charlie's routine involves boxing for the robots to mimic, and Jackman already engages in regular boxing training as a workout regimen. "I'll tell you, man, it keeps you fit, strong, flexible, but it's really about your feet. It's dancing. Dancing with being smacked around the head."
For "Real Steel," the filmmakers enlisted the help of a legend: Sugar Ray Leonard. "When Sugar Ray Leonard came on board, he said, 'My name is attached to this and I want to make sure you don't make me look bad.' So we made sure we go it right."
The human mock-fighters were joined by an assortment of automatons that look remarkable in the finished film.
"There is no CGI in this movie," said Jackman. "If you see a robot in this movie that is not walking or fighting, that's a real robot, fully operational, with a remote control. The rest was done with motion-capture, so we were usually acting opposite guys in ridiculous green pajamas with the electrodes all over. It used to always be green-screens and maybe you would get a tennis ball on the end of a stick and that was supposed to be the monster or whatever. But there are no green-screens in this movie at all. This is the technology used in 'Avatar.' It's all gone to the next level."
The downside for an actor is getting lost in all the clanging electronics. "Real Steel" is already being dubbed the "Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots movie." But Jackman was not intimidated.
"A movie about robot boxing in itself wouldn't be enough to draw me into it as an actor. But the special effects here are more in service to the story. It more reminded me of those movies I loved growing up, 'Rocky,' 'Chariots of Fire,' 'The Champ,' these kind of rousing, underdog stories. I'm a sucker for 'em."
Jackman, who turns 43 later this month, loved "Rocky" because it's the kind of movie that gets you jumping out of your seat. "I probably saw every one of those movies ten or 15 times. I know the critics didn't like 'Rocky IV.' I still like 'IV' — 'I am Drago, I will break you!' — I can still hear it. I was right in the zone for those. I'm a big sports fan.'
Which brings us back to the Q and the screaming thousands getting psyched for the bash-fest. Even though Jackman's next projects include a one man Broadway show that opens on Oct. 25, and playing Jean Valjean in the film version of the smash musical "Les Miserables," he has wrestling-fanboy roots.
"Here's the deal," Jackman explained. "When I was 17, 18, I watched some of these guys, Hulk Hogan, King Kong Bundy. My mates and I bought tickets and went to see them in Sydney when they brought the WWF stars there. It was WWF back then. I was a huge fan. I got so into the theater of it. It was fun."
So he was jazzed to be a part of it in Cleveland.
"I know, in terms of my mates growing up, forget hosting the Oscars. This is it. Now I've made it."
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