Under Suspicion: Q&A with Hugh Jackman
What kind of movie is Scoop?
Hugh Jackman: It’s a smart, funny, and witty comedy, with a couple of dark moments. I’m a huge fan of Woody Allen’s movies, and when I read the script, it kind of reminded me of some of his earlier
comedies. In the plot, Scarlett Johansson and Woody’s characters get a tip that my character might be a serial killer. But my character happens to be a budding politician and the son of a Lord. So he’s
in every way the opposite of a person you might suspect to be a serial killer. The evidence starts to mount, Scarlett’s character starts to fall in love with mine, and it gets very complicated.
Q: What kind of person is your character, Peter Lyman?
HJ: Well, I saw him as someone who you’d find in the pages of Hello! or OK! magazines in England. Unlike American tabloids, these have coverage of the social set, aristocrats and their
offspring. Peter is from a very well-established family; he’s a debonair man about town who dates the latest models.
Q: How does he get involved with Scarlett’s character?
HJ: She gets this tip – from a ghost – that Peter might be a serial killer, and she’s doggedly chasing it; she and Woody’s character try to investigate my character. Peter’s world is quite
stitched up and very formal. When he meets Sondra – although he initially knows her as Jade Spence – he’s completely intrigued by her and a little bit knocked sideways by her. She’s very beguiling, beautiful, spunky, charming, and very forthright. And
dare I say it, he starts to fall in love with her.
Q: Her character sounds like a spunky reporter, from classic movies, who speaks her mind and goes after what she wants.
HJ: The way Scarlett plays her, it is a little bit of a throwback
to those spunky young reporters in old movies.
Q: How did Woody Allen approach you to play Peter?
HJ: I got a phone call from my agent saying that the casting director for Woody Allen wanted to see me – for a movie shooting in England, which seemed odd to me; a Woody Allen movie shooting
in London sounded like a contradiction. I was also told not to be offended if my meeting with Woody only took two minutes. Well, the meeting actually took about three minutes, so it obviously went pretty well laughs He was sort of like, “Well, I’ve got this movie and I know you’ve probably got more important
things to do. But if you want to read it – you probably don’t, but if you do and you like it, then, you know, I’d love you to do it.” And that was pretty much it. It was, and continued to be, easy.
Scoop was one of my favorite film experiences to date.
Q: You worked with him as a director, and as an actor as well –
HJ: laughs “Working with Woody Allen – “ I just love saying that, “Working with Woody Allen…” I did have to pinch myself on several ccasions…Working with him was terrific, because the atmosphere that he creates on set is incredibly easy. It’s very calm, and all of a sudden, at 3:00 in the afternoon, he sends you
home – almost like bankers’ hours.
He doesn’t do a lot of takes; there’s not a lot of rehearsal. I have to kiss Scarlett in this movie – it’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it – and Woody didn’t do a lot of takes of those scenes. However, it was good for when I came home to my wife; “Darling, one take, that’s all it was…” The big problem for me was that Woody likes to ad-lib occasionally, particularly on his lines. He’s fine if you want to
ad-lib something. Of course, every time he ad-libbed, it was funny and it was different – and I found myself laughing, and he’d occasionally get a little upset with me. He’d be like, “No, no, no, please, my character is boorish; he’s not funny.” I said, “But if you keep ad-libbing like that and I’m in the shot, I’m going to
laugh. You’ve got to be a little more boring.”
It was also terrific to watch Woody and Scarlett working together.
They have a unique rapport. I can see why he had asked Scarlett to come back and work with him again after Match Point. They are very funny together on-set, and they made everybody laugh a lot.
Q: How did you find working with her?
HJ: She’s kind of extraordinary, really, because the girl can do anything. On film, she just lights up. On the set, we’d sing together; she can sing like an angel. She can dance, too. Pretty much everyone on the crew had a crush on her. She’s unbelievably down-to-earth, incredibly talented, very poised. There was not a hard day’s work on the entire movie, working with her. I’ve just worked with her again, on a Chris
Nolan movie The Prestige.
Q: With your character part of a mystery, how did you approach the ambiguity of playing him?
HJ: Since the movie is a mystery as well as a comedy, you’re following their relationship and you’re not sure if he really is a killer or not. I’m Australian but I have English parents, and I have spent a lot of time there, and they don’t let you see very much; it takes a long time before you really get to know an
English person. So I wanted to make Peter charming and also a little reserved. That way, he’s a little more enigmatic…and this can keep the audience guessing right to the end.
Q: What was it like shooting in the U.K. with a quintessentially American director?
HJ: He’s beloved over there; the actors that we had on Scoop were incredible. I mean, people would come in for the day that were knighted – Sir this and that. They would come in because they just wanted to work with Woody Allen. He was bowled over. But he said, “I feel bad; all I have to give them is one line.” There’s not a lot of film work that happens in London, and certainly not a lot of films of the caliber of a Woody Allen movie. So, everyone working on it felt privileged and honored.
Q: Did you ever feel like you were looking at London through a fresh pair of eyes?
HJ: Well, Woody doesn’t like direct sunlight when he shoots outside. Direct sunlight can be very harsh; he thinks it makes for a slight ugliness on the actors. So this was the first time that I’ve ever worked in England where everyone would be thrilled when
it was overcast and gray. I don’t know if he’d been setting out sacrifices to the gods, but it was like four weeks of straight cloudy weather with hardly any rain – extraordinary. Normally, people complain a lot there about the weather, but I was around a lot of very happy people.
The whole thing was a real thrill, and a great opportunity. I’m forever grateful for it.