Hugh Jackman takes backseat in Eddie The Eagle, and gets happy over kaya

While superstar Hugh Jackman takes on a supporting role in the film Eddie The Eagle, British hunk Taron Egerton sheds his sexy image to play a dorky athlete

Australian actor Hugh Jackman is a Hollywood A-lister who could easily get by acting in just one major blockbuster movie each year.

The triple threat - he is also a Broadway actor who sings and dances - is instantly recognisable wherever he goes and is among the highest-paid actors in the world, making more than US$23 million (S$31.5 million) last year, according to Forbes magazine.

So what is the 47-year-old doing in a supporting role as a washed-up ski jumping coach in a relatively modest movie such as his latest flick Eddie The Eagle, which is not even Oscar bait?

  • Kaya treat for Wolverine

  • Whenever Hugh Jackman talks about Singapore, he cannot help raving about kaya toast, the sweet coconut jam treat which he fell in love with during a press trip here two years ago, to promote the movie X-Men: Days Of Future Past.

    He had visited a Ya Kun Kaya Toast outlet and tweeted about the "awesome Singapore style" breakfast he had.

    At this interview in Seoul to promote his new movie Eddie The Eagle, his face lights up immediately and he offers profuse thanks when The Straits Times gives him a jar of kaya.

    Next to him, a bewildered Dexter Fletcher, his Eddie The Eagle director, blurts out: "What is that?"

    Instantly, the actor gushes: "It's this jam spread that you can eat in Singapore with toast and a very, very thick slab of butter. It's just delicious."

    Given that he has to get back soon into his famously gruelling training regimen for his final role as superhero Wolverine, this reporter asks if he will allow himself the sugar-laden treat.

    He says with a grin: "Don't worry. Even Wolverine has cheat days."

It turns out superstardom as a superhero - The X-Men's Wolverine - has not dimmed his passion for good, old-fashioned acting.

"I just try to go with my gut feeling for these things. I'm always interested in doing different kinds of movies and when the script moves me, I want to do it," he says.

"I have learnt that if you go in with your gut feeling, that even if the film doesn't work out, or you don't pull it off, it's easy to live with.

I have learnt that if you go in with your gut feeling, that even if the film doesn't work out, or you don't pull it off, it's easy to live with. It's when you go against your gut feeling... and it doesn't work out, then you kick yourself.

HUGH JACKMAN, on taking up a small role in the low-key film, Eddie The Eagle

"It's when you go against your gut feeling, or someone convinces you to do something else, and it doesn't work out, then you kick yourself."

If a fake moustache is the most uncomfortable part of your job, then I would say that it was probably a good job.

HEART-THROB TARON EGERTON, who plays an awkward and goofy ski jumper

That intuition has paid off here somewhat, given the mostly positive reviews that Eddie The Eagle has received so far in the United Kingdom and at the Sundance Film Festival in the United States in January.

Helmed by British actor-turned- director Dexter Fletcher, 50, the new movie is based on the real-life story of Michael "Eddie" Edwards, the first ski jumper to represent Britain at the Olympic Games when he competed in 1988 in Calgary, Canada.

Although the athlete, now 52 and retired from the sport, was not particularly talented at the sport and, in fact, placed last at the games, the media and public lauded him for representing the classic heroic underdog and his never-say- die attitude.

In the film, Jackman plays Edwards' mentor, a fictional American ski jump coach named Bronson Peary, said to be an amalgam of all of the athlete's former instructors.

Much like his character in the movie role, Jackman comfortably takes a backseat during this interview with The Straits Times, relinquishing the spotlight to rising star Taron Egerton, the young British actor who plays the titular character.

Egerton, 26, became a heart- throb overnight after starring in the hit action movie Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014), in which he played a slick secret agent.

His part of Edwards here could not be more different, though - so awkward and goofy is he, he has a protruding underbite, an unkempt moustache and dorky glasses.

He says: "I didn't get to cling on to too much sexiness as Eddie, as you can see in the movie.

"But it was an incredibly fun and dynamic part to play. The underbite wasn't even uncomfortable. If anything, it was the facial fuzz on my face that was uncomfortable because it wasn't real.

"But if a fake moustache is the most uncomfortable part of your job, then I would say that it was probably a good job."

Underbite or no, one less-than- hunky film role is hardly going to take away his glory of being listed as one of Wales' Sexiest Men in 2014 by website Wales Online.

"I think I was 13th on the list, but I'm going to take that," he says with a chuckle about the list that was topped by The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug (2013) actor Luke Evans, 36.

Hearing this, Jackman, People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive in 2008, says in jest: "I have to give Taron a lot of advice on how to move up. Thirteenth? That's just embarrassing."

So, what is the trick to moving up the ranks to becoming the world's sexiest then?

"It's all about the publicist," Jackman replies with a laugh.

After 22 years in the business, it is clear that the veteran is still loving every bit of his job.

Well known for being one of Hollywood's nicest guys, he is patient and game in every media interview that he does, even after long days of back-to-back sessions where he is essentially answering the same questions over and over again.

He makes earnest eye contact with his interviewer when he speaks, after pondering every question carefully.

The actor, who is married to Australian actress Deborra-Lee Furness, 60, and has two children, certainly does not take anything for granted, despite his immense success.

He says: "I find that I love acting more and more as I go on. There are so many brilliant actors who are unemployed. I'm very blessed to have had the opportunities that I've been given.

"I'm blessed that I can go between theatre and movies, and doing action films, but also different movies like this one. I'm more confident as I go along and I think I'm having as much fun as I've ever had."

Being at the top of his game also means knowing when to quit the hugely profitable X-Men film franchise, where he has played popular brooding superhero Wolverine five times from 2000 to 2014.

His sixth assignment in the role in the as-yet-untitled 2017 Wolverine film will be his last, he has said.

"I just couldn't think that I could add any more to the part of Wolverine or have something else to say about the character that was different.

"I'm excited about this last movie, but it also just feels like the right time to move on. Next year, I would have played the same role for 17 years and that's more than I could have ever dreamt of," he says.

Maybe he is putting away those superhero claws on the big screen because he has been doing some heroic rescuing in real life.

Just three days ago, he reportedly saved an adult man and his young daughter from a strong riptide at Sydney's Bondi Beach.

So it may be enough for him for now that he is enjoying his time working with younger stars such as Egerton, who he says has an "amazing, amazing singing voice".

One of the tracks that play during the end credits of Eddie The Eagle, Thrill Me, by British singersongwriter Gary Barlow, is, in fact, sung by Egerton and backed by Jackman.

Jackman says: "We used to muck about on set between takes, singing all the time. Taron has an encyclopaedic knowledge of lyrics, even for songs from my era, which is awesome."

They love to sing together so much that they say that if there ever was an Olympic sport that they could invent, it would be the musical.

"I would love to do a musical with Taron. That really should be a sport," says Jackman.

Egerton laughs and says to him: "Olympic-level singing. I guess it's Olympic level when you do it, but I'm not sure about myself."

Jackman quips: "Hey, if there are such Olympic sports as curling, I don't see why we can't have musical singing as a sport."

•Follow Yip Wai Yee on Twitter @STyipwaiyee

•Eddie The Eagle opens in cinemas tomorrow.

Hugh Jackman on working with rising star Taron Egerton. Goto http://str.sg/ZvTc

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2016, with the headline 'Jumping at a different role'. Print Edition | Subscribe