Heat rises, and in Hollywood the process is quick. A hot prospect will often become a major screen force even before the first wrinkles appear on his or her face. So the old guard had better hold on tight. The actors, directors, and executives we have selected Natalie Portman, Hugh Jackman, Fox’s Emma Watts, Memento’s Christopher Nolan, producer Nancy juvonen, and 20 more have proved their mettle and are poised to take command.
Gibson and Crowe were film heroes down under before conquering Hollywood, but 33-year-old Aussie Hugh Jackman sprang straight from the boards: He triumphed as cowboy Curly in Trevor Nunn’s smash 1998 London stage revival of Oklahoma! That’s when Hollywood beckoned, and Jackman buried his dishy looks as the hirsute mutant Wolverine in X-Men. Soon after, his relaxed charisma made a pleasant addition to Someone Like You and Swordfish, and in December’s Kate & Leopold, Meg Ryan plausibly swooned over his courtly, time-traveling aristocrat. Another hit on the scale of X-Men will surely send Jackman into Mel and Russell’s starry stratosphere.
Currently camped out in New York City with his wife, actress Deborra-Lee Furness, and their two-year-old son, Oscar, Jackman has been diving back into theater projects. “I’ve had some time off,” he says. “My wife just directed her first short film, so I’ve been Mr. Mom. Now it’s my turn again. I really felt like getting back on the boards again, so I’m really enjoying it.”
In June Jackman makes his New York stage debut in a Carnegie Hall concert performance of Carousel. “My boy, Bill!” he suddenly croons into the phone, bursting into “Soliloquy,” which he has been rehearsing. “Like a tree he’ll grow, with his head held high …” Jackman is also workshopping a maybe-Broadway-bound production of The Boy From Oz, a musical about the life of Peter Allen. “He was definitely over the top, but he had a great charm about him,” Jackman says of Allen, whom he’s playing. “He’s remembered for sugary teenage ballads and I Go to Rio,’ but in the show you see that his lover died of AIDS. He wrote ‘I Honestly Love You’ to his dying lover.”
Jackman will glue on the furpieces again to shoot the X-Men sequel this summer. He readily admits to wanting movie stardom, but he’s patient. The risky and diverse choices Nicole Kidman has made have been an inspiration to him. “So far I’ve been incredibly lucky,” he says. “John Travolta [his friend and Swordfish costar] said, ‘The success you had in X-Men is not normal.’ As far as I’m concerned, the movies I’ve done have been good. None has bombed, and no executives to my knowledge have lost their jobs. As an actor I get offered increasingly challenging things, and I’m still learning.”
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