In my review of The Greatest Showman, I included this aside regarding Hugh Jackman:
“[He’s] technically playing P.T. Barnum, but c’mon…Hugh Jackman is always Hugh ‘I project depth instead of playing depth’ Jackman, which is why we love him.”
Since the piece had already stretched over 1,000 words, I felt it unnecessary to unpack this sentiment, hoping it sufficiently spoke for itself. But after Jamie —one of my wonderful readers (shout-out to Jamie!) — quite fairly pushed back on this generalization, I figured it’d be best to share my explication with all of you, lest anyone doubt my undying love for the Male Wonder from Down Under:
He definitely has a particular sort of talent, one that I do love (as I mention in the piece!). From a completely subjective personal perspective, I just tend to prefer more introspective performers. He seems to access characters externally, easily switching types of roles without really changing his inner essence (which is why he’s so great in Broadway musicals and all the big spectacle movies he almost exclusively stars in). I’m just always aware that I’m watching Hugh Jackman, no matter the part. That can be used effectively in a wiiiiide range of work — for instance, as Barnum! — but I’m not sure he can play a non-theatrical, uber-realistic character.
Then again, he rarely chooses those roles, either because he’s not interested, they’re not offered to him, or he knows the limitations of his own talent (Eddie the Eagle is the closest he’s come recently, but that was more whimsical than realistic). Though I NEVER want him to leave behind the world of musicals, I’d love for him to take a break from superhero land to flex his acting muscles in a more gritty, minimalist, stripped down-and-dirty independent film. I guess his turn in Prisoners would be the closest to that, but there I feel like he’s OVERLY EMOTING to the balcony even though the camera is inches away from his face. As soon as I witness him dial it all the way back, I will issue a formal apology for questioning the depth of his skillset!