Hugh Jackman is eating tuna while he talks. Since he is a gentleman, he apologises if it turns Men’s Health’s stomach. Since he is a professional, he does not offer to stop. It has to be done. Maintaining his sought-after shape requires regular attention, mainly in the form of lean protein every couple of hours. “I struggle to keep weight on,” he says between mouthfuls. Jackman’s training diet demands he turns 6,000kcals per day into hard muscle. It isn’t easy.
It’s this kind of immersive approach to preparation that has earned Jackman one of the most recognisably solid physiques in the world. For the 2011 film Real Steel, a movie set in the future world of robot boxing in which Jackman stars as a human ex-boxer turned trainer and promoter, Jackman needed to move and throw punches like a veteran of the ring. To do so, he spent months working with Michael Olijade Jr, a New York trainer who once fought for a world super-middleweight title. Then he polished his technique with one of boxing’s all-time pound-for-pound greats – Sugar Ray Leonard.
His dedication has made him into a true all-rounder – athletic enough to pass for an ex-fighter, fit enough to perform a one-man musical show night after night. (“It makes you fitter than doing the Tour de France,” he says.) And he’s strong enough to return, every 18 months or so, to his most famous, muscle-clad character of all: Wolverine.
Jackman found that a temporary switch to boxing training is one of the biggest favours you can do your body. “It involves strength and cardio,” he says. “I don’t think there’s anything more tiring than boxing. It makes you feel amazing.”
He avoided having his looks rearranged in the ring – though he concedes he may have had a few favours from his sparring partners, too honourable to give a proper pasting to a man who trades on his face. “I’ll absolutely know my career is over when I go in for a boxing session and get the shit beaten out of me, and the other guy won’t care,” Jackman says, laughing.
That gentle approach changed when he sparred with former five-weight world champion Sugar Ray Leonard. “I was a little starstruck,” says Jackman, who found the legendary Leonard a stickler for detail and boxing technique. “He hit me harder than anyone, and if he saw a camera around, those punches became a lot harder.”
Yet for all the technical training Jackman did for Real Steel, he was not aiming for the ripped torso he is not sporting for The Wolverine. He could afford to let his nutrition slip. “I was about 10lb heavier than I normally would be,” he says. “It was kind of nice to have a beer now and again.”
Ahead of The Wolverine, by contrast, Jackman’s nutrition plan was strict and voluminous, his cardio sessions so intense he describes them as “the worst seven minutes of your life”, and his weights so heavy he could barely shift them. Just watch his fifth feat as the man with the adamantium claws to see whether it paid off.