It takes a special actor to star opposite giant fighting robots without seeming, well, small and human. That man is Hugh Jackman, who plays a boxing-robot promoter (yes, they exist in the future) in the father-son action drama "Real Steel."
And it takes a special fan to interview Hugh Jackman without blinking an eye. That fan is Rena Jenkins, who entered our Twitter contest and won a chance to chat with Jackman himself. Despite not having any journalism experience, Rena handled the interview like a pro -- in fact, in a lucky coincidence, she was an extra on the set of "Real Steel," so she and Jackman had plenty to talk about.
Read on to find out how Rena got the "Real Steel" star to confess to his "bad parenting" skills, his love for Eminem and what's next on his bucket list.
Good morning! How are you?
I'm very, very well. Very well. Good to talk to you.
Good to talk to you!
Congratulations -- you won a competition, right?
I did, yes, sir. On Twitter.
Do you want to be a journalist?
Actually, you know what? Ironically enough, I'm kind of liking the acting thing. I actually worked on "Real Steel" last year.
You worked on it? What did you do?
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I was [an extra] in the diner scene and Josh [assistant director Josh McLaglen] kicked me out. So I waited outside and never got to come back in, but that was okay.
Oh, really? Well that scene got cut, anyway, from the movie ... We realized we made a mistake not having you in there, and the scene, just without you, didn’t work.
I know. And I guess he forgot my number, so he couldn’t call me. Oh, you know what it was? I cut my hair, so we couldn’t redo the scene. [I did] the hippo scene, too, which leads me to my first question. While working on the hippo scene, I noticed that in between takes you were doing shadowboxing a lot. Have you incorporated boxing into your workout now?
You know what, Rena, I've actually been doing boxing for about four years at a place called Aerospace here in New York, which is a great gym. They train you as if you’re going to be ready for a title fight without being hit in the head. It's perfect.
I was kind of already doing it. Boxing is, to me, one of the great ways to stay fit and you know, supple. You get to use your feet, you get to use your brain. It really keeps you on your toes.
Right. My husband likes to box -- obviously not professionally, thank God. He was a Marine. I don’t know which is better! And he's teaching my son, as well.
It's one of the great tests. Even if you’re shadowboxing, even if you're kind of just hitting the pads and not really hitting each other, it's really tiring. You have no idea how tiring it is until you've been in there. I can’t imagine what it's like to be that tired, and being hit as well.
I'm probably going to say this wrong, but -- I think it's the welterweights, I know it's one of the lightweight ones -- it's amazing how much boxing they do in the ring, and yet you see the heavyweights, how much slower they are and how much more tired they get. I couldn’t do either one of them. It's crazy.
There are a lot of women doing boxing now. Rena, maybe you could [try it out].
You think so? I should just go on down to the Kronk's right there in Detroit and just start it up, huh?
[Laughs] As long as you can go and train and really do it. There's this place I train at; they do a mix of dancing and boxing. Jump rope. Really, I'll tell you what, if you want to drop some pounds, I would say boxing is about the best way to do it.
I have a thinner build, but I want to get in shape. There's a difference. I don't know that people realize that, especially women ... But yeah, maybe what I should do is take up boxing. Now, this movie is a great father-son tale. Did having a son around the age of Max influence you in taking this role?
Yes, but not overtly. It's so fantastic for me to have a movie that I'm in which they can see. And the fact that it's a father-and-son story -- and I've never really played a father on-screen before -- I'm sure that influenced me.
In fact, when I was reading it -- it's a good question -- when I was reading it, I actually read it to my son the first time I read it. I had to read it in one night, I had to read it by the next morning, so, this is bad parenting by the way, I said, "Maybe you want to hear this story, 'Real Steel.'" He's like, "No, I want to listen to 'Tintin.'" And I was like, "Well, let's try this one for a bit," and he wouldn’t let me stop, and then I read it to him every night for the next 10 nights. So I really knew there was something in it. When a kid can listen to a story without seeing any of those cool visuals ... I mean the visuals are pretty amazing in the movie, but without that, he was totally hooked.
Wow, that's really neat. I did see him on set one night. I'm sure you had him on set more times than that, but I saw him on set when we were doing the shopping scene, the night scene.
What location was it in?
At the Renaissance [Center]?
Oh yes, yes, yes, right, got it! Yes, he was on set that night. He came on set a lot. I thought it was because of me -- he was on summer vacation -- but actually he was talking mainly to ... Gosh, really, you did three scenes?
Actually I did four. I was in the zoo scene, too.
Oh my gosh! Okay, yeah he was on set because of Olga Fonda who plays Farra Lemkova, a very, very beautiful Russian girl in the movie. Yeah, I think he took quite a shine to her. And she was very kind. She would talk to him for hours on end.
Awww! So it wasn't for Dad, it was for the girls?
And so it starts.
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During the filming of "Real Steel" I heard that you and director Shawn Levy went to an Eminem concert. There's an Eminem song in the movie, and played in the trailer for "Real Steel." Can we assume that you two are big fans of his?
I think Eminem is extraordinary, and one of the greatest live acts I've ever seen. I'm a real fan of live music, but if I go to a concert and I feel that I'm just getting their CD, basically, played for me, it bores me. I would prefer to just listen to it. But he, Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Dr. Dre: It was one of the most electrifying nights I've ever been a part of. I was actually ushered to this area and I went behind the stage and just watching Dr. Dre get ready to go onstage, it was kind of like watching a prizefighter getting ready for a big fight. There's just so much that they put in to every song. And Eminem, he's just, oh my God, he's just the consummate performer. A professional. And everything comes from an honest place. Comes from his heart. That's what I like about him.
Were there any practical jokes played on you during the filming?
I played a few on Dakota. He was saying to me the other day that he played one on me, but I can't remember it, so it can't have been that good. I can’t think of any offhand ... But I've heard, don’t do a film with Mel Gibson. He is the king. He is the king of practical jokes.
I had not heard that. I had heard Brad Pitt and some other guys. Why is it always guys playing the practical jokes?
Because we're just little boys, basically. We never grow up. And in an actor that's allowed [laughs].
"Real Steel" helped you mark off one of your bucket list items of being in the ring of a WWE event a couple of weeks ago. What would be the next thing you'd like to do on your bucket list?
I've yet to jump out of a plane. I'd like to do that, but the insurance companies don’t like it while I'm filming. As a kid I was very afraid of heights and I cured myself of it, and now I love it.
Well, I think President [George H.W.] Bush was a lot older than you when he first started jumping out of a plane, and then it became a birthday ritual, so there's still plenty of time.
He does it every year on his birthday?
Does he do solo or tandem?
That I'm not sure of. I'd have to Google that one.
A good friend of mine, Nicole Kidman, has done a hundred or two hundred jumps. She's quite into it. She just says there's no better adrenaline rush.
I don’t know if I could do that one. I think I'd have to pass.
Really? Well it's your choice, Rena, you can come out or box. But after today's interview you've got to choose one of the two.
I think I'm going to go for the boxing because it’s on the ground. And I know, keep my hands up. Well, Hugh, I just wanted to thank you very much for your time today, and I wanted to wish you an early happy birthday, and I hope this year brings you lots of love, laughter, and great movies.
You really have done your research, Rena. Thank you first of all for your parts in the film -- I only played one, you played four -- and thanks for the interview. Congratulations on winning the contest. You were very, very good. You could have a future in this business.
Thank you very much sir. Have a great day.
Take care, Rena.
Rena Jenkins currently resides in the Detroit area. She’s married with two children, two stepchildren, one grandchild, two dogs and two cats. She loves watching movies (her all-time favorite is "A Knight’s Tale") and listening to all kinds of music, especially country. She also works part time on movies as an extra.