9 Milestones in the Evolution of Hugh Jackman

In this weekend's Real Steel, Hugh Jackman stars as a boxing promoter who bonds with his estranged son over a junkyard robot that they train towards a fictional, futuristic boxing championship. So just how did an amnesiac prisoner on an Australian television series transform into a Tony and Emmy Award-winning movie star?

You can always trace a direct line through a few important roles to illustrate what led to an actor's current success. As such, let's look at nine pivotal performances that track the evolution of Hugh Jackman.

Correlli (1995)

As the youngest of five children growing up in Sydney, Hugh Jackman enjoyed acting as a pastime but did not consider it a legitimate career until after graduating from the city's University of Technology with a BA in Communications in 1991. The actor spent the next three years studying acting full-time at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts before getting his big break down under -- a role in the short-lived drama television series Corelli. Jackman played Kevin Jones, a brooding prisoner with a mysterious past that even he can't remember (because of the amnesia, naturally). While the series only lasted ten episodes, the actor's marriage to his Correlli co-star Deborra-Lee Furness continues today.

X-Men (2000)

After gaining recognition outside of Australia for his work in the Royal National Theatre's acclaimed production of Oklahoma!, Jackman landed his first U.S. film role as the Marvel superhero Wolverine in Bryan Singer's high profile X-Men adaptation. But the role did not come easily. Singer's first choice was reportedly Russell Crowe. When he was not available, the filmmakers considered Aaron Eckhart, Viggo Mortensen, Keanu Reeves and Edward Norton. Finally, Dougray Scott was cast but had to drop out because of Mission: Impossible II scheduling conflicts...leaving the mutant space open for Jackman three weeks into shooting. The summer blockbuster grossed nearly $300 million worldwide and served as Jackman's formal introduction to the U.S.

Kate & Leopold (2001)

Following X-Men, Jackman proved to American audiences that he could play more than a rugged mutant whose fists sprout blades with the fluffy Ashley Judd rom-com Someone Like You..., the John Travolta crime-thriller Swordfish (better remembered for Halle Berry's topless scene) and Kate & Leopold, the James Mangold rom-com that featured Jackman as a 19th century duke who time travels to present-day New York and falls in love with Meg Ryan. The film earned Jackman his first (and only) Golden Globe nomination and Miramax a respectable $76 million.

The Boy From Oz (2004)

After sealing his stateside popularity with a hosting gig on Saturday Night Live, Jackman found his way back to the stage in 2004 for his Tony Award-winning performance in the jukebox musical The Boy From Oz. Jackman's portrayal of Australian songwriter and performer Peter Allen also earned him a Drama Desk Award and coincided with his three-year Tony Award hosting streak in 2003, 2004 and 2005, for which he won an Emmy Award, meaning that the actor was halfway towards the elusive entertainment award grand slam EGOT.

Van Helsing (2004)

Later that year, Jackman secured his movie stardom with the leading role in Universal's mega-blockbuster horror film Van Helsing. Jackman played the titular vigilante monster hunter who is sent to Transylvania to stop Count Dracula from using Dr. Frankenstein's research for malign purposes. The $160 million film grossed over $300 million worldwide proving that Jackman was a bankable lead even in spite of mixed critical reviews.

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