Who ever could have guessed that a top-selling musical artist of 2018 would be none other than Hugh Jackman?
Every musical fan knows about The Greatest Showman by now. After all, it was the musical film event of 2017, and its sales launched it up to the number three spot on Box Office Mojo’s list of highest-grossing musical films of all time. Whether or not you thought the film was good, it made serious bank at the box office, and we’ve heard “This Is Me” at grocery stores countless times over the past several months.
A big part of the reason for The Greatest Showman’s whopping success is, without a doubt, Hugh Jackman. Not only did he turn in a warm, enjoyable performance filled with an earnest enthusiasm that bounced off the screen, but he also was the one who made this movie happen in the first place! Jackman has mentioned multiple times that he had to actively campaign for years for a musical film about P.T. Barnum to be made, because in today’s world of popular content, musical films are, according to major studios, a hard sell. Surely Universal was changing their tune after they saw the way Hugh’s passion project enthused audiences, right?
Well, that remains to be seen.
However, I do think it’s worth noting that Hugh Jackman, a major movie star with a wide, devoted fanbase, was able to use his influence to bring another musical to the screen, and that that film ended up doing as well as it did at the box office. This move sets a precedent for the kinds of films people will want to see in the future; with more The Greatest Showman levels of hype with film releases, musicals could become a mainstream enjoyment again, not just a scrap thrown on the table for devoted musical theatre fans to devour once every year or so. And Hugh using his superstardom to bring us more movie musicals is why I think this trend has a possibility of becoming a reality.
Hugh Jackman is a special kind of movie star. While he had his start performing in musicals on the stage, he first emerged in the pop culture spotlight as an action star with his lengthy turn as Wolverine, ensuring that the general public would grow to know the name “Hugh Jackman” as one of many comic book superhero enactors. In fact, it wasn’t until Les Misérables in 2012 that Hugh appeared on the big screen in a musical role, and by that point, the Average Joe was shocked and impressed that “Wolverine” had the ability to sing so well! Being a true triple threat, he successfully bridged the colliding worlds of “action” and “musical” together, and his name being surprisingly attached to Jean Valjean convinced many who otherwise wouldn’t want to see a musical to open their minds to a new genre.
I think the reason why Hugh specifically works so well as a “savior” of movie musicals is that he not only has the raw skill to pull a musical off, but he also clearly has the passion for it. Many Hollywood actors see the rare musical as “just another paycheck,” or simply a chance to scoop up awards when critics see how impressive it is that a star was able to take singing lessons after signing on for a role. Hugh, however, shows plainly with his performances that he truly, deeply loves the work. He enjoys putting his triple threat skills to action, and he relishes in the chance to replicate some of that stage musical charm in his onscreen appearances. The result is an infectious performance that invites audiences to have “in” on the fun. Indeed, X-Men fans see that Wolverine is having the time of his life dancing in a circus tent, and he does such a great job with it that they end up having a fantastic time, too.
Hollywood could use more actors like Hugh Jackman. Musical films have a chance of becoming majorly popular again if we see more movie stars with true triple threats shamelessly promoting their love for the genre, because their push to star in more of these films will end up bringing in an array of audiences who may not otherwise be exposed to musicals. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to discuss the latest musical film with regular people at work or school? If The Greatest Showman’s success is any indication, this may be in our near future.