Hugh Jackman reveals how Denis Villeneuve pushed him to another level in 'Prisoners'

Posted by · 9:21 pm · September 9th, 2013

TORONTO – One of the more intense scenes in Denis Villeneuve well respected new thriller “Prisoners” features stars Hugh Jackman, Terrence Howard and Paul Dano.  And it’s a visceral, cinematic moment you’ll likely remember the rest of the year.

Blue collar family man Keller (Jackman) has kidnapped local misfit Alex (Dano), a person of interest in the disappearance of both Keller and Franklin’s daughters that was set free by the police.  Keller takes matters into his own hands believing Alex is the best hope in finding his daughter.  Franklin (Howard) is appalled at Keller’s actions, but is torn because every hour the girls are missing means there is a greater chance they will never be found alive.  Thus begins an incredibly disturbing and abusive interrogation. It’s parallels to terrorist interrogations notwithstanding, this sequence is one reason the thriller is affecting some critics more than you would have originally thought it woudl.

During an interview with Jackman late last week during this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, I last year’s best actor nominee about one particular moment in the interrogation where Keller completely loses it. You’ve seen Jackman throw down some “Wolverine rage” before, but he’s never been anywhere near as ferocious as he is in this one particular scene. Watch the video embedded above to hear what Villeneuve said to him after his first take and then what happened next.

During our chat Jackman also admitted that if the director of the Oscar-nominated “Incendies” wasn’t chosen to direct he might not have taken the role.

“I had been offered it and it had been circling for awhile. [But] I didn’t sign on until Denis came on board,” Jackman says. “Because the movie is part genre movie. There is that element of thriller, edge of your seats, the cop finding the kid and the father. It was always in the script. It was always complex and great but I knew it needed a director of the same kind of mentality and style to bring not only the genre element of it out but the high ambition of the dramatic element.”

“Prisoners” also benefits from the expert lensing of the one and only Roger Deakins. Jackman’s eyes lit up when talking about the legendary cinematographer.  

“This movie is so stylish without making it ‘Look how stylish we are!’ Everything supports the story,” Jackman says. “That’s what’s so great about Roger. He’s by far the most famous. He has been nominated 10 times for an Academy Awards. He’s the most humble guy. Everything is in service to the story. Nothing is about ‘Look at me! Look at what I’m doing with the camera.’  Nothing.”

Jackman adds, “The day he was nominated or his 10th Oscar nomination I got my first Oscar nomination.  And I remember walking up to him on the first day of shooting and saying, ‘Man, look at that. Between you and me it’s 11 nominations.’  He’s like ‘I don’t think I’ll go.’ He’s like the humblest guy.”

Either could be nominated this year for “Prisoners” on the merits of the work, but both are in very competitive categories. That being said, the collaboration between Villeneuve, Jackman and Deakins (not to mention Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis and Howard) should put “Prisoners” near the top of your must-see list for September.

“Prisoners” opens nationwide on Sept. 20.

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