In Prisoners, there is no rest for Hugh Jackman
TORONTO—There’s a moment in the recently released Prisoners in which Hugh Jackman’s character of Keller Dover—whose child is missing and presumed abducted—and Jake Gyllenhaal’s Det. Loki meet in Loki’s car. Dover, a long-time sober alcoholic, clutches a bottle of booze. It’s a tense scene, bringing together two men who have different ideas of how to get the same result.
In Prisoners (now playing), Jackman’s guilt-wracked father goes after a man he suspects has information about his daughter. The Australian native, speaking at a news conference during the recent Toronto International Film Festival, said he believes that scene with Gyllenhaal was vital in establishing some of the main themes of the film.
“It’s very much about these two coming to a head, and it was near the end of the scene, and Jake said: ‘I feel like we’re missing something; let’s see what happens if we acknowledge the fact that they actually need each other.’ And it was kind of a light-bulb moment for me. I think it was supersmart in terms of the themes and idea of the individual and the institutional, and they do need to work together.
“There is no playbook for that,” he continued. “You see that happening right now with Syria; there’s no right answer. This movie exists in that fact that there’s no right answer; there’s always collateral damage. It’s not easy, and there is moral ambiguity. This is life. Very rarely do we see it in cinema, and very rarely do we get an opportunity—in a thriller, particularly—to ruminate on that after you’ve left the cinema.”
Jackman is known for taking on different kinds of roles (from the mutant Wolverine in the X-Men films to Jean Valjean in the musical Les Misérables)—so much so that he was lampooned on Saturday Night Live by Andy Samberg for being able to do both comedy and drama seamlessly.
Even with all that experience, the character of Dover was a serious undertaking, one that had Jackman studying parents who had had children abducted and the subsequent effects. “All the research I did was about sleep deprivation,” Jackman said, “because the movie takes place over eight or nine days. And when I read something from a father whose kid was gone, he said that the most maddening part of the whole thing is the powerlessness of the parent, knowing that the child is waiting for you and can’t understand why you’re not there, every second of every day. They’re not waiting for the police to come rescue them. And the police are just saying, ‘Please, just let us do our job,’ and it’s maddening.
“The idea of sleep or rest is impossible. So we looked into what would happen with that…we all know what it’s like to stay up all night, but it’s the incomprehension of being able to process the information at hand.”