At a certain point on Tuesday, panic over the coronavirus outbreak suddenly seemed to hit a fever pitch. And yet Hugh Jackman had managed to tune it out. Not only did the actor carry on with hosting Montblanc’s MB 01 Smart Headphones and Summit 2+ Smartwatch launch on a night when events were canceled across New York City but he also gamely shook my hand—not once, but twice. “I’m not at all worried about it,” he reassured me the first time.
Perhaps that shouldn’t come as such a surprise. Jackman is, after all, the Greatest Showman—not to mention a longtime Montblanc ambassador—and the show must go on. Before worming his way through a packed penthouse to join campaign costars like Dylan Sprouse, Jackman shared his culture diet. (From the sound of it, he’ll be using those new headphones to blast plenty of Ed Sheeran.)
I appreciate the handshake—it’s starting to feel like a bold move right now. Are you hesitant?
No. I’m not at all worried about it. No. I still shake, and I rub elbows. I just read why the handshake started, because they’re saying maybe it’s time for the handshake to go, and I realized that the Quakers introduced it. Before it was all of this tipping of hats and bowing and all these class things, and they wanted something egalitarian. That was a few hundred years ago, so it’s sort of relatively new.
What’s the first thing you read in the morning?
I read a book with my wife. So we get up and we read to each other for half an hour. It’s the best. I recommend it to anyone.
Aw. How long have you been doing that?
About a year. We always wake up and meditate together, but now we read for 10, 20 minutes and we meditate. And it’s the greatest way to start the day. Right now I’m reading Stillness Is the Key, by Ryan Holiday, who’s a Stoic. I’m really into philosophy. So we read, and we talk, because stuff’s on your mind. You don’t realize how much has been on your mind overnight, and it comes out in the morning. That way, no matter what happens through our day, we know that we’ve had quality time together. You always think, Tonight; after work; after this; when we put the kids to bed, but that doesn’t always happen.
How do you normally get your news?
Right now, I’m trying not to get caught up in the breaking news mentality, so I listen to NPR News five-minute segments. And I like the New York Times’ Daily podcast, although I’m even trying to back off from that for a bit. I’m trying to get a wider view of life and what’s happening, because once you get down, all these things seem really, really important. The other way I’m getting my news—and I highly recommend this—is me and my son are going through the whole Ken Burns catalog. We finished the whole Civil War thing, and now we’re just about to finish the Vietnam thing. Now that’s the way you should understand events and humanity—with that sort of 30,000-foot view that he has, and that sort of detail.
What have you been listening to on repeat?
I’m a big Ed Sheeran fan. Love him. My trainer is always like, “What do you want to hear?” And I go, “Ed.” Thankfully, she loves Ed, too. So that’s what I’ve been listening to on repeat.
Any song in particular?
What’s the one, “Castle on the Hill”? I like that one. My daughter always says to me, “You’ve literally got the taste of a teenage girl. And I am a teenage girl, and I don’t have the same taste as you.”
How old is she?
Fourteen. She’s a little more heavy metal, rap. Like, the other night [Jackman’s wife] Deborra and I were watching the Taylor Swift documentary, and she walks in and goes, “Really?” [Laughs.] I said, “It’s a great documentary! You should see it!”
So you’ve seen it, and she hasn’t?
Yeah. But I noticed she was on the couch, and the next day she said, “You know, when she said that thing…”
Do you have a go-to karaoke song?
No. I don’t do a lot of karaoke. I don’t like it, and to like it, I’ve got to get really drunk. I’ve been in a bunch of hotel rooms where they go, “We’ve got a karaoke machine in your room!” and I never turn it on. Plus, I get to sing in my job.
How do you react when you hear your own voice?
Run out the door. Recording has been a really painful—like, took me a long time to record. Because I’m an actor first, so singing, I always felt like a bit of an impostor. I don’t have any illusions that I’m a great singer, so when I hear it, I find it tough to hear. I remember when I was younger, my dad used to always play it in the background at a party, or Christmas, and I’d be like, “Dad, I literally cannot concentrate. Please turn it off.”
Is there a song or album that defined your youth?
Probably the Rolling Stones’s Sticky Fingers.
Yeah, my daughter would like that answer. [Laughs.] I do love the Rolling Stones. I remember that was one of the first [albums] I bought, and thinking it was the coolest. But there was still some Lionel Richie. There was some Michael Jackson. There was some stuff in there, don’t worry.
What’s the last musical you saw on Broadway?
West Side Story. I thought it was amazing. The guy playing Tony [Isaac Powell] is just off the charts. That role has a couple of great songs, but it’s normally just a stand and sing sort of thing. But he stole the show. He was astonishing.
What are some of your favorite Instagram accounts to follow?
I love Ricky Gervais, because he makes me laugh, but I don’t follow a lot of people because I don’t have time to do it. And I’m an actor—I’m only interested in what I’m saying. [Laughs.]
So you just go on, post, and close it out?
Yeah. Is there anyone else? [Laughs.]
What’s the last thing you do before you go to bed?
Wow. Morning and night?
Yeah. I read on my own and I’m out in like four minutes. But I always read and have my phone away. I don’t look at my phone for about an hour in the morning either.
What are you reading right now?
Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations. He was an amazing emperor—one of the great leaders of all time. It’s sort of fair, actually, that I’m reading it, because he just wrote a journal for himself. And after he died, someone published it, back in whatever, 2,000 years ago. And it’s one of the greatest books on Stoicism and leadership, and humility and wisdom.