With all the movies that shoot here, you’d think we Montrealers would be above gawking at famous people. But we’re not. Over the summer, the cast and crew from next year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past has been in town to film, which has meant sightings like Jennifer Lawrence hanging out at Café Olimpico with Win Butler and, as has become legendary, Hugh Jackman — the star of The Wolverine, which opens today — showing up seemingly everywhere. Here are the stories of three Montrealers who encountered Wolverine and lived to tell the tale.
My house is Hugh’s house
It was a Thursday morning like any other, except that some kind of Wizard of Oz tornado had dropped my apartment building on a street in ‘70s-era New York City. I’d been drawn to the window because it was unusually quiet outside, save for the occasional “And let’s go for the rehearsal” coming from a megaphoned voice downstairs.
I stuck my head out and looked down: vintage cars and hippie vans, people with huge, teased-out afros and embroideredbell-bottoms. A kid on one of those bikes with super-high handlebars, streamers and a Wonder Years haircut. All this would have been exciting enough, but suddenly I spotted him: that impressive Wolverine hair, the strong jaw, muscled arms and unmistakable confidence of the Most Important Actor on Set.
Hugh Jackman was downstairs.
My front door was now his front door, and for the next three hours, dressed in a paisley shirt and flared jeans, he exited, let the kid on the bike pass, crossed the road and got into a car. That was it. Maybe four seconds of screen time, but they were there all morning and most of the afternoon, the director shouting “Action!” or “Ready, please!” or “Background!” until it became kind of irritating. But there was Hugh, relaxed and chatting to crew and assistants. I obviously found an excuse to go to the supermarket.
No sign of him when I first left the building. But there he was when I returned — tall, dark and hairy. I couldn’t bring myself to do the fawning fan routine, so I smiled my best welcome-to-the-neighbourhood smile and passed him politely. Later, while I was sticking my head out the window, he glanced up and waved.
When the scene wrapped, Hugh ducked into an alcove and got changed. Yes, friends, he stripped down to his boxers. He took off his top and put on something more fitting for this decade. Then he got into a car and was gone.
Sweating with Hugh
I’m my most serious self when I’m in the middle of a workout. That’s why when Hugh Jackman asked if he could use the bench I was using, I gave him my dirtiest look and shrugged him off.
We were literally a foot away from each other as he did tricep dips on the bench I’d just been using. It was only then, about five minutes in, that the ohmygod-I-could-be-in thepresence-of-a-famous-person thoughts started rolling in. He really looked like Hugh Jackman. Like, a lot. Could it be him? He looked so normal — but just a little too muscular to be a regular dude at the gym.
I caught his eye mid-set and raised my eyebrows.
“You are Hugh Jackman, aren’t you?”
“Yeah,” he said, laughing. “What’s your name?”
“Elysha,” I said, as he reached out his hand.
“What are you in town for?” I asked.
“We just started filming the next X-Men,” he told me. “Just got to town last night.”
A trainer and friend then came up to me to ask about my upcoming wedding.
“Oh, you’re getting married?” Hugh asked (we were on a first-name basis by that point).
“Yeah! That’s why I’m working out so hard,” I joked, racking my brain for something to keep the conversation going.
“That’s great,” he said. “Have a great time.”
We continued our tandem workouts with small talk in between sets until he was getting ready to leave.
“Bye, Elysha,” Hugh said. “I’m sure I’ll see you here again.”
Oh, and at some point I took this really creepy photo of him from behind. I didn’t want to be the annoying ogler who asks to have a photo taken with him. Instead, I was just the creep who took a photo of Hugh Jackman’s back.
At the movies with Hugh
My first Hugh Jackman sighting happened on a return trip from New York City. As is typical of LaGuardia Airport, nothing was on time. Flights were delayed for hours due to “wind,” and a huge mob of unhappy travellers had amassed in the small waiting area they call “gates,” fighting for seats and charging stations.
There I was, shooting death stares at the Air Canada attendant, when this very attractive man walked by me. I watched him walk to a seat far back in the waiting area, and I saw another man slowly walking behind him. Both were super jacked — I’m talking could-kick-anyone’s-ass jacked. I instantly realize it was Wolverine.
When they called us to board, he was the first to get up. He approached the ticket lady in his jeans and long-sleeved shirt. He seemed friendly and unassuming.
He was, of course, in first class, and by first class, I mean a separated section with the same crappy seats we were all sitting on. I walked by him, trying with all my strength not to casually but creepily touch his arm.
I could have stopped, introduced myself and told him what a huge fan I was of his work as Wolverine and his dancing at the Tony Awards. But that’s not how I roll! So I walked by him and tweeted about seeing him on the plane.
And then I saw him again. A friend and I had left work early one day to see Fast & Furious 6. We were basically the only two people in the theatre, with the exception of two others. We sat down in the middle, and the movie started to roll.
About two minutes in, a tall guy in a ball cap with jeans and a hoodie walked in. My friend was already so into the movie, he didn’t even notice a man sitting two seats down from us in an otherwise empty theatre.
Wolverine was at the movies with us.
When he laughed, I laughed. When he gasped at a completely unrealistic stunt, I gasped, too. I even got up to go to the bathroom and contemplated a creepy brush of his leg. I again refrained. I would sneak glances, just to see what he did all by himself in the movie. And he did what all of us do — sat back and enjoyed the show. I watched him eat his protein bar and drink his water.
With less than 20 minutes left in the film, he seemed to check his phone. Then he was gone.
—Vanessa Leebosh-Mitchell ■