Slaying evil mutants? No problem! But can he kill on Academy Awards night? The new host shares his plans

By Missy Schwartz
January 28, 2009 at 05:00 AM EST
Jeff Christensen/Reuters/Landov

He never would have admitted it back then, but after hosting the Tony Awards from 2003 to ’05, Hugh Jackman secretly hoped that someday, maybe, he’d be tapped to emcee an even grander event: the Oscars. ”In my wildest dreams, I didn’t think it would be for another decade — in the best scenario,” says the 40-year-old actor, who actually won an Emmy for his 2004 Tony gig. Then, last month, when Jackman was in England promoting Australia, the phone rang in the middle of the night. It was his producing partner, John Palermo, calling to say that the Academy (and first-time Oscar telecast producers Bill Condon and Laurence Mark) wanted him. ”I couldn’t get back to sleep, I was so excited,” Jackman says. ”I told my wife and she was jumping up and down on the bed. The thought of a kid from the northern suburbs of Sydney hosting it, that took a while to sink in.” With just weeks to go until Hollywood’s night of nights, we asked Jackman what we should expect on Feb. 22. Hint: a whole lot of skin.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The telecast’s new producers have said that they want the Oscars to feel like a party this year. Do you throw good ones?
HUGH JACKMAN: I’m Australian. I think it goes with the citizenship, doesn’t it? [Laughs] When I have a party, the first thing I do is give guests a shot glass with a little vodka or something. Now, I can’t do that for all 6,000 people at the Kodak Theatre, but I’ll be trying to do it in spirit. It’s going to be a celebration of movies. We’re in the world of showbiz, and the Oscars have to be more show than business.

How will you do that?
Nudity. I’m planning on getting nude for a lot of it.

Well, I know some people who wouldn’t mind if you reenacted the shower scene from Australia.
You’ve given me a great idea! No words, nothing, just me having a shower. That’s also a very Australian thing to do at a party. [Laughs] Listen, it’s too early to give details, but it’s fair to say there’s going to be singing and dancing. The fact that they’ve hired me is a sign they’re taking a different route. I’m not a stand-up comedian, and that’s generally the way things have gone. But I’ve done some hosting, and I really enjoy it. I remember after the Tonys, coming off stage and saying, ”That’s some of the most fun I’ve ever had.” It’s a great adrenaline rush. The Oscars are that times 10.

NEXT PAGE: ”I love the Oscars, but there’s no doubt they’re too long. I don’t think there’s a person on the planet who doesn’t feel that way.”