Ray, you've been quoted as saying that Hugh was easy to work with because he's very athletic. Is he really athletic or is he just Australian?
Leonard: Well, I don't know about the Australian part, but he's got the moves. It looked to me like he had done some boxing before.
Jackman: What I know about boxing I learned from my dad. He was English, and when he was in national service he was the army champion in 1955. He was
5'-9," probably welter weight—around 147 pounds. He was also a terrific amateur boxer. I boxed, but I was never near his level—or Ray's, of course.
How did you prepare for this part?
Jackman: I had to at least look convincing as a former boxer, so I went to Aerospace [the high performance machine-free fitness center in New York City founded by former No. 1-ranked middleweight boxer, Michael Olajide, Jr.] to get into trim. At the very least, I didn't want to
embarrass myself in front of Sugar Ray.
What was your dad's reaction when you told him you'd be working on a movie with Sugar Ray Leonard?
Jackman: I think "jazzed" would be the word. He thinks that Ray might have been, pound-for-pound, the best fighter he ever saw.
Ray, you've been quoted that you think boxers are born, not made. What about Hugh?
Leonard: Well, I don't know if he's a born fighter, but he's a born actor. He looks convincing in this movie, and that's what counts. He's got the
right build—muscular and lean—and he learned very quickly. A lot of guys when you've trying to each them how to box, all they want to do is throw
punches. Hugh was so convincing because the first thing he learned is what a boxer learns, how to protect himself—you know, you throw a punch, you
move your free hand up to protect yourself. Things like that.
But what was really important for him to learn is the relationship between the corner man and his fighter. I learned that from the greatest ever,
Angelo Dundee [who, among dozens of other champions, also worked in Muhammad Ali's corner]. Charlie, Hugh's character, has the same relationship to the
boxing robots as a real life corner man has to his fighter.
Jackman: My character is an ex-boxer, a guy who had a lot of talent but was just too impulsive in the ring. He lost his biggest fight because he had to
go for a knockout instead of playing it smart. Playing it smart, of course, is what the corner man is there for. In the movie, we don't just own the
boxer bots, we control them, so there's very much a human element in their performance. It's not just luck or the actual power of the robot. I don't
really think I knew how important a corner man until I worked with Ray.
Leonard: One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when Hugh has to climb into the ring and talk to his robot, Atom, who's losing the fight.
Jackman: The robot's hearing is damaged, so when I'm shouting to tell him what moves to make, he can't hear me. I have to make a visual appeal to him.
I point to my eyes and say, "Watch me. Watch me!" Charlie's son Max says, "You know, you're talking to a robot." I just glance at him and say,
"I know, shut up," then look back into the robot's eyes: "Watch me."