Hugh Jackman is the ultimate host. Having hosted three Tony Awards and one Academy Award show over the years, the Emmy winner (for the 58th Annual Tony Awards) and Tony Award winner (for "The Boy From Oz") is playing host for the 32nd annual holiday spectacular "Christmas In Washington," which has an impressive lineup of musical performers including Sheryl Crow, Anna Kendrick, the Backstreet Boys, Janelle Monae and Train's lead singer, Pat Monahan.
The "Wolverine" actor sat down with me after rehearsals to share some of his most memorable and hilarious Christmas stories. (If you recycle Christmas gifts, you're not alone!)
You are such a great actor and a popular host of award shows. How does it compare to host a show for the President of the United States as opposed to the Hollywood community?
It's interesting. I've never done it before in front of the President of the United States, so this is a first for me and the first time I have performed in Washington, D.C. ... so it's a different kind of crowd, which I love. I've been on the stage and I've done shows in Australia and London and obviously New York and Hollywood. They've all got a different vibe. There's something different about Christmas which is separate and special. I love this time of year. There is a heart to it which is, I think, really important to convey.
Christmas is such a happy time no matter how old you are. Do you ever wish you could be a child again at Christmas time?
C'mon, I'm an actor. What are you talking about? (Laughs) I haven't grown up yet, not even remotely. It's actually getting worse. I'll tell you why, because I've got people like Michelle (his publicist) around to do things for me. I'm actually getting more child-like. It's like, where am I going? I don't even know what I'm doing after this. (Laughs)
Do you have a special childhood memory of Christmas?
Oh, yes. I can tell you ... I've got to be careful because I'm not sure how many kids will be reading this. We went camping every Christmas. We would have Christmas at home, and my father and mother were English, so we would eat a full hot meal. It would be 100 degrees and we were sweating over the roast and the mashed potatoes and the pies and the steamed Christmas pudding with the money inside wrapped up in foil. We would do all that and then, the next day, we would go camping and we'd always go to the beach. There were five kids and my father was an accountant, so he would have a five-man tent for the six of us. (Laughs). One time we actually went before Christmas, and I remember waking up and seeing Santa trying to deliver my stocking in this tent with five kids sleeping, and Santa stepped on my hair. I'm one of the very few kids who has had his hair trodden on in the middle of the night by Santa.
What's your favorite Christmas movie?
"Elf". I love "Elf!"
Could you see yourself ever doing a role like that?
Yeah, I'd love to do something like that. I wouldn't be nearly as good as Will Ferrell, but I'd love to try. Every Christmas in my family when we were growing up, we would watch "Singing in The Rain." My dad loved that movie and he played that every Christmas. I just think that's a great movie, so after the meal we would always put that in the VCR.
Have you ever watched "A Charlie Brown Christmas" with your kids?
No. Now my son is 13 so he wants to watch "South Park Christmas." We're slowly moving past the innocent ones. (Laughs) I can't remember the names of the ones I grew up with, but I remember one with puppets. I love "Miracle of 34th Street."
What's the most hideous Christmas present you've ever gotten?
I vividly remember asking my dad for a boogie board. I'm Australian, so that's what we're all about: surfboards and boogie boards. Actually, I didn't know how expensive a boogie board was, and my dad had to watch how much money he spent on us for Christmas. So he bought me a blow-up raft ... for the surf -- the kind that you'd lie in a pool, not surf with. I didn't want to hurt his feelings, so I took it to the beach trying to catch the waves with this blow-up raft, and all the kids were making fun of me.
Did you pretend you liked it?
I did for about five seconds, and then I was stabbing it. 'Oh, look dad, it won't blow up.' (Laughs)
Do you recycle Christmas gifts? Have you ever done that?
All the time. Can I tell you what me and my friends did? One year, I was given one of those miniature tool kits. It's got everything, but it's miniature. I was given that by my friend Paul. I gave it to Mark the next year for Christmas, he gave it to Irving the year after and the fourth year, Irving gave it back to Paul without any of us knowing. So it took four years to get back to the original owner -- unopened. (Laughs)
Christmas can be a stressful time of year. What's your go-to relaxation regimen?
Cricket. Every year, I go to watch Cricket. Cricket is the most relaxing thing in the world. Unless you play it, it's just bizarre. No one would understand why you sit there for eight hours. The game goes for five days. Not a lot happens. There's five hundred pitches in a day. Everyone just sits and chats and we catch up and watch cricket all day and do nothing. It's the only day -- as a father -- I'm allowed to sit and do nothing. It does relax me.
What's your favorite memory of Christmas with your wife and children?
I've got to say, right now, I'm predicting this year is probably going to be the most special. I just looked at [the seating arrangements in] that front row [at rehearsals for Christmas In Washington] and I saw [the seating charts] -- the first family and my family in the front row there. I think it's all going to be good, although I've got to admit, I did a show on Broadway two years ago. My kids have grown up with me doing the theater. My [8-year-old] daughter was so comfortable and used to me doing stage work that in the middle of my show, she put up her hand and she said, 'Dad.' I said, 'What?' She goes, 'I need to go to the bathroom.' So I stopped the show and said, 'Fine, you can go to the bathroom.' So she comes up on stage and walks off into the wings. (Laughs)
She can't understand why the President doesn't come by for a cup of tea. She's a little [put out] that the President doesn't come by for a cup of tea. She says, 'The President is in town, why doesn't he come by?' (Laughs) So she might go up to the President and go, 'What's the matter? What's the deal? I don't understand ... And why have you got the seat right in the middle?' (Big Laugh) My little princess.
Christmas in Washington -- a holiday tradition benefiting the Children's National Health System -- will air Friday, Dec. 20 at 8 p.m. (ET/PT) exclusively on TNT. The concert is attended each year by the President and First Lady.