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Archive for Study Abroad

Interviewing Hugh Jackman: A Tale of Forged Identity While Interning in Australia

< By Jorie Larsen of themidwestmaven.wordpress.com >

While studying abroad in Australia, I interned four days a week at a monthly entertainment magazine in Sydney.  It was a sweet gig; I got to attend movies, plays, and comedy shows for free, in exchange for writing reviews.

The internship also granted me one of the most outlandish journalistic experiences of my life in which I pretended to be a member of the southeast Asia press corp in order to land an interview with Hugh Jackman.

The following is a true account of that fateful April day.

9:20 a.m. My editor-in-chief summons me to his desk and says that Hugh Jackman is on nearby Cockatoo Island promoting his new X-Men movie. I’m to go there immediately. Our magazine was denied an official interview, but he’s found a loophole.

An Indian magazine called Midday in Mumbai happened to land an interview with Jackman and needed a correspondent to attend on their behalf. Enter me, a lowly intern unrecognizable to the Australian press.

I’m told that under no circumstance am I allowed to mention who I work for. I feel like a spy, if spies dressed in flared khakis, button-downs, and sensible flats.

9:30 a.m. I’m off to the harbor to catch a ferry to Cockatoo Island. I have less than 30 minutes until Hugh kicks off the media-exclusive, world premiere of X-Men: Wolverine. I realize that I dislike comic books and haven’t the vaguest idea what I will actually ask Jackman.

9:45 a.m. I begin to panic at Darling Harbour. There are no water taxis. I start sweating as I do full-out sprints up and down the docks, hoping to spot a boat and flag it down. My phone begins blinking “low battery.”

9:55 a.m. I’m in full-blown panic mode. I dial my editor and wheeze out an incoherent sentence. He tells me to get a grip and sends a water taxi to come pick me up. I wonder how much longer my cell phone will hold out.

10:17 a.m. Phone dies.

10:25 a.m. I arrive on Cockatoo Island, a former jail and shipyard that’s featured prominently as a set in the new X-Men movie. I’m not allowed into the screening because the flick has already started. I sit in the empty press conference room instead, hearing the “oohs” and “aahs” float over from the screening room as members of the Aussie media — who are apparently more adept than I at hailing water taxis — whistle and clap.

10:45 a.m. Jackman fields questions from reporters-turned-fan boys at the press conference for a solid 45 minutes. I have nothing to contribute so I sit on my hands and stare at Jackman’s biceps. They’re tennis ball-sized.

11:45 a.m. As I wait for my individual interview, I’m shuffled into a holding room with fellow journalists from the southeast Asia press corp. Most of the journalists have translators in tow.

Yet one woman eyes my nametag and exclaims in perfect English, “Midday in Mumbai? I’m from Mumbai! What part do you live in?”

With shifty eyes and a Chicago accent, I reply that I’m an Australian journalist who occasionally does freelance work for Indian publications like Midday in Mumbai.

Of course, she asks lengthy follow-up questions about my American accent and soon I’m blathering about leaving my native homeland (…two months ago), how I enjoy freelance writing for an international audience (never done it) and my close ties with editors in India (made up).

“Freelance?” chimes in a bearded man from Taiwan. “Can I get your email address? We’re always looking for Australian freelancers!”

I shrug — just mired in my own web of lies at this point — and write my American college email address, “jlarsen@bu.edu,” on his card.

2 p.m. I borrow someone’s cell phone to call my editor. I jot down the three questions I have been ordered to ask Mr. Jackman and exhale.

5:30 p.m. My number is finally up so I sit down at a small table with Jackman and five other journalists. He is remarkably charming, even after a long day dealing with the press.

We go around and introduce ourselves, some via translator. When it’s my turn, I shake his hand and — in my American accent — I tell him that I’m Jorie Larsen from Midday in Mumbai. I swear his eyes narrow for a second in confusion.

The rest of the interview went fine and I wound up penning a feature story that ran in Australia and was later picked up by sister publications in Hong Kong and Madrid. I can only hope it also got some space in an issue of Midday in Mumbai.

And that’s the tale of how a 20-year-old kid from Chicago attended college in Boston, studied abroad in Australia, impersonated a journalist from Mumbai, and got to meet People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive 2009. You know, that old chestnut.