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'The Front Runner': How Hugh Jackman nailed his big action moment in just 1 take

·Senior Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
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Turning a person’s real-life story into a narrative feature film is never an easy task. But it’s even harder to watch that narrative feature in the company of the person it’s based on. That’s the situation Jason Reitman found himself in when he screened his new political drama, The Front Runner, for Gary Hart, the former Democratic presidential candidate whose public fall from grace forms the narrative spine of the movie. Heading into the 1988 election, the Colorado politician (played in the film by Hugh Jackman) was the clear frontrunner for his party’s nomination and, very likely, the Oval Office. But when stories about his alleged infidelities became front-page news, his campaign fell apart over the course of three tumultuous weeks.

Not surprisingly, Reitman was nervous when he brought The Front Runner to Denver for a private screening with Hart. “The last time I was that scared to show anyone a movie was the first time I showed my first short film to my father,” Reitman remarked at a Yahoo News-hosted panel following a special screening of The Front Runner in New York City. (That stands to reason considering his father is Ivan Reitman, director of such era-defining hits as Ghostbusters and Dave.) Fortunately, Hart seemed in good humor after reliving one of the toughest periods in his life. “The first thing Gary said was, ‘Hugh Jackman is such a good actor,'” Reitman said. “And then he said, ‘Do I really talk like that?’ And his wife [Oletha] said, ‘Yes, darling, that’s exactly it.'”

Reitman was joined at the panel by his star, Jackman, as well as the film’s co-screenwriters, Jay Carson and Yahoo News journalist Matt Bai, who penned the book the film is based upon, All the Truth Is Out. Here are some other highlights from their post-screening conversation.

Hart invited Jackman to be his houseguest

Before shooting began, Jackman made the pilgrimage to Colorado to spend a few days in the Hart household. “I went with a little trepidation as to what this would mean for him and what it would mean for Gary,” the actor explains, noting that this is the first time in his career when he has played a still-living person. “I wanted to let him look in my eyes and let him know that I took his life and legacy very seriously, that we were doing it for hopefully a noble purpose, not just [rehashing] sensational stories.” According to Jackman, Hart seems to feel that the actor made good on his promise. “I’m sure I didn’t get the full truth; he was very complimentary. He said very nice things to me. If he hated it, I’m sure he [still] would have said nice things!”

Hugh Jackman plays Gary Hart in <em>The Front Runner</em>. (Photo: Columbia Pictures/Courtesy of Everett Collection)
Hugh Jackman plays Gary Hart in The Front Runner. (Photo: Columbia Pictures/Courtesy of Everett Collection)

Don’t challenge Jackman to an axe-throwing contest

We can only assume that axe throwing was on the list of things that Jackman and Hart discussed during their time together in Colorado. That explains how Jackman nailed the movie’s big action sequence: Hart hurling a hatchet at a distant target while onlookers cheered. According to Bai, there was a betting pool on set for how long it would take for Jackman to hit the bullseye. “Everyone had to take a number — I got 8,” Bai said, laughing. He never even had a chance at winning the pot, because the former X-Men mutant made his shot on the first attempt. “That reaction you see [in the film] is everyone’s actual reaction,” Carson revealed. “Our star nailed it on the first take!”

The Front Runner is — and isn’t — about Trump

Bai published All the Truth Is Out in 2014 — well before Donald Trump launched his presidential campaign — and work on the then-named The Front Man script started not long afterward. Now that we’re in the midst of the Trump era, though, the shadow of the current POTUS can’t help but loom large over the finished film. “It’s extraordinarily relevant,” Bai says about Trump’s time in office, which has also included various allegations of infidelity. “I think there’s this moment in 1987 where the forces of entertainment and the forces of politics collide, and from that moment on, we treat our candidates more like we treat celebrities. If you create a process that treats politicians like celebrities and entertainers, you inevitably get celebrities and entertainers as your candidates.”

The Front Runner is currently playing in limited release and expands to more theaters on Nov. 21.

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