Hugh Jackman is getting candid about mental health and the toll of filming his movie The Son.
In an interview with the BBC that published online Tuesday, the Greatest Showman actor revealed that the film’s producers hired psychiatrists to stay on set for the cast and crew if they needed to talk.
“This was the first time I’d ever seen such a thing on a film,” Jackman said. “And people used it and it was necessary.”
The Son, which adapts one of director Florian Zeller’s own plays, tackles the topic of depression. The movie centers around 17-year-old Nicholas (Zen McGrath), whose growing mental health struggle begins to impact the lives of his parents, including his New York lawyer father Peter (Jackman) and mother Kate (Laura Dern). Nicholas proceeds to blame his parents’ divorce and Peter’s recent baby with new partner Beth (Vanessa Kirby) for his declining condition.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in August, Zeller explained why he made the decision to show depression for what it is rather than focus on the cause of it, saying, “I think it’s part of the issue with mental health, it’s like a mystery. You cannot exactly understand why it’s there. It could appear unfair, as there’s no clear explanation and in a way is no one’s fault.”
Jackman told the BBC that intimacy coaches have become more common on sets when intimate scenes are being filmed, but that he believes mental health support is needed as well, especially in movies featuring difficult material.
“There’s a little part of the old school part of my brain [that thinks], ‘Well, that’s up to you to work out.’ If you need to go to a doctor, for whatever reason, your foot, your mental health, you know, you work that out,” the Les Misérables actor said. “But I think it certainly would be a sign from an employer that we understand taking care of the whole person, not just paying them, but taking care of their well-being in all forms is really, really important.”
During a previous interview with Who Magazine, Jackman revealed that he had begun therapy to help cope with unresolved childhood trauma. “Having someone really smart, who’s a little bit removed from your world, can be really helpful,” he said.
The actor also told the BBC that he began consulting a therapist while filming The Son, due to the movie’s upsetting material, his own anxiety from returning to acting following the pandemic lockdowns and his father’s death while making the film.
As he continues to learn more about mental health, Jackman hopes The Son will also start to spark conversations around the issue, saying, “There is a real lack of knowledge and ignorance and shame around the subject and I think it’s something we need to confront, really, really quickly.”
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five Americans will experience a mental illness each year, and one in five children either currently or at some point during their life have had a serious mental illness.
During The Son’s press conference in Venice ahead of its world premiere in September, Dern said that the movie was being released during a crisis of mental health coming out of the pandemic.
“It’s frightening,” she said. “Even [when] you feel powerless, even when you feel alone in shame, guilt and blame, you can turn to so many who have been there before and may advise you. We all long to feel community in this larger conversation we must be having about mental health.”