'Real Steel' trailer: Hugh Jackman and director Shawn Levy discuss the human element in their robo-boxing movie

Is it possible to tell an old-fashioned fighting-robot story? By that, I mean, does the presence of brawling ‘bots automatically make it a sci-fi action film, or can there be a texture of nostalgia to a movie like Hugh Jackman’s Real Steel, which opens Oct. 7?

Jackman and Shawn Levy (director of the Night at the Museum movies) aspired more toward yesteryear than the future, though their movie about a father and son caught up in a robo-boxing tournament takes place a few years ahead of present day.

The new trailer shows a little of what they were going for: Dust, county fairs, early morning training, and a coming of age for both father and son. Also, it has lots of robots bashing each other apart. “People really think it’s going to be about the robots,” says Levy. “They think the robot is going to be central and sentient, right? They’re expecting him to talk.”

But this mechanical hero is not Optimus Prime, the director says. Instead of being a free-thinking entity, Atom — the scrapped machine they refurbish when all hope seems lost — is remote-controlled, which puts the focus on the pair who control him: Hugh Jackman’s deadbeat dad, a boxer put out of work by the exploding (literally) popularity of metal-on-metal fisticuffs, and the young kid he abandoned long ago (Dakota Goyo).

Levy wanted the trailer to highlight, “the father-son drama, the emotion, the kind of rousing sports movie, the Americana of it. We are very much the robo-boxing movie, but that’s one piece of a broader spectrum.”

According to the director, Jackman plays “an a—hole,” and surprisingly, Jackman nods at the description. “He abandoned his son at birth, and he hasn’t seen him from then until now,” Jackman says. “He’s struggling. He’s a human boxer in a world where human boxing is obsolete. He’s bitter about how everything has moved on. He’s really struggling to make a living for himself.”

“He’s not a likable dude,” Levy piles on.

“He owes money to a lot of people. And he’s disappointed a lot of people,” Jackman adds. “He’s trying to survive, but there’s a little bit of con man in him. He’s desperate. He’s losing. He’s treading water and going under.”

Whoa, whoa, hold on, fellas. This guy is supposed to make the robots beat up each other, not beat up on himself. Levy says the movie can only get away with such a selfish, obnoxious main character because of Jackman’s movie-star charm: “I can get away with a–hole behavior to an extreme that I couldn’t with other actors, actors I won’t name.”

Come on, Shawn — name them!

“You can think about it, and hypothesize,” Levy says. “Hugh brings such an inherent likability in his DNA that you could have his character be really abrasive. Whereas another actor, an a–hole actor, playing a real a–hole, just doesn’t work.”

Okay, Levy, just admit it: you’re talking about Steve Carell.

The director laughs and throws up his hands. “I promised Steve I wouldn’t go public. But… your words not mine.”*

*Footnote: For the literal-minded, he’s joking about Carell, who worked with him on Date Night and is widely considered to be one of the nicest humans in show business.**

**Or is he …?

For more, follow Anthony Breznican on Twitter @Breznican.

Read more:
Hugh Jackman: ‘The Wolverine’ knocked back, but not dead
Hugh Jackman in ‘Real Steel’
Hugh Jackman robot fighting movie ‘Real Steel’ is gonna make you cry

Comments (43 total) Add your comment
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  • harry

    awesome!!

  • Jonathan

    I love Hugh Jackman but this looks awful. I think he needs a new agent. Now who’s directing “The Wolverine” already???

    • tipsy

      OK, lemme see if I guessed the story. Jackman and Lost chick are divorced and that`s Jackman`s fault because he`s betting on robots too much. They have a son. Jackman and son rebuild relationship thanks to junk robot whom Jackman, at son`s nudging, trains to become Rocky/Daniel Larusso of the fighting ring. He and ex patch up. Happy ending. What posisbly can be said in the sequel? Ah, yes, more of the same.

      Jackman looks his charming self here but the kid is a typical Dakota Fanning-like meonopausal dwarf and switiching real fighters with robots doesn`t seem to add anything interesting to the story save SFX.

      • Ella

        You are wrong. Jackman´s exwife dies and he is forced to take a custody of his son because his exwife´s sister (the boy´s aunt) has to leave a country for two months. Evangeline´s character comes later. And I have to warn you about spoilers now – the version of the script I have, she actually betrays him and the robot they have, loses his fight. Jackman´s character (Charlie) is a real a-hole for most part of the movie and is a loser even in the end – just with his son by his side.
        Not so predictable.

      • Gigi

        Your I’d tipsy isntypicalmofmyour comments. Who talks about children liken this? Acold, single, never married childless bug.

    • iwas init

      that director QUIT wolverine II after the repetative quakes in Japan. NO replacement, it’s been shelved

  • Mike

    Evangeline Lily is the reason I will be seeing this. Pretty pumped she didn’t “retire” right after Lost and is still doing some acting.

  • C.A.White

    Real Steel with Hugh Jackman it’s a Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis movie based on Richard Matheson novel. Throughout the movie there’s just a 30% boxing. A trailer isn’t the whole movie, judge a whole movie (not yet released) from a very short trailer is like judging a book by its cover, not very smart. Insiders who have seen Real Steel’s preview are excited, Spielberg is already planning the sequel, nobody in Hollywood bets millions of dollars on ‘nags’….especially people like Spielberg.

    • iwas init

      with the final lines of the movie: “some people are already calling Atom the “people’s champion”, what do you say to that?” dakota, “I say…” (camera two) “I want a REMATCH!” yeah, there’s a part II

  • Sean Dignam

    After Lost began, I thought Evangeline Lilly had a promising career ahead of her but she has barely done anything in the last seven years.
    I hope she does more mainstream films from now on. She is an underrated actress and should have joined the A-list years ago.

    • Brit

      I don’t think she really wanted to be an “A-list” actress.

    • yogi@hotmail.com

      I agree she is an underrated actress but if you read interviews with her, she doesn’t actually enjoy acting. She does it because it pays the bills but other than that she doesn’t have that much of a passion for it. Unfortunate but hey shes hot.

  • criss

    I can´t wait for this movie!!!!!!!

    • Jester

      You must be twelve..

  • markinnyc

    This movie should be rename “Really sucks”.
    It should really star Jack bauer, cause I smell a bomb.

  • tipsy

    I see that Evangeline Lilly PR has swarmed the board. Won`t work, folks cause she was awful on Lost where she proved she has zero charisma and talent to be the leading lady. Didn`t happen when she was in her 20s, won`t happen in her 30s especially now where there is stiff competition by really talented movie actresses.

    • A

      Her PR swarmed the board? Really? There are two people here saying they like Evangeline Lilly. That really wasn’t reason enough for you to go on your anti-Evangeline Lilly/Kate Austen rant. Get over yourself.

  • Dave

    First time I saw this trailer I thought the made “Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots: The Movie”

    • Dave

      *thought THEY made…

    • sl

      I thought Rock’em Sock’em too. Sadly, I also thought..Cool!

  • Henry Harris

    I think there’s a broader issue here. In an era of manned exploration of space, artificial intelligence, robots in industry as well as the home, does the term “science fiction” really mean anything anymore? Let’s face it. Our world has become what used to be called science fiction, and in that sense the phrase has lost its meaning. Script writers need to move on, and in this instance it appears they have.

  • sp

    I just don’t understand Hugh Jackman. The guy is a triple threat / megatalent, and he continues to star in trashy films. It should have been a wakeup call when Darren Aronofsky decided not to direct another Wolverine film. Jackman has loads of talent with such strong potential for greatness in film, but I guess he doesn’t realize it. I am sure Hugh has access to A-list quality scripts with topnotch directors attached, but he continues to do crap. Jackman needs to desperately develop a career similar to Matt Damon ( he will do lead roles or supporting roles in indie films or mainstream films.) , Viggo Mortensen, or Josh Brolin. I just hate to see someone with the goods, just throw in down the drain.

    • Ann

      I couldn’t agree more! Hugh is not only gorgeous, but extremely talented and yet he wastes his time making PG-13 fluff for kids! I think his agent is a total moron. This man has leading man oozing out of his pores and yet he makes crap like this (or wastes time in Japan making a japanese film that we will never see here). Hugh is perfect for roles in films like The Notebook or The Lincoln Lawyer. I also think he needs to capitalize on his sex appeal and comedic ability and do more romantic comedies, like Gerard Butler does. As a woman, I want to see him in romantic roles. I just think he chooses bad projects and he needs better advice.

    • mika

      The fact u term the movies Jackman chooses as trash indicates more about you than him. The man thankfully is not so full of himself as to limit his choices to -leading man- types that the public think he should play. He chooses based on what he thinks he will enjoy and what interests him. If you can’t accept that, then don’t watch his films and later criticize him for not being what you want them to be. He’s long since stated publicly he does not take the hype about him in the media seriously and that is what makes him gold as far as I can see, regardless of the -bad press- reviews he gets.

  • criss

    So many haters in here, I bet you´re just a bunch of fat, sad people!!

  • My son is also named Bort

    Releasing it in October is not a good sign, besides didn’t i see this kind of story already on my namesake?

  • Mari42

    I think Jackman is just having a good time and is not overly concerned with winning awards and such..

  • Adam

    @Tipsy.

    Evangeline Lilly is better then you.

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