When Hugh Jackman's son was born almost 20 years ago, his wife, Deb, gave the Aussie star a journal inscribed with the message, "To Oscar, Love Dad".
The journal now holds Jackman's hopes, dreams and observations for Oscar, like a cheat sheet to the modern world. "I started writing to him from when he was born as though he was 21," Jackman says. "So it's my experiences of being a father, and what I think he's going through, all of that stuff … and I always write with a fountain pen."
Not just any fountain pen. Jackman has been the global ambassador for Montblanc since 2014, but insists he's been a fan of the German brand for much longer. "I always loved Montblanc as a kid," he tells Executive Style at a star-studded bash at NASA's Lone Star Flight Museum in Houston, Texas.
"I failed a test once because apparently my handwriting was illegible, and my dad was really upset, so I said, 'Well, Dad, you know, maybe if you bought me a Montblanc fountain pen, then maybe my writing would be better …' "
The evening's party is to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, as well as the galactic inspiration for the revamped StarWalker pen – sorry, it's actually a writing instrument, explains Montblanc creative director and StarWalker designer Zaim Kamal. "We call it a writing instrument because it's not just something that you carry," he says. "It's a companion that you use that is with you on a day-to-day basis."
There’s two types of people: those who buy pens and those who nick them. I was always a nicker.
A temporary planetarium has been erected outside the centre's museum to resemble the meticulously designed "Pale Blue Dot" on the end of the StarWalker. Inside the dome, crisp projections of the galaxy churn overhead as 200 guests drink cocktails steaming with dry ice amid VIPs such as actor Diane Kruger, model Winnie Harlow and astronaut Leroy Chiao.
Holding court in the crowd, Jackman is less outback bloke than urbane entertainer, impeccably groomed in a sharp blue suit and shirt open at the neck. If he looks a little tired, it's because he is 26 shows into the 96-date world tour of his all-singing, all-dancing spectacular, The Man. The Music. The Show., which is currently touring Australia. He's feeling the pinch of sleeping on buses and dancing his tail off every night. "I'm pretty fit, but I still train [in the gym] three or four times a week," Jackman says. "I'm super skinny naturally and if I never lifted another weight again I'd just go back to being a stick."
The 50-year-old is super lean from dancing more than 150 minutes a day as part of the show. "My knees and back were bad growing up, so having gone to the gym [in the past] has really helped me. I don't want to lose that," he says. "But there's no more need for the Wolverine craziness."
Fortunes are changing for the 113-year-old Montblanc brand, particularly in Australia, where this year it moves its operations from a licensed distributor back to the Richemont mothership, alongside luxury stablemates such as IWC, Panerai and Cartier. "It is a big change," Montblanc chief executive Nicolas Baretzki says. "It shows also how important Australia is for us. We are a writing instrument company that has developed a lot in different categories (such as watches and leather goods) … but when you come back to the values of the maison, it's about substance, craftsmanship, innovation, design."
The StarWalker was launched in 2003 as an alternative to the iconic Montblanc Meisterstuck (that's German for masterpiece), and is priced between $400 and $800, depending on the materials, including platinum, metal or black resin fittings, ballpoint or fountain nibs.
It's unashamedly aimed at a younger customer who might be buying their first Montblanc piece, but it raises the question: who needs to write in ink in 2019? Baretzki smiles and points to the handsome army-green 1858 chronograph on his wrist. "I love watches, but if I am honest, I don't wear a watch to tell the time. If I wanted to tell the time, [my phone] is much more efficient and I know it's going to be telling always the right time, anywhere I am in the world." The 1858 chronograph, and the StarWalker, both offer something else entirely. "It's about the beauty of the object," he explains. "But, I also believe in the functionality."
Similarly, Jackman says he appreciates the mindfulness writing in ink gives him in the digital world. "I find that when I put on a beautiful watch, or when I write with a beautiful pen, there's a different quality to the attention and the space I give it," he says. Not to mention the fact that taking care of one good pen is more sustainable than losing and chucking out myriad plastic ballpoints.
Before his association with Montblanc, Jackman confesses, he was a serial stealer of pens – he'd be in banks or airports and subconsciously pocket the ballpoint without thinking. "There's two types of people: those who buy pens and those who nick them. I was always a nicker."
It would be a foolish person who attempted to nick a StarWalker. Before he leaves the party in a waiting black sedan, his writing instrument in pocket, Jackman reveals the real reason he works for a brand such as Montblanc. "My French aunt is a big cinephile snob who always gives me a hard time," Jackman says. "After all the movies I've done, when I told her about working for Montblanc, she's like … (Jackman drops into a Parisian accent), 'Ah, finally, finally. You're doing something classy'."
The writer travelled to Houston with assistance from Montblanc.