Hugh Jacks? A Salute to Hugh Jackman and a Night at the Museum in-joke?

There is no question that Hugh Jacks, the man who really does not know the difference between being ignored and being led on, is something of a joke in The Ink Black Heart. He serves the narrative purpose of sparking Strike’s curiosity and jealousy while also sparking Robin’s annoyance from their initial meeting on the New Year’s ski trip to the ugly phone conversation where she points out the obvious and gets verbal abuse in return. When she finally tells him, plainly, that she is not interested, he turns nasty, blaming her for all his problems despiteabsolutely zero encouragement or interest on Robin’s part. He also serves as an interesting contrast to the two other rivals for Robin’s affection: the ultra-physical suspect Pez Pierce and the super-nice guy police officer Ryan Murphy.

But he also is part of another little joke that is quite charming as well as pretty obscure. Hugh Jacks sports the nickname “Axeman,” as his name sort of sounds like “Huge Axe”; Midge notes to Strike that people should say baby names aloud before deciding on them. It’s just another joke that makes pathetic Hugh even more pathetic, but it’s a joke with a delightful connection to a far more charming gentleman, the multi-talented Hugh Jackman, who just celebrated his birthday earlier this month, and to a blockbuster fantasy film set in England (no, not one of THOSE films).

In the third installment in the Night at the Museum film series, Secret of the Tomb, sometime-museum-nightguard Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) travels to the British Museum to help his historical pals from the Museum of Natural History in New York. Thanks to a lovely pharaoh with a magical tablet, the museum exhibits come to life every night, with comic and dramatic results. However, the tablet begins misbehaving, requiring some overseas help, and in the process, brings to life the exhibits of the BritishMuseum, including a very confused Sir Lancelot who has difficulty understanding the twenty-first century.

Lancelot (Dan Stevens, who also portrayed Charles Dickens in The Man Who Invented Christmas) is a wonderful Lancelot, handsome but also scheming. As he tries to secure the tablet for himself, he breaks into a performance of Camelot, thinking he is in the “real” Camelot, only to find a puzzled Alice Eve and Hugh Jackman playing themselves playing Guinevere and Arthur.

While most moviegoers think of Jackman as the film version of rough-and-tumble comic book hero Wolverine, he is an accomplished stage actor and musical theater star, so it would not be surprising to see him on the stage in London, using his real accent (he’s Australian) rather than calling people “Bub,” and dropping profanities and bad guys with equal flair. Poor Lancelot is both confused and angry, struggling with the concept of theater and with Jackman’s name, insisting on calling him a “huge axeman.” It’s a funny scene with Eve and Jackman clearly enjoying their cameos, despite Lancelot’s bewilderment and failure to be threatened when Jackman threatens to go Wolverine on him if he doesn’t clear out of the theater so the show can go on.

Hugh Jacks definitely doesn’t stand a chance with Robin, but the “Axeman”/Jackman joke is another thread that ties together the Ink Black Heart‘s threads of romance, multimedia artistry, and jealousy. Lancelot, the stereotypical rival for a queen’s affections, combined with the real Jackman–musical theater star/action hero/romantic lead–creates the same sort of blend we have in The Ink Black Heart, as romantic rivalries between our detectives and their suspects are set against a backdrop of various art forms and media.

Of course, the Axeman joke may just be limited to pitiful Hugh Jacks, but I’d like to think that the Jackman/Night at the Museum joke is totally intentional. I’d also like to hear your thoughts! Happy Belated Birthday, Mr. Jackman!


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