As a working-class father who first loses his daughter and then loses himself in the kidnapping drama "Prisoners," Hugh Jackman's edge-of-madness performance is his deepest and darkest yet.

"When you're in the hands of a director who can push you to places you didn't think you could go to, it's the ultimate challenge for an actor. You just jump onboard then, and whatever the collateral damage is, is worth it," Jackman said.

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In one intense interrogation scene, Jackman goes berserk with a claw hammer, embedding it in a plaster wall inches from co-star Paul Dano's head. It was a spontaneous improvisation at the end of a hellishly demanding day, Jackman said.

"With the hammer scene, I was really spent. We'd gone to a really dark place. Denis [Villeneuve, the director] started to walk over to me, and I was pretty sure he was going to say, 'We've got it, man.' And he said, 'No, Hugh. I need you to go there!' I thought I was there, but I said OK. I was glad to have those scenes over. The set director was glad it was the last take. . . . I didn't know I was going to do it. Paul Dano didn't know I was going to do it. It still amazes me he never flinched."