Tai Hang's Fire Dragon Dance has been eagerly attended by revellers since 1880. But last Monday's celebration was probably the first time that the crowds were more interested in seeing who was carrying the Dragon Pearl - the spherical stick full of incense waved at the start of the event - than in seeing the fire dragon itself. That's because the guy waving the Dragon Pearl was Hugh Jackman.
"I was taking it very seriously, making sure I had that move right. The pole's heavier than I thought, and at one point the embers were falling and I was like, no, keep going, I don't want bad luck to come," Jackman tells Young Post the next day. Did he really believe he was fighting off evil? "Well, the incense was powerful because my eyes were stinging," he laughs.
Jackman is as charming in real life as he is on screen. He's tall and muscular with an easy smile. Few would guess that the man who has played Wolverine for 17 years used to be a bit of a wimp.
For one, he was scared of the dark. "I was always the first one home, and there was no on in. And I used to sit outside sometimes, because I hated having to go in. Or I would run straight to the TV and turn it on because I didn't wanna hear any noises in the house," says Jackman, 46.
He overcame his fear at 15, when he was forced to spend two nights alone in the Australian bush for school camp, with just a sheet of plastic, a bit of string, and some food. After sleeping with spiders, snakes and a 3-metre lizard that ate his food, he realised the dark was the least of his worries.
As a teenager, Jackman was also afraid of heights, so he jumped off a diving board every day for a month until he wasn't scared anymore.
"I hated the feeling, I hated how it restricted me. We would go to an amusement park and I was scared of the roller coaster, so I couldn't even enjoy the park because I knew my friends were gonna make fun of me," he says.
Fear is a prominent theme in Jackman's new film, Pan, which he came to Hong Kong to promote. Jackman plays the villain Blackbeard, who vows to stop Peter Pan from taking Neverland from him. Peter, played by 11-year-old Levi Miller, has to overcome his fear of heights so that he can fly and save the island's fairies.
Jackman was attracted to the role because of the fun script - he first appears in the film while singing Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit. His finely tuned performance was inspired by The Wizard of Oz's wicked witch.
"When you're a kid, you really do think there's a boogeyman behind the door. And you don't have the ability to reason it or process it, so fairy tales exist as a way to reflect that fear. You watch the hero overcome those fears," he says. "I wanted to make sure I was a character that was sinister but funny. If I was just relentlessly terrifying … it's just too much for kids."
Reputed as the nicest guy in show business, Jackman doesn't often cast as the villain. But he says everyone has a dark side, himself included.
"I've had some relationships in the past, and I'm not proud of them. It's almost like that didn't seem like me. Why was I getting so angry?" he asks. It's like small children, he says.
"Kids can be adorable one second, and the moment they're not getting what they want, they can be demonic. That's actually within all of us. I think you have to be careful not to forget that."
Jackman thinks everyone is full of contradictions - no matter good or bad. Blackbeard may seem merciless, but he is scared and sad as well; Wolverine may be a hero, but he's very flawed and gets angry easily - and Jackman loves them both. But sadly for fans, Wolverine 3, due out in 2017, will be the last time we see the actor with his claws.
"I have too much respect for the character, the audience, the fans and what I do as an actor to try and do too much with it," he says. "I would hate to miss that point where I should have left."
Pan opens on October 8.