HUGH JACKMAN - Family First
"This wouldn’t mean very much if I couldn’t share it with Deb and the kids. My father taught me that your family is your bedrock and you should always make that your priority. That lesson has never been lost on me.”
Hugh Jackman is a one-man show, no matter whether he’s raging as Wolverine, performing on Broadway, or walking down the street smiling at well-wishers and signing autographs. He relishes his success and remains fiercely ambitious while retaining his seemingly unshakable, good-natured demeanor. Enjoying life in New York City with his wife Deborra-Lee Furness and their two children, Oscar and Ava, Jackman is a dedicated family man who has never lost sight of what matters to him most.
In the meantime, Jackman’s career continues to soar. During the course of the last year, he earned some of the best reviews of his career for his work in the taut thriller, Prisoners, while X-Men: Days of Future Past, in which he reprised his iconic Wolverine role, earned a staggering $750 million at the worldwide box office, even headlined the Broadway production of “The River” and absolutely thrived on stage, despite nearly slicing off his finger mid-show (he carried on, bloodied towel around his hand, for the rest of the performance).
His the spring film, Chappie, Jackman is again able to indulge his adventurous acting tastes in the sci-fi thriller directed by Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium). The story revolved around a robot with the mind (and innocence) of a child (played by frequent Blomkamp collaborator Sharlto Copley) and was set in a futuristic version of South Africa. Jackman co-starred alongside Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire, The Newsroom) and Sigourney Weaver. Jackman was “thrilled” to have had the chance to work with Blomkamp, whose work he admires and has previously worked with in the robot-centered film, Real Steel.
The 46-year-old Jackman lives in New York, together with his wife and fellow Aussie, former actress Deborra-Lee Furness, and their two adopted children, Oscar, 14, and Ava, 9. Jackman has won the Tony Award twice and received a best actor nomination as Jean Valjean in Les Misérables (for which he won the Golden Globe) in 2013.
With respect to Chappie, Jackman laughed when asked about how his physique might overwhelm that of the lean Patel, even though they both stand 6’2” tall: “Good. Crush him! I’m not in it for a close call!”
SMARTY: Hugh, you continue to indulge your passion for theater, as well as film. Is it important to keep returning to the stage in plays like “The River”, or the one-man shows you’ve performed in the past?
JACKMAN: I love performing. Whether it’s the theater or film, it’s part of the same process. Ever since I got started in this business, it was always my goal to be able to make the most of my opportunities, to do something I love, and keep doing it for as long as I can. Theater is special because of the connection you’re able to feel with the audience and the discipline it imposes on you. Being on stage makes me a better actor and I want to keep doing it because it keeps me sharp. It’s always a challenge to perform live and experience that added kick that comes from knowing that you can’t lose your concentration or focus.
SMARTY: X-Men has been such a great success for you…
JACKMAN: I love playing Wolverine, even though the training is getting harder each time out. I owe so much to the success of that character and how audiences have embraced him over the years. I think I enjoy playing him more now than ever, because as you get older, you’re better able to portray that world-weary side of him—I mean, he’s been around for two or three centuries—and how that’s taken its toll on him. Wolverine’s a great character—he’s like a best friend who’s been at my side for my entire (film) career.
SMARTY: What does your son, Oscar, make of Wolverine? How did he react to X:Men: Days of Future Past?
JACKMAN: He loved it. He had just turned 14 when it came out. He said, ‘Dad, I’ve got an idea for the next one. I think he should not be in any fights at all. I think he should just be a gardener, and he’s kind of cool, but he’s really at peace.’ And I said, “Now hang on—good idea, but I think the Wolverine fans around the world want to see one little fight.” He said, ‘No. I think we’ve seen enough. I think he should just be calm.’ (Laughs)
SMARTY: You’ve admitted to having accomplished a lot of your acting goals after playing in Les Misérables. What worlds do you have left to conquer?
JACKMAN: Oh, quite a few, I hope. I’m looking to push myself further in the coming years. I feel much more confident about my work now than I did ten or even five years ago—and I want to play many different kinds of characters. I’m ready to challenge myself in ways that I wasn’t prepared or willing to do before and that’s kind of exciting for me. My wife thinks I have a strange fixation on wanting to keep inventing some sort of new mountain to climb and I have to keep assuring her that it’s just healthy ambition! (Laughs)
SMARTY: You’ve made a very happy life for yourself together with your wife Deborra-Lee and your two children. Is that what counts most for you?
"They’re the basis of everything I do. It would mean very little to me to have a successful career and not be able to share it with my family. Work has its satisfactions, but it’s nothing compared to the joy you take in being with your family and looking after your kids. My father, even though he won’t really talk about it, still feels regret that he wasn’t able to spend as much time with me and my brothers as he would have liked, even though he had a very important job and he did his best after my mother left. When we talk, he never asks me about work, only about Deb and the kids."
SMARTY: Did you know that Deb was “the one” when you first met her?
JACKMAN: There was something that clicked between us right away. It was the feeling you get when you sense this connection that tells you that this is the kind of woman you want to have in your life. You don’t even think about it—you just know that it’s going to work between you, and that’s exactly how it’s been ever since. I wasn’t even looking to settle down at the time—I was happily single. Meeting Deb has been a blessing. We have a beautiful life together.
SMARTY: Have you ever paid attention to the age difference between the two of you? (Jackman’s wife is 13 years his elder).
JACKMAN: No. She worried at the beginning about it, but it was never an issue for me, or even something that entered my thinking. Deb has always had more energy than me and she’s always the first one up in the morning and immediately wide awake and expecting me to follow suit! (Laughs) It still amazes me that she is always so enthusiastic and never gets down about anything. She’s always there to keep me in good spirits. She’s also very good with the kids and has a lot more patience than I do.
SMARTY: Let’s talk about your film, Chappie. What drew you to the film?
JACKMAN: It was a great script and I was very excited about working with Neill (Blomkamp). I see him as a visionary kind of director and he creates this incredible world that draws you in as an actor and is very inspiring.
SMARTY: Is it a very different kind of sci-fi film, compared to X-Men or Real Steel?
JACKMAN: It’s a very unique story. Neill has this underlying sense of humanity that comes through in his work, and underneath the sci-fi or futuristic elements, there’s this strong sense about what makes us human and what is really valuable and meaningful in life. It’s the kind of story that surprised people and has left a lasting impression.
SMARTY: You keep finding very different kinds of projects as an actor—from Prisoners to X-Men to Chappies and to Pan, where you play Blackbeard (to be released this October). Do you remember what first inspired you to become an actor?
JACKMAN: Performing has always been in my blood, although it was my sixth grade teacher who gave me a lot of encouragement and confidence. I remember coming home one day and being very excited: “Oh dad, I want to do this.” Chris (he calls his dad Chris) was like, ‘Great.’ But one of my brothers went: ‘You sissy, you poof...’ I actually didn’t know what (poof) meant at that point, but I knew that it was not good, so I never mentioned it again. But when I was 18, my dad took us to see 42nd Street. My brother came up to me and said: ‘I really want to apologize.’ “For what?” I asked him. ‘I remember when you were younger and I said that you were a poof for dancing. I was such an idiot. You should’ve been dancing for the last eight years. You should’ve been up there doing that.’ The next day I signed up for dance classes! (Laughs)
SMARTY: You’ve spoken so much and so movingly about how you were affected by your mother’s leaving the house (she moved to England when Hugh was 8) when you were a young boy. What kind of influence and teaching did your father impart to you?
JACKMAN: He showed me a lot by example, even though I couldn’t appreciate everything at the time because I was angry and sad. My father taught me about responsibility and honor and respect. He also taught me a great deal about being passionate about whatever you do in life, because he believed—and I think it’s true—that passion is one of the greatest gifts you can have in life.
SMARTY: Do you try to pass this along to your children?
JACKMAN: (Laughs) I do my best, although they’re still young. I try to teach them about being responsible and being respectful, but of course, kids don’t always appreciate those lessons! (Laughs) But they’re great kids—their father has to learn to be more patient! (Laughs)