An Inside Look At Hugh Jackman's Life And Career: From X-Men To The Music Man

Hugh Jackman is one of the most versatile talents in Hollywood. The celebrated actor, singer, dancer, and entertainer has the hardware to prove it, too. His performance in a 1999 West End production of "Oklahoma" helped him land the role of Wolverine in "X-Men," the clawed comic book hero he played in nine films. In 2004, the song-and-dance man won a Tony Award for playing musician Peter Allen in "The Boy from Oz." Jackman won two Emmys for hosting the Tonys, a gig he took on four times.

In 2013, the actor received an Oscar nod for his role as Jean Valjean in the film "Les Misérables," one of the most successful movie musicals ever. A few years later, he starred as circus promoter P.T. Barnum in the big-budget musical biopic, "The Greatest Showman," earning a Golden Globe nomination for his performance. In 2020, Jackman received an Emmy nod for his role as a shady superintendent in HBO's true crime drama, "Bad Education."

In 2022, he returned to Broadway, picking up a second Tony nomination as "The Music Man." But success hasn't always come easy for the talented performer, and Jackman's had his fair share of ups and downs. If he seems like the kindest, most down-to-earth guy in show business, maybe that's because he is. Let's take a closer look at the man and his singular, sensational career.

Hugh Jackman had an unsettling childhood

Hugh Jackman grew up in Sydney, Australia, the youngest of five children. His mother abandoned the family when Hugh was just eight years old. "It was traumatic," Jackman told Who magazine in 2018 (via Daily Mail). "I thought she was probably going to come back." It wasn't until several years later that Jackman realized it was never going to happen, after his father went to England in search of his ex-wife, only to discover she remarried and had another child.

Jackman and his siblings were raised by their father, a Cambridge-educated accountant. The "X-Men" star learned his mother had suffered from severe postpartum depression following his birth. Jackman resented his mom for years, but in a 2012 interview with Australia's 60 Minutes, he said, 'I was always quite connected with my mum. I have a good relationship with her." Having children of his own, he noted, especially made him empathize with his mother.

As for his dad, Jackman has shared just how hard he worked to provide for his five children, all while teaching them to be courteous and kind. "The Son" actor credits his dad for becoming the famous "nice guy" he is today. As he shared with Australia's Nationwide News, "You can't put on airs and graces here, people will cut you down to size pretty quickly."

Sparks flew on the set of Jackman's first gig

In 1995, Hugh Jackman landed his first on-camera role on the Australian TV show, "Correlli," playing the love interest of his future wife Deborra-Lee Furness. He was 26, a recent graduate of the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts. She was 39, the star of the crime drama series, and an established actor Down Under. 

In a 2018 joint interview on the "Aussies in Hollywood" podcast, Furness recalled, "I had just made my New Year's resolution, I said, 'I am not dating any actors, and definitely not under 30,'" she said. "Meet my husband." Jackman knew early on she had met her forever-love. "I knew before Deb knew, even when she tried to break up with me, I knew," he said. The couple married in 1996, and they adopted two children, Oscar and Ava. Jackman says they met at the right time in their lives and careers.

"I'm kind of really grateful that I met her before anything kind of happened," he explained during an appearance on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" in 2016. "Everything that's happened in my career and onscreen, offscreen, we've always done it together." Speaking to Vogue Australia in 2015, the "Falcon Crest" alum explained her other half is also her best friend. "I've always said, I was an only child so marriage to me is like a permanent sleepover with someone to play with in the morning, so I think it's awesome. I love it."

X-Men marked the spot

Hugh Jackman wasn't the first actor cast as Wolverine in 2000's original "X-Men" film. It turns out, "Mission Impossible 2" star Dougray Scott had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts. Patrick Stewart, who co-starred with Jackman in most of his "X-Men" films, recalled meeting the "slender, pleasant-looking guy with a strong Australian accent," and that after 20 minutes of talking, the pair had already warmed up to one another. "He charmed everybody," Stewart told Variety

Nearly two decades later, that slender Australian bulked up for a multi-billion dollar superhero franchise, creating a character that would define his career. Despite "X-Men's" success, when "X2: X-Men United" came around three years later, some doubted his decision to reprise the role. "Many people were like, 'This is a really bad idea, this is 18 months of your life; by the time it's over, you could be back auditioning with everybody else," he shared with Men's Journal in 2013.

To get "Jacked" for his "X-Men" roles, the actor goes through an intensive four-week "Wolverine Workout" with celebrity trainer David Kingsbury, which includes a combination of diet, two types of cardio, and superset weight lifting. "People always say to me, 'Why are you in such good shape?' and I always answer, 'If I told you that you were going to be on film on a 40-foot screen with your shirt off, you'd be in good shape too,'" Jackman quipped to Variety.

The actor has a lighter side, too

Before "X-Men" was released, Jackman's agent sent him to audition for the 2000 film "Miss Congeniality," for the role that ultimately went to Benjamin Bratt. It was a ploy to negotiate against another gig Jackman had already been offered. In the audition with Sandra Bullock, Jackman, who admits auditions aren't his strong suit, felt like he couldn't keep up. "'Holy sh**! She's amazing! And so quick and fast. I'm not even vaguely up to speed here," he thought to himself, per Variety.

After the part went to Bratt, he said, "That's humiliating, when your agent says, 'I don't want you to get this job, but just go get it.' And then you don't get it." Jackman had the chance to show his lighter side in the other film, 2001's "Someone Like You," starring alongside Ashley Judd and Greg Kinnear. While critics generally dismissed the romantic comedy as fluffy and predictable, others praised Jackman's performance, specifically. 

That same year, the actor teamed up with the queen of rom-coms in "Kate & Leopold," playing a time-traveling British duke who falls for modern-day New Yorker Meg Ryan (above). In a pivotal scene from the film, Leopold rides up on a white horse and rescues Kate in a grand romantic gesture. At the movie's opening party in Manhattan, Jackman confirmed to Entertainment Weekly his equestrian skills weren't always quite so smooth. "My wife will tell you—the first time I rode horseback was probably the most unsexy display ever."

Jackman revved up his career on Broadway

In the early 2000s, Hugh Jackman had one of the wildest rides of his career. In 2003, the actor suited up for 2003's "X2: X-Men United." The sequel, which co-stars Patrick Stewart and Halle Berry, was not only a bigger hit than the original film, it's considered by many to be the best film of the original trilogy. The following year, Jackman ventured into the horror realm, playing the titular role in "Van Helsing," a monster hunter on a mission in Transylvania.

But it was the triple-threat performer's Broadway debut that really shook things up. Jackman won a Tony Award for playing flamboyant singer-songwriter Peter Allen in 2003's "The Boy from Oz." Suddenly, people who knew Jackson as Wolverine saw a whole new side of him. The show was one of the year's breakout hits, and the musical comedy star received several film offers and an invitation to host the Oscars.

When Jackman performed as Peter Allen at the 2004 Tonys, he invited Sarah Jessica Parker on stage to dance with him. She was wearing a tight ballerina top. "I really felt for her that night," he told Variety. "As soon as she got up onstage, I could tell those boobs were about to come out." Jackman also hosted the Tony Awards that year and three other times, winning back-to-back Emmys in 2005 and 2006.

Les Misérables was a dream come true for the actor

Hugh Jackman received an Oscar nomination for his performance as Jean Valjean in 2012's "Les Misérables." "To be honest, I've been wanting to do a movie musical for a long time, but I didn't wait to be asked for this one," he told Backstage. "This was definitely the most aggressive I've ever been seeking out a role." Little did he know director Tom Hopper had him in mind for the part all along. It turned out to be the most challenging role of his career.

Hopper insisted that the actors sing live, rather than lip sync to their own studio recording. "It had never been done before," noted Jackman to Fox News, who added, "it was an opportunity as an actor that I so wanted because it's all about being present, about being in the moment, about being spontaneous." The film was a box-office bonanza, raking in a whopping $442 million. It also sparked his friendship with co-star Anne Hathaway, who played Fantine.

"What I learned about you when we were on 'Les Miz' is that you're so charming and so unflappable, but you're actually really serious," Hathaway told Variety in 2020. Meanwhile, Jackman signaled his tenure as Wolverine could be coming to an end. Ahead of 2014's "X-Men: Days of Future Past," the MCU star shared with Collider, "Right now I don't [want to let it go], and as long as it keeps going this direction I probably won't."

Yes, Hugh Jackman is the nicest guy in Hollywood

You may have heard the rumors, but it seems nobody who's met the charming Hugh Jackman has a cross word to say about him. Amanda Seyfried, who plays Cosette in "Les Misérables," summed up the Marvel star's real superpower quite nicely. "There is nothing bad to say about Hugh. He isn't human," "The Dropout" star told Vanity Fair in 2012. "I bet you anything he's got some kind of superhuman capabilities, beyond just being just the kindest, gentlest soul I've come across."

Laura Dern, who appears in Jackman's 2022 film "The Son," told Variety, "He's the nicest man ever." "Deadpool" star Ryan Reynolds may have made a few jokes at Jackman's expense, but he called the actor "one of the most quality human beings I've ever met." In a 2013 interview with Men's Journal, Jackman's "Kate & Leopold" co-star Liev Schreiber said, "I think he really, authentically believes in the notion that we should be good to each other, that we should be kind to each other."

Speaking to Variety in 2017, the "X-Men: The Last Stand" star explained his "nice" behavior isn't anything out of the ordinary. It was simply the way he was raised. Jackman, who personally greeted every crew member on a Variety cover photoshoot, added, "I feel more comfortable being relaxed and myself with everybody, rather than a feeling of 'Oh, I'm a big actor; you can't talk to me.' My way of connecting — maybe people attribute it as being nice, but it's just being a normal person."

The actor took a dark turn in Prisoners

In 2013, Jackman starred in "The Wolverine," which features two prominent TV doctors: "The Good Doctor's" Will Yun Lee, and Brian Tee, also known as Dr. Ethan Choi on NBC's "Chicago Med." Jackman also teamed up with Jake Gyllenhaal on the crime drama, "Prisoners." It's a film Esquire named one of the year's best, citing Jackman's turn as a father desperately searching for his missing daughter, "one of the most nuanced and unexpected performances of his career."

Jackman told the outlet he learned a lot from the "Nocturnal Animals" star. "He's very instinctive as an actor. It's very unusual for someone who's so cerebral when he's preparing," the "Australia" actor said. In a joint interview with The Chicago Tribune, Gyllenhaal told Jackman, "I was amazed that someone in your position is still so interested in discovery ... That was a great inspiration to me." In 2014, Jackman starred in "X-Men: Days of Future Past," alongside Ian McKellen and James McAvoy.

Speaking to The Guardian in 2015, Jackman described the film as "one of the best" of the X-Men series. The actor's next project may have been one of his worst choices, playing the evil pirate leader Blackbeard in the 2015 film, "Pan," the Peter Pan prequel. Critics overwhelmingly "panned" the flick. The New York Post, which rated it zero stars, wrote, "This joyless, 10-megaton bomb fails in just about every imaginable way, as well as some you couldn't possibly imagine."

Hugh Jackman said goodbye to Wolverine

In 2017's "Logan," Hugh Jackman bid farewell to Wolverine, the character he played in nine films over the course of 17 years. The R-rated feature focused on real human struggles — not your typical comic book movie fare. "This was not a film about selling lunch boxes or action figures," director James Mangold told Variety in 2017. "It was oriented toward adults. The goal was to make something gritty that was also a character piece."

Jackman said seeing the film made him realize how long it took to figure out how to play the flawed hero. "I sat there and I did have tears in my eyes," he said. "The main feeling I had was: "There, that's the character. I feel like I've done it now. And I was calm and at peace, but I'm going to miss that guy." "Logan" was a commercial success, bringing in a staggering $619,000 at the box office. Critics liked the movie as well.

"It's the perfect goodbye to a beloved character," wrote James Luxford for City AM. In a 2015 interview with The Guardian, Jackman explained his first inkling in show business was to keep as many doors open as possible. "I kept thinking, those doors are going to slam shut, and at one point it'll be Wolverine and musicals, or it'll be this or that," the "Rise of the Guardians" actor said. "But, weirdly, what I'm known for now is more that versatility than any particular door."

Hugh Jackman is 'The Greatest Showman'

High Jackman was a Golden Globe nominee for his performance as larger-than-life circus impresario P.T. Barnum in the 2017 musical biopic, "The Greatest Showman." It was a big-budget project he worked on for seven years. "I probably thought there was a 50-50 chance of it being made," he told The New York Times in 2017. "I'm a little addicted to movies feeling personal, if not life or death, so that there's really something at stake, and win or lose, it feels right."

Jackman was fascinated by Barnum, a self-made millionaire who capitalized on the public's obsession with bizarre acts, like bearded ladies and sword swallowers. "He created this world that no one had even thought possible," Jackman told Variety. "He really, for me, epitomized the idea that your imagination is your limit in a time where things were very rigid and when the social position you were born into was the one you were stuck in." The film was a huge hit at the box office, grossing over $400 million worldwide.

The movie's soundtrack won a Grammy award, bringing Jackman, already a Tony and Emmy winner, one step closer to EGOT status. As of this writing, all he needs now is an Oscar. Speaking to The New York Times, Jackman admitted "The Greatest Showman" shied away from the dark side of Barnum's life, including accusations he exploited people with disabilities. "We like to say that we made the movie that Barnum would have liked to make."

The truth about Jackman's 'feud' with Ryan Reynolds

Hugh Jackman and Ryan Reynolds met on the set of 2009's "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." "I used to ream him because I was very close friends with Scarlett [Johansson], and Scarlett had just married Ryan, so when he came on set I was like, 'Hey, you better be on your best behavior here, pal, because I'm watching,'" Jackman told The Daily Beast in 2020. Since then, the two funny men have jumped at every opportunity to poke fun at each other in their endless war of words — and pictures.

In 2016, when Reynolds received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Jackman posted a video of Reynolds holding a paper mask of the "Free Guy" actor, insisting the video of the honoree was "100% real." After Jackman feted his wedding anniversary on Twitter, Reynolds retweeted it, with the caption, "I gave this 3 months. Tops. I was wrong."

In 2022, when Jackman opened in "The Music Man" on Broadway, Reynolds didn't send flowers or champagne. Instead, he sent two framed snapshots of himself. Jackman responded on Instagram, "I have the most amazing friends. Gorgeous flowers, champagne and heartfelt well wishes. I am blessed. And then ... there's him." When Jackman received the Order of Australia, Reynolds showed his true colors, sharing a photo of his longtime pal receiving the honor. "Hugh Jackman is one of the finest, kindest, hardest working, generous and most talented people I've had the privilege to call my friend," he captioned the pic.

Hugh Jackman earned his first Emmy nod for acting

In 2018, Hugh Jackman took on the titular role of Gary Hart in "The Front Runner." The presumed Democratic presidential candidate's campaign was derailed after The Miami Herald published allegations of his illicit affair. Speaking to Variety, Jackman admitted he was "as scared of this as anything I've done. The weight of playing someone who could have been president — and who was mercurial and enigmatic, and who I knew would see the film — all made this very frightening."

In 2020, Jackman received his first Emmy nomination for acting, as Frank Tassone in the HBO film, "Bad Education," a true crime story about a Long Island public school superintendent convicted of embezzlement. In a 2020 interview with Deadline, Jackman said he was drawn to the story because he found it so hard to believe. "You've got a very successful, very well-liked person doing something that doesn't make sense," he said.

"How does it escalate? How do 26 people in this school end up getting charged for the biggest scandal in public school history?" the actor mused. In the film, which also stars "Everybody Loves Raymond's" Ray Romano and "Mom's" Allison Janney, Jackman found a complex character who was skilled in the art of deception. "He's seemingly very charming, but also just a viper. When he's up against the wall, he'll go for the jugular," Jackman explained to Collider.

Hugh Jackman had a brush with cancer

In 2021, Hugh Jackman took to social media to share an update about his latest skin cancer scare. In a video he posted on Instagram, the "Logan” actor said his doctors weren't concerned about his latest biopsy's results. The actor revealed he was first treated for skin cancer back in 2013. "It's always a bit of a shock just hearing the word 'cancer,”' he told People in 2015.

"Being an Australian it's a very common thing. I never wore sunscreen growing up so I was a prime candidate for it," Jackman explained. Since then, he's been treated five times and continues to advise people how to stay safe. "Remember, go and get a check and wear sunscreen. Don't be like me as a kid. Just wear sunscreen," he said. When the fate of "The Greatest Showman" was hanging in the balance, Jackman had a basal-cell carcinoma removed.

It could have stopped the movie musical dead in its tracks, per Variety. To get the greenlight, Jackman set up a read-through featuring several Broadway stars, including a stand-in, because Jackman's doctor warned him not to sing. At the right moment, Jackman stepped in anyway. "Everyone jumped up on top of their seats," said director Michael Gracey. "The man that everyone had come to hear sing was finally singing. That's when we got the greenlight."

The Tonys darling came back to Broadway

In February 2022, Jackman made a triumphant return to The Great White Way, starring alongside fellow Tony winner Sutton Foster in a revival of "The Music Man." He received a second Tony nomination for his turn as Professor Harold Hill in the classic musical comedy. "I've done some films and I've done some plays, but there's nothing like doing a musical on Broadway," he told Parade. In Jackman's latest film, "The Son," he plays Peter, a father trying to help his teenage son, who's going through a mental health crisis.

Appearing on "Good Morning America," the Golden Globe nominee described the film as "the most intense movie I've ever done. Every day we walked into these scenes that are kind of like the most horrific moments you could imagine having in life," he added. Jackman noted that he hopes the film will spark more open and honest conversations about mental health issues and concluded, "It was an experience I'm forever grateful for."

Later that year, Ryan Reynolds announced he would be joining the MCU and Hugh Jackman will be joining him, reprising his role as Wolverine for "Deadpool 3." The actor broke the news in a tongue-in-cheek video, which has been viewed more than 10 million times. "Hey, Hugh, you want to play Wolverine one more time?" Reynolds asks. "Yeah, for sure," Jackman responds, as he casually walks up the stairs. The end of the teaser reveals "Deadpool 3" is "Coming Hughn" in 2024.