The Tragic Truth About Hugh Jackman

Hugh Jackman is a rare specimen in Hollywood. Not only can he sing and dance — case in point "The Greatest Showman" — but he can also comfortably portray one of the world's most recognized superheroes, in the form of "X-Men" icon Wolverine. With a plethora of dramatic and comedic roles under his belt and an undeniable charisma, it's hardly surprising that Jackman remains a prominent star with a fan base spanning the globe.

Before pursuing a career in entertainment, Jackman asked his father, Christopher Jackman, for advice. The actor's dad suggested that Hugh was "thin-skinned," which might pose a problem. "He's right: I am thin-skinned," Hugh told The Guardian in January 2023. "But it's also a strength as an actor. Thin-skinned is sensitivity, which is something you need. And so I'm still learning to cope with it."

However, the Oscar-nominated actor has faced many challenges throughout his life, starting with his childhood in Australia, which was far from the picturesque existence one might expect. From devastating family losses to persistent rumors and health scares, Hugh Jackman has handled a slew of difficult and heartbreaking situations, even after becoming a recognizable public figure. 

His mother abandoned him as a child

Hugh Jackman may seem to have it all as a famous Hollywood star, but the actor's life has been far from perfect. In fact, Jackman faced tragedy early on when his mother, Grace McNeil, walked out on her family in Australia and moved back to England when he was just 8 years old. During an interview with The Australian Women's Weekly, the "Logan" star explained, "At the time, it was difficult." He continued, "One of the main things I remember is that horrible feeling that people were talking about you and looking at you because it was odd for the mother to leave."

As a young child, Jackman was initially in denial about his mother leaving, telling The Australian Women's Weekly, "Up until about the age of 12 or 13, I thought Mom and Dad would get back together." He explained, "Finally realizing it wasn't going to happen was probably the toughest time to be honest." He also revealed to the publication that his mother had been experiencing postnatal depression following his birth, struggling to raise five children in a country far away from her home, eventually leading her to leave the family. They have since reconciled, and the actor credits having his own kids with repairing his relationship with his estranged mom.

His father's death affected him greatly

After his mother moved back to England, Hugh Jackman and his siblings were raised by their father, Christopher Jackman. On September 6, 2021, the Oscar-nominee paid tribute to his dad, who died on Father's Day in Australia, in an Instagram post. "And whilst there is deep sadness, I am filled with such gratitude and love," the actor wrote. "My Dad was, in a word, extraordinary. He devoted his life to his family, his work, and his faith." 

The following year, Hugh opened up about the tragic loss in an interview with Variety, revealing that Christopher had lived with Alzheimer's for 12 years prior to his death. Having visited his father before he died, Hugh explained, "He was nearing the end." He continued, "So he was ostensibly gone, mentally. He would still smile a bit. I didn't know he was going to physically pass away, but I knew it was kind of a goodbye." After the emotional visit, Hugh started working on the 2022 movie "The Son," during which he learned that his father had died. During his Variety interview, Hugh also pointed to his father's incredible work ethic as the reason he carried on with filming after learning the devastating news. He explained, "I knew if he could talk to me, he'd be like, 'You got to go to work!'"

Filming The Son was incredibly difficult

As well as mourning the death of his father, Jackman found it challenging working on "The Son," particularly because of the movie's subject matter. The film focuses on the relationship between a son and his workaholic father, who deals with mental health issues, as well as the fallout from divorce and the scars of generational trauma. Speaking to The Guardian, he explained, "It was technically difficult. It was emotionally difficult. And I just sort of let go a little bit." The movie's subject matter also forced Jackman to reflect on his own life, as he told the publication, "Stuff from my upbringing was coming up. My worries as a father."

In his interview with The Guardian, Jackman also revealed that "The Son" started to affect his sleep and even invaded his dreams. "I was more of a hot mess in this than in anything I've ever done," he explained. The actor went on to receive a Golden Globe nomination for his performance in the movie. However, it wasn't an easy process by any means.

Hugh and his wife struggled to start a family

Deborra-Lee Furness and Hugh Jackman married on April 11, 1996, after meeting on the set of the Australian TV series "Correlli" the previous year. Despite having a 13-year age difference, there was immediate chemistry between the pair, with Jackman telling People, "Deb and I were already best friends, and I realized, I've got a crush on my leading lady." While Furness was already a big star in Australia, Jackman was at the start of his career, and "Correlli" was a big break for him. At the time of their wedding, Jackman was 27 years old, while Furness was 40, which led them to start trying to have a baby pretty quickly. 

Unfortunately, Furness and Jackman had a difficult fertility journey, with the "Prisoners" star telling People, "We struggled, a couple miscarriages, IVF — it's not easy, particularly on Deb." Ultimately, the pair decided to adopt their two children, son Oscar and daughter Ava. "Our motivation behind adopting was, 'Where is the need?'" Jackman told People. "The biggest need is in mixed-race kids. I want to tell my kids that ... it doesn't matter what sexual [orientation] you are ... it doesn't matter whether your hair is straight or curly, if you're tall or short, man or woman, what race you are. What defines you as a human being is underneath all that." 

His wife was forced to address rumors he might be gay

As a big Hollywood star, Hugh Jackman regularly finds himself in the headlines, but sometimes the rumors take on a life of their own. One such rumor involved Jackman's sexuality and spun out of control so quickly that his wife, Deborra-Lee Furness, was forced to address the whispers about her husband. During an appearance on the "Anh's Brush with Fame" podcast (via the Daily Star), Furness explained, "I see these magazines and they are just so mean-spirited." She continued, "I hope people realize it's all made up. It's just wrong." 

Furness spoke about the rumors once more in 2022 during an appearance on the "Not an Overnight Success" podcast (via the Daily Mail). "I mean, hello guys — if he was gay, he could be gay!" she explained. "He didn't have to hide in the closet anymore, and he'd be dating Brad Pitt, or whatever. Not that Brad's gay, but you know what I'm saying!" Revealing how the rumors affected her, Furness said, "It's so silly, and then people perpetuate silly things and it's boring."

Hugh Jackman started therapy to address familial problems

During a 2023 interview with The Sun, Hugh Jackman revealed that he'd started therapy to address his childhood and family life. "It's helped me a lot," he told the publication. "You need a friend that you can unload with everything," he continued. The actor also revealed that living in the United States had changed his opinion about therapy, as attitudes in Australia had been very different when he was growing up. "Having someone really smart, who's actually a little bit removed from your world, can be really helpful," he explained.

Jackman also told The Sun that therapy had helped him realize how his childhood affected his parenting style and how he related to his family. Speaking with a therapist also helped stop him from repeating certain patterns of behavior. "[Therapy] is helping me to be more relational with the people I love in my life, really understanding and living in their shoes and being clear enough to be able to see them," he told The Sun.

He was diagnosed with skin cancer

When it comes to his health, Hugh Jackman has continued to be honest with his fans, revealing his own diagnosis of basal cell carcinoma (BCC), a form of skin cancer. Jackman was treated for cancer for the first time in 2013 after he had some cancerous cells removed. Since then, the actor has undergone a number of procedures, most recently sharing an update on his diagnosis in April 2023. The star of "The Greatest Showman" posted a video on Instagram in which he could be seen wearing a band-aid on his nose after having biopsies. "I know you've heard me talk about my basal cell carcinomas before," he wrote. "I'm going to keep talking about them, if need be. And if it reminds even one person to put on sunscreen with a high SPF, then I'm happy."

Days later, the actor shared an Instagram Story in which he revealed that his biopsies had come back negative for cancer. He also took the opportunity to remind his fans to be safe in the sun, writing (via Sky News), "Please remember to wear sunscreen with a high level of SPF (no matter the season)." 

He damaged his voice playing Wolverine

One of Hugh Jackman's most memorable roles has been that of Wolverine in the "X-Men" franchise. While the role undoubtedly brought him huge recognition, it also had its downsides. During an appearance on BBC's "Front Row," Jackman revealed, "I've done some damage to my voice, through playing Wolverine." He continued, "My falsetto is not as strong as it used to be, and I put that down directly to some of the growling and yelling I did." He added, "My vocal teacher in drama school would've been horrified with some of the things I did [as Wolverine]."

After noticing some permanent damage to his voice, the actor has worked with a singing teacher to make sure that he properly trains for any new project, he explained on "Front Row." And in spite of the problematic growling, fans won't have to wait too long to see Jackman return to his iconic superhero role, as the actor is set to don Wolverine's classic yellow suit for the first time in "Deadpool 3."

He broke down when detained at the Canadian border

During an appearance on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" in 2022, Hugh Jackman was candid about an unfortunate incident that saw him interrogated upon arrival in Canada. According to the actor, he had just scored his now iconic role as Wolverine in the "X-Men" franchise and had to enter Canada twice in one week despite not having a visa. While his employers told him to say that he was simply there for an audition, Jackman cracked under the pressure when questioned. "I was pathetic, I broke ... I was sweating," he explained. He then described being sent to an interrogation room. "I had to wait in this room for like an hour and a half," he told the host.

Recounting his thought processes while being held in customs, Jackman explained, 'I've just lost the biggest break of my life, and I'm going to go to jail, and I don't know what to do." Luckily, once everyone realized that Jackman had been cast as Wolverine, he was quickly released and made to sign autographs, of course. But still, it sounds as though Jackman was more than a little shaken up during the whole ordeal.

He was 'very sad' when the family's beloved dog died

In August 2022, Hugh Jackman shared the sad news that his beloved dog Dali had died. In an Instagram post paying tribute to the pup, Jackman wrote, "It's a very sad day for our family. Dali, our beloved Frenchie, passed away last night. He would've been 12 next month." Jackman reportedly adopted Dali in 2010, meaning that he was truly part of the family for a long time.

Sharing two sweet snaps taken with Dali, Jackman wrote of his dog, "He marched to the beat of his own drum, was beloved by the whole world, and boy did he have a good life." He continued, "We will miss him but know he's howling in heaven, ruling the roost and enjoying the all-you-can-eat buffet." Jackman regularly shared photos and videos of Dali and the family's other dog, Allegra, on social media, proving just how much he loved his dog. 

His marriage ended after 27 years

On September 15, 2023, Hugh Jackman and Deborra-Lee Furness announced that they'd decided to separate after 27 years together. In a statement shared with People, the former couple explained, "We have been blessed to share almost 3 decades together as husband and wife in a wonderful, loving marriage. Our journey now is shifting and we have decided to separate to pursue our individual growth." The pair also reaffirmed that their family — which includes both of their children – would be their main priority as they moved forward with the separation.

The statement continued, "We undertake this next chapter with gratitude, love, and kindness." They also asked for privacy as they consciously uncoupled in the public eye. Understandably, fans were shocked by the news, as Jackman and Furness' marriage had always seemed both enviable and rare by Hollywood standards. Hopefully, the Jackman-Furness family will find happiness and a new way forward following the split.