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Playboy Interview - Hugh Jackman
  • May 21, 2008 : 02:05
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PLAYBOY: You met your wife when the two of you starred on a TV prison drama and shared steamy scenes. Do you recall when life imitated art?

JACKMAN: Oh yeah. Well, I developed a crush on her. I thought, Oh, this is embarrassing. My first job, she was the leading lady—what a cliché. Deb was a big star, one of those larger-than-life people, and everyone on the set was in love with her. So I avoided her for a week, trying to get past it, and then I invited her and a few cast members to a dinner party. Mick Jagger was in town, and Deb always has a mobile phone right there with her, and it’s always on. The phone rang, and it was a friend of ours calling from the back of a limo with Mick. “We’re right outside your house, and Mick says let’s party.” She said, “Hang on a sec,” and she told me. I’m a huge Rolling Stones fan, and Mick Jagger’s outside my house. I said, “You’ve got to go, now.” She said, “Tell Mick I’m having dinner with Hugh Jackman,” and she put down the phone. Not long after I confessed my crush, she told me she had a crush on me, and we were making out in my kitchen.

PLAYBOY: What’s the most aggressive come-on you’ve gotten from a woman?

JACKMAN: I’ve had some pretty full-on ones. Once during The Boy From Oz a woman ran down to the front of the stage while I was doing the show. She said, “Hugh, I’ve always wanted to do this,” and lifted her top. She had these massive tits. I just pissed myself laughing and said, “I’m glad you got that off your chest.” I’ve had the usual weird things—underwear, all kinds of stuff.

PLAYBOY: How awkward was it to show passion in love scenes with Nicole Kidman, your wife’s ex-roommate and one of her best friends?

JACKMAN: Deb’s thing is, “I’m fine with it, but don’t shove it in my face.” Nicole’s her mate, so that was no problem. Deb did surprise me by turning up on the set of Swordfish as I was filming a scene in which I have a gun to my head, I’m getting a blow job under the table, and I’m trying to crack a code on a computer. This wasn’t an easy scene to act, with an actress under the table, pretending to give me a blow job while I’ve got dialogue. To make it seem real, I said to the girl, “When you’re under there, occasionally pinch me on the inner thigh, really pinch me, and that will kind of remind me what’s happening while I’m concentrating on the keyboard.” It looked real. Then Deb walked in, unbeknownst to me, during my close-up. She was watching the monitor and the actress underneath pinching my leg. She came straight up on set, and the actress was totally red. She said, “Oh hi, I’m Deborra-Lee, Hugh’s wife, and I believe you’re giving my husband a blow job.” The girl said, “Oh, I’m sorry.” Deb went, “Oh, relax. You’re getting paid for it. Enjoy it.” [laughs] That’s Deb.

PLAYBOY: That film is also memorable for Halle Berry’s first topless scene. She’s your friend, but when your job is basically to stare at the bare breasts of one of the world’s most beautiful women, what goes through your mind?

JACKMAN: That I’m acting and I’m there just for Halle. She struggled a bit because it was her first time. The first two days were too cold, but she walked around topless the whole time. Halle is an incredibly beautiful woman, but in Australia the leap from a bikini to topless isn’t as huge as it is in America.

PLAYBOY: Australia was originally going to star Russell Crowe, The Fountain was supposed to have Brad Pitt, and in X-Men Wolverine was first promised to Dougray Scott. What’s your philosophy on jumping on a script that has someone else’s fingerprints on it?

JACKMAN: No problem at all. That’s like saying I’ll never do Hamlet because Gielgud did it 500 times. When people watch the movie, it’s your role. Maybe I’m arrogant, but I can’t audition unless I feel I’m the right person for the part. I don’t compare myself to anyone else. Russell would have been different in Australia. Brad would have been different in The Fountain. I don’t mind coming off the bench to pinch-hit.

PLAYBOY: X-Men resonated with audiences for its undercurrent of alienation. When in your own life did you most feel as if you didn’t fit in?

JACKMAN: Around the age of 10 or so, after my mom left. My dad was bringing us up, but he had to travel, and we were sent off to different friends’ homes. It was very unusual for the mother to leave, and I remember knowing people were looking at me differently. I wished I came from a normal family. I hated feeling that we were the weird ones on the block.

PLAYBOY: The press has seized on your mother’s decision to move back to England, leaving your dad to raise five kids. How much did that media attention hurt your relationship with her?

JACKMAN: Mom and I got through that hard time and had resolved things prior to that. I’ve always been close with her, which some people found hard to understand. I made a couple of mistakes early on, speaking a little too openly. We’ve made peace with each other.

PLAYBOY: How long did it take for you to come to grips with her exit?

JACKMAN: Less time than any of my siblings. I had my moments, though. On some level I understood she was not in a great way at that time, and I wasn’t nearly as angry as you may imagine. But it was still a big tumultuous change. What my father pulled off was unbelievable—raising five kids pretty much on his own.

PLAYBOY: How did this affect your ability to trust women?

JACKMAN: It didn’t affect me that way. One way it did was, when you do a film and it comes to the end, some people find it hard to finish and let go. Not me. I move right on to the next thing, and that’s probably a defense from when my mum came to visit and dropped in and out of my life. I had to learn to enjoy her when she was there and get used to the fact that it wasn’t permanent. It’s ultimately not such a bad quality to have, because nothing really is permanent, is it?

PLAYBOY: When were things at their worst?

JACKMAN: No doubt it was at the age of 12 or 13, when my dad and mum tried to reconcile. This thing I hoped would happen was here. It lasted about three weeks, and then it was finished. I remember my disillusionment with that moment—being a teenager and pissed off at the world. That was a really tough time for me, and I got in some trouble at school.

PLAYBOY: How did this incident factor into the way you handle your marriage, your children and film shoots?

JACKMAN: My family’s always with me. Deb and I are never apart for more than two weeks. It was her idea, from being in the business and seeing enough relationships go under. You get used to living apart, which is fine when things are going well. But there’s struggle in every marriage, and that’s when you need to be together, forced to work it out. Otherwise cracks develop. Absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder. It makes it wander.

PLAYBOY: Especially when you’re on a movie set?

JACKMAN: You’re incredibly and unusually close with people there. But my desire is to be around my kids as much as I can and to be as regular as I can within our industry. Maybe that’s a result of what I went through. I also remember the resolve I felt when I got married. It was never, Oh, let’s see how this marriage goes. We were a lot more steely-eyed about things than most. I’d seen and experienced the alternative firsthand, and it’s not fun. I’m not an advocate of loveless marriages, of hanging in for the sake of the kids. But I am very blessed in my relationship with Deb, being madly in love and feeling it get better. We work to keep it that way.

PLAYBOY: You’ve adopted two children, and your wife has become active in eliminating the red tape that comes with adopting kids in Australia. How did all this happen?

JACKMAN: We always wanted to adopt, but first we wanted to have two kids biologically. We tried for a long time, and it didn’t happen. That was difficult, unexpected. I got married at 26, and before that it had been all about not getting pregnant. My wife is very headstrong; she’d gotten pretty much everything she wanted in life—except this. I remember going to our doctor, who gave us the figures about childbirth through in vitro fertilization. It was 14 percent each time you have a go. I hope Deb doesn’t mind my saying, but that was a tough, tough time. Physically, you go through a lot with IVF. I was giving Deb injections every day, and hormonally she was all over the place. There’s anxiety. Your mind centers on when you’re going to do it. You become obsessive. Then we had two miscarriages. That was very hard. Deb was determined to do another round of IVF, but I just said, “Enough. Let’s take a break and investigate adoption.” The moment the adoption process became real, all the hurt and desires about giving birth began to fade and were gone the moment Oscar was born. Ava was adopted too.

PLAYBOY: What did you think of the critical reaction to Angelina Jolie and Madonna when they adopted children from third-world countries?

JACKMAN: It’s totally unreasonable. Anyone who has kids knows it’s a hell of a lot of work and no publicity stunt. No doubt it comes from a desire that should be praised, not criticized. These were places and situations that seemed hopeless for the children, and here was an opportunity. I say, good for them.

PLAYBOY: What is your opinion of celebrities selling baby pictures to the highest-bidding magazine? Would you?

JACKMAN: I don’t have that kind of heat on me, so luckily I’ve never had to entertain the idea. As a parent you try to protect your kid, but obviously you either let them take photos or there will be a constant scrum around the kid. If money’s going to be made off your kid, giving it to a good cause seems the least of all evils.

PLAYBOY: Do you understand the public fixation with reading about turbulence in celebrities’ private lives or with paparazzi shots of them in unglamorous moments?

JACKMAN: I’ve heard people complain that being asked what time they eat breakfast is an invasion of privacy, but people on-screen are put on a pedestal, and the public wants to know, How can I be like that? It’s a mixed-up, complex relationship, but I totally get it. No one dives into acting without realizing, Hey, if I get what I wish for, if I’m successful, I’ll have to deal with this.

PLAYBOY: How do you feel when you’re at the beach with your family and private moments are being photographed by some guy hiding behind a tree?

JACKMAN: It’s a relatively minor distraction. I’m comfortable in my own skin. I am protective of my family, though, and I want my kids to have their shot at a private life. I’ll say to the photographers, “I get it. I’m not going to get in your way. Just do me a favor and don’t let my kids know you’re photographing them. I don’t want them to be self-conscious on the beach. They’re too young; they shouldn’t know.” And they listen. They’ll sit back behind a tree. I see them, but the kids have no idea. I don’t want to retreat from life. I don’t want my children to see me become a recluse or feel there’s anything to be ashamed of. I have personal relationships, feelings and experiences I won’t share, but generally there’s not a lot about my life I wouldn’t tell you.

PLAYBOY: You once studied to be a journalist. Do you consider what the tabloids do to be journalism?

JACKMAN: I don’t think it’s what any of those journalists thought they would be when they grew up. We had a compulsory class called Ethics in Journalism. I was very idealistic: I thought I’d be doing great investigative journalism, touring the world, telling amazing stories. The instructor said, “Here’s the reality. First three or four years, you’re doing death knocks, chasing celebrities. Someone dies; you interview their parents and ask for a picture.” It was quite disillusioning, but it has given me a sense of sympathy. It’s fairly easy to pick up on whether it’s a genuine question from a journalist or an obviously ridiculous personal question they’ve been forced to ask. I’ll usually take pity on them, give them something and not embarrass them.

PLAYBOY: Look at all the trouble young celebs like Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and Shia LaBeouf are in. How would you have handled fame at that age?

JACKMAN: Not until 25 did I feel any real confidence in handling myself like a human being. At 21, 22, it was “Woo-hoo!” I was really reactive. How would I have handled wealth, unlimited opportunities or the single life? One of my great blessings is I was happily married when I became famous. It must be incredibly hard to meet a partner and be open and trusting. I’m completely loved and accepted for who I am. I had that before anything else. When you’re searching for that after you’re famous, where’s the reality check? Is she here for me or for the lifestyle, the fame, the success? Success and power are great aphrodisiacs.

PLAYBOY: What’s the biggest trouble you remember getting into at that age?

JACKMAN: [Laughs] Oh, I remember a few bar fights. Like when I was 18, in London, I met up with a few Aussies, and I was so drunk and singing Australian songs obnoxiously. Somebody tapped me on the shoulder and clocked me across the face, laying me out. I don’t know how long I was unconscious. All I remember is getting up and smelling blood. Today that would be on someone’s cell phone, right? I was by no means an out-of-control youth, but we used to do nutty things. There’s a road near here, and I used to jump on top of my mate’s car, and we’d drive about 100 miles an hour. Roof riding, we called it. Now? I’d be a disgrace, setting a bad example for youngsters.

PLAYBOY: Hugh Hefner recently mentioned you as a candidate to play him in a movie. What about his story resonates with you?

JACKMAN: I think Hef is an embodiment of the male American dream. He pushed that in the 1950s and said, “Come on, this is what you really want. Let’s be honest. I’m living what you really want.” If I read the script right, he was a dreamer and not particularly the ladies’ man as a teenager. Hef became an alter ego, who he wanted to be. All of us have those dreams, but few of us even attempt to achieve them. I admire his ambition, his courage in not caring what anybody thought and just doing what he thought would make him happiest. He was a real fighter who prevailed. He also has the ability to kind of laugh at himself, which from the Australian point of view is probably the most important thing.
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