Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Hugh Jackman On Love, Marriage and Building His Family Through Adoption

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Hugh Jackman met his wife Deborra-Lee Furness when he was 26 and she was 38, they got married two years later. I first heard their story in an interview Hugh had with Katie Couric, where he revealed that he and his wife tried IVF and his wife had a couple of miscarriages. After that tough period, the couple decided to go the adoption route to become parents. In a recent feature on Good Housekeeping, he goes into more details. Here are some excerpts;

In October 1994, Jackman, 26, a freshly minted drama-school grad, went to audition for a new Australian TV show, Correlli. He tried not to show how nervous he was. The drama was set to star Deborra-Lee Furness, a blond beauty with a husky voice, as prison psychologist Louisa Correlli. Furness, then 39, was a top actress in Australia, and Jackman was up against some of the country's megastars for the role of Kevin Jones, the mentally challenged prisoner who forms a bond with Correlli that nearly leads to her professional undoing. In their first scene together (it can be found on YouTube), Correlli is compassionately interviewing Jones, who radiates charisma—helped along by an earlier lingering shot of him shirtless—and the pair's chemistry is on full display. "From day one, we were best mates," Jackman says, putting a wholesome gloss on their electric attraction. "We just clicked. We were giggling and laughing—we just connected." They fell in love—fast. Jackman was and is clearly head over heels.

Three and a half months after they met, Jackman had a platinum and rose-gold diamond ring specially made for Furness. Soon thereafter—with his self-confessed romantic streak blazing—he planned a surprise proposal. He enlisted a friend's help to set an elegant table with croissants and flowers by a lake at a botanical garden and then lured Furness there on the pretext of taking an A.M. walk. When they came upon the table, "Deb just stopped and said, 'Oh, my God, it's gorgeous,' " he says. As if in a chick flick, a group of school girls arrived and watched. "And I whispered in her ear, 'Surprise,' " Jackman says; he pulled the ring out and proposed. Furness started to cry, but then the schoolgirls asked her, "What did you say?" With theatrical flair, "Deb stood on top of the table and called out, 'I said yes!' " he recounts. Eleven months later, in April 1996, they were married.

That sneak-attack element has become Jackman's calling card with Furness. "My number one rule for romance is surprise," he says, since predictable gestures of romance defeat the purpose. "If I bring Deb flowers every Tuesday, yeah, it's nice, but is it romantic?" Especially when a couple has children, "so much of life is about your routine," he says, and a surprise shakes things up and restores the thrill. Recently, for example, when Jackman got off early from work in Montreal, "I pretended I was still on the set. I called Deb and said, 'I'll be back late tonight.' " Then he appeared hours earlier than she expected. "And she got such a shock. I'd made reservations at our favorite lunch place," he says. "It was three hours before the kids finished school, and it was awesome because it was unplanned."

When Jackman and Furness married in 1996, they wanted to start a family right away. Their plan was to have biological children and then adopt. "That was something both of us had always dreamed about," Jackman says. "One of the families I used to stay with when my parents separated had five kids; two were adopted, so it didn't seem abnormal to me."

Since Furness was 40, they tried to get pregnant for about a year, then started in vitro fertilization. Twice she became pregnant; twice she miscarried. "It's a tough process," Jackman says. "While you're going through IVF and get pregnant, every day [the feeling is], We're still holding! We're still holding…! You know how precarious it is and how much she's been through to get there. And [miscarriage] is a massive letdown. It's really difficult—and much harder for the woman." After their second miscarriage, "I just remember saying to Deb, 'We've always wanted to adopt. Let's start going about that,' " he recalls. Furness agreed, but decided she wanted to continue the IVF efforts.

However, Jackman shares, "there was a rule in Australia at the time that if you were going through IVF, you weren't eligible to adopt." They set their sights on going to the United States, both because that rule didn't apply there and because the pool of adoptable babies was much larger.

This was about 14 years ago. Jackman was all but an unknown in the U.S. "We came to L.A. for a week to meet with an adoption lawyer," he recalls. The couple thought it would just be a brief visit, but that trip wound up jump-starting their lives as parents—and Jackman's stardom.

Since they were already in Hollywood, Jackman made an out-of-the-blue call to his U.S. agent. The timing was serendipitous. Just that morning, the agent had heard that an actor had dropped out of the lead role in a movie based on the comic book series X-Men. Would Jackman like to go up for it? he asked. A meeting turned into more meetings and a screen test, which turned into a trip to Toronto, where the movie was filming ("We had to buy clothes; it was snowing," Jackman adds)—and all of a sudden, a starring role was his. The salary, in turn, helped further his and Furness's family plan, because "adopting does cost a bit of money and I really didn't have any at the time," Jackman says.

As they worked with their adoption lawyer, Jackman says they wanted a baby most in need of a home; he has called it a "no-brainer" to ask for an interracial baby: "People wait 18 months to adopt a little blond girl, while biracial children are turned away." Still, they were rejected by a few birth mothers' parents who didn't want to give a child to "those Hollywood types who never stay together."

Finally, in the spring of 2000, they received news of a baby about to be born; he or she would be "a bit of everything," as Jackman has put it: "African-American, Caucasian, Hawaiian, Cherokee." When Oscar arrived, the couple were ecstatic. "Deb and I both thought, 'This is our destiny.' " Indeed, the trip to L.A. had catalyzed Jackman's career in the U.S. and had given them the baby they had so yearned for. "It was as if Oscar was going, All right. I'd better look after you guys," reflects Jackman. Five years later, they adopted Ava—half Mexican, half German—at 4 days old, and their family was complete.

The family's bond is superhero strong, no matter where Jackman is filming. "Skype has changed our lives! It's one of the greatest inventions of all time," he raves. Of course, his kids don't always think so, he adds. He Skypes when on location; he eats in front of it, and they do, too. "So I'll have dinner with them and then say, 'Hey, take your plate to the sink!' And they're like, 'Ugh, Dad's such a pain.' "

Jackman is the family disciplinarian—which figures, given his upbringing—and Furness, who was an only child until her mother remarried and step-siblings entered the picture, is more spontaneous. They complement each other well. "Oscar and Ava fight, like all kids fight," Jackman says. "But it really disturbs my wife: 'Why aren't they getting on? Oh, my God! It's going to be years of therapy—they're saying terrible things to each other!' But I look at it like, 'This is nothing! This is amateur hour!' My brother and I were clawing each other's eyes out at one point," he explains, laughing at the memory.

Though he may have two Tony awards and an Oscar nod, it's clear that Jackman's favorite times aren't in front of the camera, but with his wife and kids. As he puts it, "The most pressing thing for Deb and me now? Helping the kids reach their potential. And having fun."


  1. I love Hugh Jackman (Australia is an all-time fav). I'm not surprised he's been married 18 years and going strong. I pray his family stays together. With celebrity couples image is everything so I hope this is not just all for show.

  2. It is encouraging to know that even with his wife been a lot older than he his, coupled with the challenges of having biological children, they were able to hold their marriage together. If they can do it, then most people can. Anything is possible.

  3. This is so inspiring.

  4. wow she is older than him with 13years and they still have a strong bond. i like. but why is always in black? www.secretlilies.com

  5. If I didn't love Hugh totally in Les Miserables now I do. God bless their union.
    I love when celebrities keep it real. See how they ve gotten on with their lives and built something of it instead of wallowing in bitterness.
    I really pray more couples learn from this brave 2. May God help us all.

  6. I may sound like a cynic but there's something not right somewhere. Isn't it Hollywood again? Plus, he keeps wishing away the gay rumours. Love him as an actor.

  7. sono una bella coppia......anche se sono gelosa

  8. sono una bella coppia....anche se sono gelosa


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