When our plans for family are interrupted by infertility it can
be difficult to cope. In this article, Hugh Jackman is
refreshingly honest about the disappointment of failed IVF and
the remarkable joys of adoption and fatherhood.
HOLLYWOOD tough-guy Hugh Jackman reveals how heartbreak was
finally cancelled out by the joys of fatherhood.
Despite many Hollywood stars having rags-to-riches stories, few
tend to dwell on them. They're more likely to talk about their
latest role, their recent Oscar, their "blessed" existence. After
all, who wants to admit the reality and spoil the fantasy that
the rich and famous have perfect lives?
Hugh Jackman could be forgiven for focusing on the good stuff.
The Sydney native has earned his place at the top of the showbiz
heap (his pay cheque for 2009'sX-Men Origins: Wolverinewas
rumoured to be $20 million), and with his boyish smile and
chiselled physique, it would be easy to believe the all-singing,
all-dancing star has enjoyed a trouble-free life.
But, from the moment he arrives for our chat, sans entourage and
dressed in a simple outfit of black polo shirt and jeans, it's
clear the 42-year-old doesn't pretend to be anything he's not.
And despite his A-list status and high earning power, he also
doesn't shy away from the parts of his life that have caused him
heartache, namely his struggle to become a father.
"It was painful," says Jackman of the moment he and wife
Deborra-Lee Furness discovered they couldn't have children. "It's
not easy. You put a lot of time and effort into it, so it's
emotional. I think any parent can relate - trying to have
children is wonderful and when you feel as though that's not
going to happen, there's a certain anxiety that goes with it."
Pouring himself a glass of water, Jackman explains how, after
meeting on the set of ABC prison dramaCorrelliin 1995, he and
Furness decided to have children naturally, then adopt later in
life. But things didn't go to plan.
"We thought we'd have a kid or two biologically and then adopt,"
he explains. "But when we decided we'd had enough of IVF, we went
ahead with adoption."
Despite the setback, the couple picked themselves up and moved
"From the moment we started the adoption process, all the anxiety
went away. I don't think of them [son Oscar, 11, and daughter
Ava, 6] as adopted - they're our children. Deb and I are
believers in … I suppose you could call it destiny. We feel
things happened the way they are meant to. Obviously,
biologically wasn't the way we were meant to have children. Now,
as we go through life together, sure there are challenges, but
everyone's in the right place with the right people. It sounds
airy-fairy, but it's something we feel very deeply."
Adoption is now a big part of their lives. Furness works with the
Worldwide Orphans Foundation and fronts National Adoption
Awareness Week every year. Both are delighted that adoption is
now more openly discussed, and that it's lost the stigma it once
"A while back, there was a lot of shame attached to it and
parents wouldn't tell their kids they were adopted," he says.
"What's great is that the focus is now shifting to the care of
the child. We were very fortunate and open - I can't go into
details because of the privacy of the birth parents, but I can
tell you it was amicable. Adoption is a wonderful thing to do."
The LA-based actor is refreshingly honest about the downs - as
well as the ups - of parenthood and says that although they've
talked about it, he and Furness probably won't be adding to their
"We thought we'd have a number of kids. But travelling and being
hands-on parents, which is what we try to be, isn't easy.
"That conversation hasn't been tabled for about 12 months, which
is probably a good way of saying it's not going to happen."
Jackman's work takes him all over the world, and he admits with
some sadness that he hasn't spent a lot of time in Australia in
the past few years. However, he doesn't miss long flights with
kids in tow.
"Our kids are professional travellers now, they're better than we
are. Deb and I were on a plane yesterday and there was a baby
crying in the row behind. We just looked at each other and said,
'It's so good we've moved past that.'
"I remember one flight to Australia, when I walked Oscar up and
down [the aisle] about 150 times. He'd crawl up, I'd carry him
back, up and back, up and back. The flight attendants thought it
was sweet the first 50 times. I was like, 'Are you ever going to
go to sleep?'"
Still, Jackman is passionate about his family, calling Furness
"the greatest thing that ever happened to me aside from
fatherhood", and saying there's nothing like being a dad.
"The love for your children is so powerful. It's different from
the love for your partner. You can't believe you have that
capacity - you'd do anything for them and not even think about
Fittingly, Jackman's latest movie role allowed him to exploit his
experiences as a parent. InReal Steel, he plays a father
desperately trying to rebuild his relationship with his son,
played by 12-year-old newcomer Dakota Goyo. The story also
involves fighting robots - it's Hollywood after all - but the
father/son relationship lies at the heart of the film.
Interestingly, Jackman says Oscar may have been a little jealous
of the time his dad spent with his young co-star.
"It brought up a couple of things. Dakota is a year older than
Oscar, so they're close enough, but it's also a big difference,"
he says. "It was Oscar's summer holiday, so he hung out onset a
lot. I have a funny feeling it was more than usual. It might have
had something to do with the fact that, deep down, he wanted to
make sure I was spending time with him."
Jackman's devotion as a father is something he says he learnt
from a master - his dad, Chris.
"He's the sweetest man and has always been supportive of me,
particularly of my acting, and that's amazing considering he was
an accountant," the actor reveals. "He's an ordered, happy man
who's worked hard all his life. I've learnt so many great
qualities from him. He's not materialistic in any way, and
neither are his kids. I'm now in a position where people try to
give me free stuff but, for me, stuff is a burden. And thanks to
him, none of us has ever been in debt."
Jackman says he's trying to teach his children about the value of
money, but he suspects Furness may be undoing all his efforts.
"My dad paid for school and sports expenses but, from the age of
12, I paid for my own clothes and entertainment. I pass that on
to my children, but Debs does the opposite. When they're 18 and
head out, I'll hand them a few hundred dollars and say 'Ring me
if you get into trouble'; Deb will slip them a credit card and
whisper, 'Don't tell Dad!'"
This Father's Day, Jackman hopes to be spoilt. "I'm expecting a
card and breakfast," he says. "I usually make breakfast on Sunday
- pancakes for everyone - so I'd be disappointed if I didn't at
least get that. But, you know, it will be business as usual by
lunchtime and all 'Babe, can you take out the garbage?'"
Despite the crash back to reality - there's clearly no room for
Hollywood egos at home - Jackman says being head of a family has
been his most rewarding role to date.
"Kids are the greatest joy. No matter what's going on in the day,
you can walk in that front door and it all goes away.
Particularly with Ava - she's a mini-Deb and so funny. She said
to me the other day, 'I'm just like Mum. I'm always right!' And
you know what? She is."
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If you or someone you love would like to expand your family,
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adoption, Adoption Services International can help.
Ukrainian Adoption 101:
Conversation On International Adoption: Opportunity, Process,
Concerns and Questions
Monday, November 12, 2012 6:00-7:00PM
Location: Califon Book Store: 72 Main Street, Califon, New Jersey
Ukrainian Adoption Information Meeting
Wednesday, November 28, 2012 7:00-8:00PM
Location: Wellness Rocks: 133 Rupell Road, Clinton, New Jersey