Hugh Jackman has time and time again played the hero on screen, from being the mutant Wolverine in the X-Men franchise, to being the charismatic ringleader in The Greatest Showman. But every hero has their own hero, and Hugh’s was his father Chris Jackman.
When Hugh was just 8 years old, his mother, Grace McNeil, left their family of six – consisting of Hugh’s brothers Ian and Ralph, and sisters Zoe and Sonya – leaving his father to raise the four kids as a single dad in Sydney.
Hugh recounted the story of the day she left in a 2012 60 Minutes interview.
“I can remember the morning she left, it’s weird the things you pick up,” he started. “I remember her being in a towel around her head and saying goodbye, must have been the way she said goodbye. As I went off to school, when I came back, there was no one there in the house.”
“The next day there was a telegram from England, Mom was there,” he continued. “And then that was it. I don’t think she thought for a second it would be forever. I think she thought it was, ‘I just need to get away, and I’ll come back.’ Dad used to pray every night that Mom would come back.”
Shortly after, Hugh’s sisters moved to the UK with their mother while the boys stayed back in Sydney.
Having such a close relationship with Chris growing up, Hugh credits his father with all the values he holds most dear in his life as an adult, now married to Deborah-Lee Furness with two kids, Oscar and Ava.
“My father is a rock. My father is my rock,” Hugh admitted. “It’s where I learned everything about loyalty, dependability, being there day in, day out, no matter what…It’s always about the family. It’s always, ‘How’s Deb?’ It’s not about work. And I think that’s him living with probably some of his regrets. And feelings of maybe he at the wrong time put too much in his career. And he doesn’t want me to make that mistake. In his gentle way, he always reminds me this is the most important thing.”
Sadly, Chris passed away in 2021 on Australian Father’s Day, with Hugh posting a tribute to him on his Instagram describing Chris in one word: “extraordinary”.
“He devoted his life to his family, his work and his faith. I pray he is now at peace with God,” he concluded his caption.
Thankfully, before Chris’ death, Hugh and his mother, Grace, had reconnected and built a relationship to make up for the many years she was gone. Hugh had learned that his mom had been suffering from postnatal depression when she decided to leave.
“As I grew older I gained an understanding of why Mum did leave,” Jackman told The Sun in 2011, per Newsweek. “[We] have definitely made our peace, which is important.”
Being a parent himself has allowed Hugh to better understand the difficulties and mental struggles that come with having children.
“I think having kids of your own just adds another level of empathy and understanding,” he admitted in 2012. “And there comes a certain point in life when you have to stop blaming other people for how you feel or the misfortunes in your life.”