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Wishing Hugh a Merry Christmas

PARADE Published: December 23, 2012
Hugh Jackman on tackling his epic role in Les Misérables, what he has to give up to look like Wolverine, and why he’s thankful this holiday season. To see video of Jackman's Les Mis costars dishing about him, click here.

“Real life is a breeze!” says Hugh Jackman with a laugh. He’s more than ready for some fun after two back-to-back challenging roles. For Les Misérables, in theaters Christmas day, Jackman plays Victor Hugo’s long-suffering hero, Jean Valjean, singing his way through the movie version of the much-loved musical. 
And he recently finished filming The Wolverine, due next summer, in which his sharp-clawed, angry mutant sinks into depression and doubt. (For a change of pace, he also voiced an Australian-accented Easter Bunny in the current animated film Rise of the Guardians.)

With Isabelle Allen as the young Cosette, the child Jean Valjean raises as his own, in Les Mis.
Now Jackman, 44, is on the short list of Oscar favorites for his wrenching portrayal of Valjean, a despairing ex-convict who turns his life around and risks everything to protect a young girl. “That part of the story is particularly close to me as a parent,” says the father of two, 12-year-old Oscar and 7-year-old Ava, both of whom he adopted with his wife, actress Deborra-Lee Furness. Raised in Australia largely by his accountant father (his mother left for England when he was 8), Jackman was urged by his dad to find his passion; a drama course at university pointed him to performing. The actor opens up to PARADE about taking risks, cherishing fatherhood, and what makes his 16-year marriage work. “I’m blessed,” he says. “I really am.”

PARADE: The man you play in Les Misérables, Jean Valjean, is haunted—a loner by necessity. That seems the opposite of you.
Absolutely. I’m not a loner at all. The one thing I relate to about Jean is that I’m probably a little hard on myself. Jean lives with this constant striving to be a better man, but he never feels he attains it, and I, too, strive all the time. I understand that feeling of “There’s a mountain to climb”—or maybe I put mountains in my way where they don’t need to be.

When you take on an iconic character like that, do you have doubts?
I remember after a particularly bad day at rehearsals, I told my wife, Deb, “I might have bitten off more than I can chew here. Maybe I’m not the right person.” She just cut me off and said, “Hugh, if you didn’t feel like that you wouldn’t be right for the part. You should be daunted by this challenge.” And she’s so smart; she added, “Use the fear. Work harder. Get in there.”

With his wife, Deborra-Lee Furness, at the Tony Awards in June, and strolling in New York last Father’s Day with his kids, whom he calls “the greatest blessing of my life.”
How would you describe your partnership with your wife?
I am the pragmatic, steady, sensible one. Deb is the hilarious, fun, sexy, crazy, impractical one. When it comes to the kids, I’m strict and she’s lenient. But deep down, we’re very similar. We get each other completely without ever having to speak, and we have pretty much since day one. We also have 
that uncanny ability where if one is grumpy, the other one is not.

You make it sound easy.
People always say, “You’ve got to work at your relationship.” I know what they mean, but it’s never felt like that for me. I mean, seriously, we’re kind of annoying to other people. We’re on the phone to each other 10 to 12 times a day.

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