Hugh Jackman was eight and living with his parents and four older siblings in Sydney’s northern suburbs. He enjoyed scrapping with his brothers, he told The Sun, even though his father discouraged fighting. And every night he would scan the world atlas, he said in a biography, dreaming of places to go and planning his career as an airline chef.
One day, while preparing himself for school, his mother Grace said goodbye to the kids in a way that was different. She was wearing a towel on her head from the shower. She chose her words carefully, there was a certain look in her eyes, and eight-year-old Jackman knew something he didn’t understand was happening.
When he returned from school that afternoon, Grace was not home. The family received a telegram the next day: she’d arrived back to her home in the UK.
“It was traumatic,” Jackman, 49, told Who magazine in a new interview this week. “I thought she was probably going to come back. And then it sort of dragged on and on.”
All of a sudden it was the six of them – sisters Zoe and Sonia, brothers Ian, Ralph and Hugh, and their lawyer father Christopher. “Dad used to pray every night that Mum would come back,” the actor told 60 Minutes in 2012.
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“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.”
Jackman’s parents arrived in Australia in 1967 as part of the “Ten Pound Poms”, Daily Telegraph reports. After his mum left, she would visit the family once a year. “It would be like a family holiday. I remember going to the beach,” he said. “There was a chance of a reconciliation at that point but she never came back for good.”
Now, Jackman understands that his mum was suffering from undiagnosed postnatal depression at the time of her departure, The Sun reports.
Eventually, after his parents’ divorce was finalised, the girls Zoe and Sonia moved to England to be with their mum. Jackman and his brothers remained in Sydney but slowly, slowly he rebuilt his relationship with his mother.
“As I grew older I gained an understanding of why Mum did leave,” Jackman told The Sun in 2011. “We have definitely made our peace, which is important.”
Jackman has two adopted children with wife of 11 years Deborra-Lee Furness. He says his childhood experience made him more comfortable with distance, and that he makes the most of the time he spends with people because he understands: sometimes you have no control over when you’ll see them again.
Jackman is best known for his roles in Les Misérables (2012), The Wolverine (2013), the X-Men series and, most recently, The Greatest Showman (2017).