Hugh Jackman Opens Up About His Painful Childhood: 'My Mum Left When I Was 8'

"From the moment Mum left, I was a fearful kid who felt powerless," Jackman tells Parade of his volatile childhood


Hugh Jackman stars as Blackbeard in his new movie Pan, but it turns out the actor might have more in common with the Lost Boys than the villainous pirate.

Opening up about his painful childhood in a candid interview with Parade, Jackman says that just like Peter Pan, his mother left him as a kid.

“I was volatile,” Jackman says of his younger self. “My mum left when I was 8. My anger didn t really surface until I was 12 or 13. It was triggered because my parents were going to get reconciled and didn t. All those years I d been holding out hope that they would.

As he grew into a teenager, the anger inside him reached a boiling point. “There was this perfect storm of hormones and emotion,” he explains. “I ve never said this before: I just remembered that we had those metal [school] lockers, and for some reason, half in fun, we used to head-butt the lockers until there was a dent in them. Like, who was the toughest and craziest?”

Sports became one outlet for his frustration. “In playing rugby my rage would come out, rage that I identify as Wolverine rage. I d be somewhere in a ruck in rugby, get punched in the face and I d just go into a white rage.”

Asked where those feelings of rage were coming from, Jackman says, “From the moment Mum left, I was a fearful kid who felt powerless.”

Growing up with four older siblings, the actor says, “I was the youngest. I used to be the first one home and I was frightened to go inside. I couldn t go into the house on my own. I d wait outside, scared, frustrated.”

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That fear permeated Jackman’s early life. “Growing up I was scared of the dark. I was scared of heights. It limited me,” he says. “I hated it, and that contributed to my anger. Isn t most anger fear-based, ultimately? It emanates from some kind of powerlessness. I was really feeling that.”

Religion helped him during that time in many ways, but perhaps most importantly, it drew him to the stage. “I was brought up very religious,” he explains. “I used to go to different evangelists’ [revival] tents all the time. When I was about 13, I had a weird premonition that I was going to be onstage, like the preachers I saw.”

And just like the preachers who inspired him, Jackman says he still finds taking the stage to be a religious type of experience.

“Onstage I feel an intimacy that feels natural, that s transcendent,” Jackman says. “I d feel as intimate with an audience as with my wife … Sometimes I feel more myself on a stage than I do off the stage.”

When he’s performing, he says he feels “what everyone s searching for, the feeling that unites us all. Call it ‘God.’ Before I go onstage every night, I pause and dedicate the performance to God, in the sense of ‘Allow me to surrender.’

“When you allow yourself to surrender to the story, to the character, to the night, to the audience, transcendence happens. And when that happens, there is nothing like it on the planet. It s the moment people experience when they fall in love, which is equally frightening and exciting. That s what it feels like.”

Jackman says that more than anything, taking the stage gives him “peace.” He adds that, “Through acting, I m able to find a level of bliss and peace and calm and joy. And it feels natural.”

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