New Yorkers Love Hugh Jackman. Here’s Why.
Let’s set aside for a second the hot fact that People magazine voted him “Sexiest Man Alive” for 2008 and has numbered him among the 50 most beautiful people on Planet Earth for five years running. That’s just charm, charisma and good genes.
And let’s not place undue importance on the fact that he wins fans on two radically different entertainment fronts in two radically different disguises. In movies, he’s Wolverine, an “X-Men” spin-off, meting out rough justice with skeleton and claws of steel. On Broadway and other stages, he’s a reigning musical talent.
There are plenty of other reasons why New Yorkers love Hugh Jackman.
He brings an honesty and reality to his work—and life—that not only invites belief, but also makes you feel he’s one of us, which he actually is in more ways than one. Let me count the ways.
The son of an English couple who immigrated to Australia, he searched the world over for a place he could call his own—a home—and finally found it in NYC’s West Village in a residential apartment building. It’s a place fit for a prince, let alone a Jackman.
So, New Yorkers should be lining up like pod people to welcome their adopted hometown boy when his world-tour revue “The Man. The Music. The Show.” stops at Madison Square Garden on June 28 and 29. His musical selections, he jests, “are really self-indulgent. I do my favorite songs. You all have to sit through it.” Translation: That would be ditties from “Les Misérables” (which got him an Oscar nomination), “Oklahoma!” (which got him an Olivier nomination) and “The Boy From Oz” (which got him the Tony Award, period)—plus shows where he wasn’t cast.
Hugh’s secret for maintaining an intimate communication with the audience in Madison Square Garden is simple. “Whether it’s 300 people, 3,000 or 13,000, it has to feel like a celebration, and I have to connect with them. The first thing I do when I walk out onstage is to look into my wife’s eyes, and that grounds me.” He met his one and only, actress Deborra-Lee Furness, doing an Australian TV series straight out of drama school, and they married in 1996. Early in the marriage, Deborra-Lee suffered miscarriages, and the couple opted to adopt. Oscar is 19, and Ava is 13, and both are spending their summer on dad’s whirlwind world tour.
The Jackmans make quite a decorative domestic picture, walking their pooches in the Village and picking up after them. It’s a his-and-hers tour of duty: Hugh is in charge of Dali, a French bulldog; Deborra-Lee handles the poodle-mix, Allegra.
Utterly without pretension, Hugh showed up on Kelly Ripa’s talk show in 2017 with a Band-Aid on his nose following surgery to remove a basal cell carcinoma. Whenever there are problems in Paradise, Hugh, a master of social media, gets the jump on gossips by going directly to his millions of followers on Instagram, Twitter and TV to tell them the truth. He now strongly advocates sunscreen to help ward off skin cancer. Similarly, he suggests that people wear helmets while biking around the city like a bat out of hell, as he does.
When not attending a Broadway show (he was seen last December at the opening night of “To Kill a Mockingbird”) or performing in one (he’s due back in the fall of 2020 as Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man”), Hugh is co-founder with Barry and David Steingard of Laughing Man Coffee, which has two tiny walk-in shops in TriBeCa and Battery Park City. He contributes 100 percent of his profits to the Laughing Man Foundation, which he created to aid coffee farmers in developing countries.
He even sweats generously, and therein hangs the tale of his second Tony Award. While performing “Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway” in 2011, he would finish the show in a wringing wet T-shirt that he auctioned off to the audience to raise funds for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. The final total he raised—$1,789,580—passed the previous titleholder—$1,568,833—which he and Daniel Craig set during their run in “A Steady Rain” in 2009. In gratitude, the Tony folks rewarded these twin triumphs of perspiration with an honorary Tony, the only known incident of someone winning a prize for the actual sweat of his brow. A humbled, dirt-kicking Hugh kicked the honor right back to Broadway. “I feel that whatever I’ve given philanthropically to the community,” he said, ”I’ve received back from them tenfold.”
All that, and he’s modest, too.