The Aussie actor is living every family’s worst nightmare.
It should be the time of Hugh Jackman’s life. Riding high on the success of his blockbuster musical film Les Miserables, the hugely popular Aussie actor is at the peak of his career – with buzz that he’s about to win his first-ever Academy Award.
But behind the ever-present charming smile that fans across the globe have fallen in love with, 44-year-old Hugh’s been grappling with a devastating family secret. His beloved dad Chris, who he describes as “my hero, my rock”, is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease – an incurable, terminal form of dementia. In a revealing interview with theatre trade magazine Parade, Hugh reveals private details about the cruel disease that is tearing apart his family.
“My dad is fairly well into Alzheimer’s now,” Hugh explains. “His short-term memory is pretty much gone.” But he is taking comfort in the fact that it’s not all bad news. “He still recognises me and can talk about the past, and weirdly, he’s as happy as I’ve ever known him, which is wonderful.” Hugh reveals that throughout his Les Mis experience, in which Hugh plays the starring role of Jean Valjean, it’s been Chris – who raised him as a single parent when Hugh’s mother walked out on the family when Hugh was just eight – not that little gold Best Actor Oscar statuette, on his mind.
“There are many qualities about my dad, actually, that echo Valjean more than me,” Hugh tells Parade. “My father has never said a bad word about anybody... He’s a hard worker, very humble, and deeply religious. “Everything about him is admirable… If there are any good qualities about me, I give [credit] largely to my father.” Hugh knows that as Chris’s disease progresses, he and his family – including wife Deborra-lee Furness and children Oscar, 12, and Ava, 7 – are facing an emotional road ahead.
Read more about Hugh's struggle in this week's Woman’s Day on sale Monday January 14, 2013.