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Hugh Jackman opens up about his painful childhood and how acting gave him peace

Hugh Jackman may kick butt in the X-Men franchise as Wolverine but, the actor didn’t have the happiest childhood growing up.

Currently, Hugh Jackman is promoting his new movie Pan where he plays Blackbeard. But, it looks as though the actor might have more in common with the Lost Boys than the dastardly pirate.

In a recent interview with Parade, Jackman opened up about his painful childhood. Hugh Jackman says that his mother left him as a kid and left a hole in his heart.

“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 want it. All those years I’d been holding out hope that they would.

As Jackman got older, the anger inside him reached a tipping 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 helped him cope with his sadness. “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.”

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

Growing up with four brothers and sisters, 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.”

That fear of being powerless existed throughout Hugh 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.”

However, it would be religion that helped him control the rage and lead him into acting. “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.”

Hugh Jackman now compares acting to a religious 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 Hugh Jackman is performing he argues that 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.”

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

Watch Hugh Jackman tell us why everyone should study acting!