The 46-year-old actor opens up about his mother leaving him when he was 8 years old after his parents got divorced -- and the impact that had on his childhood -- in a candid interview with Parade.
"I was volatile," Jackman admits. "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."
"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? 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."
Jackman says the intense anger actually came from having feelings of fear and powerlessness.
"I used to be the first one home and I was frightened to go inside," he shares. "I could'’t go into the house on my own. I’d wait outside, scared, frustrated. Growing up I was scared of the dark. I was scared of heights. It limited me. 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."
The Australian star says that his latest film, Pan, is not only special to him because of the story of Peter Pan's parents leaving him, but also because his own children are adopted. Jackman and his wife, Deborra-Lee Furness, have two children together -- Oscar, 15, Ava, 10.
"In scenes at the orphanage in the beginning of the movie, the nun talks harshly: 'Your mums are not waiting for you. You're not going to see them again.' I actually read this to my wife and talked to [director] Joe Wright about it," he reveals, explaining that he was sensitive to how Oscar and Ava would react. "I went, 'Hang on. This is dealing with adoption and orphans. I want to make sure that this movie is not something my kids are going to feel weird about.' Every movie I do, I think, 'My kids are going to see this.'"
"When it's a movie about adoption, I want to make sure that they don't feel uncomfortable," he stresses. "If I wasn’t [comfortable], I wouldn’t have done the film."
Jackman's kids are obviously his number one priority, and he admits that they are also his biggest worry.
"They're growing up with great privileges and great challenges. And they have this fame and paparazzi that I didn't have to encounter because no one was interested in my father," he acknowledges. "We worry a lot. In some ways they get a free pass from people when they shouldn't be given a free pass."
"I constantly talk to them about respect and gratitude," he says about avoiding an entitled attitude. "I say, 'Unfortunately, I’m going to be tougher on you than I would be if I wasn't famous, because people are actually going to be less tough on you in life.' In a way they have to be better behaved, be more respectful, have more gratitude than other kids. I try to keep their life as down-to-earth as possible. I really do."