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Hugh Jackman on His Surprising Hollywood BFFs and Mother's Abandonment

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"For a lot of years, I thought, 'Oh, I must be suppressing something,' " he observes. "When I was around my mid-20s, I was probably guessing that I had repressed anger, so I would bring it up. Mom was fine to talk about anything. But instinctively, as I grew up, and as I was in relationships where I had my heart broken, and I broke other people's hearts, you realize people have breaking points. Mom, at the time, was not well. And she made decisions that, on some level, she regrets."

Now she visits him in New York, and Jackman also remains close to his father, 76, who still lives in Australia. Beyond work and family, he has little time for anything else. He does not watch much television other than sports, because "I'm terrified of getting hooked" -- which happened when he started watching The West Wing after collaborating with Aaron Sorkin on Houdini for the stage. (Sorkin pulled out of the play early in February.)

He has shut down a production company he established with his former assistant, John Palermo. "I just realized I didn't want to be a producer when I grow up; it's not my skill set," he says.

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He also is immersed in Yunus' endeavors, which began following an early encounter with him just after he came across the economist's work.

"I was reading two books at the same time," he remembers. "One was Paul Newman's In Pursuit of the Common Good and the idea of creating a social business. The other was [Yunus'] Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty, and I thought, 'This is a true philosopher.' And when I met him, he kind of put the charge on me: He said, 'That's how you use your profile.' "

Raising his star profile is the thing that matters to him least, he insists. "I have no real natural instinct for the star world. I don't really put a lot of currency in stardom. I have this weird feeling that the more you direct your attention into solving that issue, the worse an actor you become."

And yet he admits, while his ambition to be a star has quieted, it hasn't entirely disappeared. "I saw a play in Sydney," he recalls, "and in the notes they had this quote from Bono that said: 'What kind of hole exists in the heart of a person when they need to have 70,000 people scream, "I love you," in order to feel fulfilled?' But there is a part of me that wants to please, to be all things to all people."