He's given away 100 copies of one book, restructured his production company because of another: The actor talks about the novels and memoirs that revved him up and pointed him toward his own path and passion.
I have to tell this story about one of the books on my list. As I got to the end of Muhammad Yunus's autobiography, Banker to the Poor, I was so captivated by this man that I wrote a letter to the address on the back cover, a P.O. box in Bangladesh. I wrote, "I'm so inspired by you. I know you have no idea who I am, but I do have some profile in the land where I live—and if there is any way I can help, I'd be happy to do so." I thought I'd be lucky if I ever heard back.
Two days later, I was onstage in New York doing The Boy from Oz, and we had an auction at the end of the show for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. We were auctioning a photo with me or something else ridiculous. The woman who won it came up, and I was chatting with her while they were getting the Polaroid ready. I said, "What do you do?" and she said, "I work in the nonprofit sector," and I said, "Oh, really?" and she said, "Yes, I work for a man who's from Bangladesh." I said, "What? I've just finished reading this book about this man from Bangladesh; he's called Muhammad Yunus." And she said, "I'm his personal secretary."
You've got to be kidding me! I asked her to meet afterward and talk about his work. On his next trip to the States, I sat down with Muhammad Yunus in Los Angeles. He's now advising us on how a certain portion of our production company can be set up to operate like his bank. He's a bit like the Dalai Lama—he's fighting at the front line of poverty, and you couldn't find a happier guy. But he challenges you: What can you do? Not just send aid, but how can you change people's lives from the inside?
Well, that one book completely revolutionized my way of thinking and what my company can do.
What's on Hugh Jackman's Bookshelf? Read more!
From the November 2007 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
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