Oprah: Are you afraid of death?
Hugh: Yes. I aspire not to be. In my research for a movie I'm doing called The Fountain, I observed neurosurgeons, and I saw a woman having brain surgery. When I looked at her, I thought of Deb, and I panicked. I'm afraid of death for me and for my wife. I'd love to feel that I was beyond it, but I'm not there yet.
Oprah: There's this wonderful line in Leaves of Grass where Walt Whitman talks about "Oh, death, what a surprise." I've spoken with many people who've had near-death experiences. But my most memorable interview was with a woman whose 26-year-old son had died of cancer. In his final moments, she crawled into bed with him. His last words were "Oh Mom, it's so simple"—then he closed his eyes. I believe that in the last breath, we're all going to feel that way.
Oprah: Deb is eight years older than you. Are you conscious of it?
Hugh: Never. Before we got engaged, my dad had only met Deb once. So when I announced we were getting married, he said, "Is this a maternal thing?" I just laughed. I said, "Dad, when you get to know Deb a little better, you'll see it's more of a paternal thing!"
Oprah: Your kids are adopted. Had you always wanted to adopt?
Hugh: We tried to have a child biologically, but we'd always wanted to adopt, too. The period when we were doing in vitro fertilization was really tough. Then we adopted Oscar. We were at the birth, and we got to know the birth mother quite well. During delivery, Deb and I were there holding hands. Then I said, "Do you mind if I go to the business end?" The birth mother said, "Oh, whatever. Off you go." She was a bit of a shy woman, but she'd had an epidural by that point. It was an amazing experience to watch the birth.
Oprah: I think that to be adopted is so special—to be chosen.
Hugh: I constantly tell Oscar about destiny. I tell him that he was always meant to come to us.
Oprah: Is he biracial?
Hugh: Yes. He's a bit of everything: African-American, Caucasian, Hawaiian, Cherokee. We requested a biracial child because there was more of a need. People wait 18 months to adopt a little blonde girl, while biracial children are turned away. So when we said we wanted a biracial child, the lawyer said, "We can have one for you next week." The same was true with Ava. She's half Mexican, half German.
Oprah: That's great. How did you get to be so grounded?
Hugh: Well, I'm not sure how to answer that. What I strive for in my life is everything but separation. If I meet someone at a bus stop, I want to really meet that person. I don't want to be "Hugh Jackman, the famous actor." Backstage at the Oscars, I once heard someone say, "George Clooney's so great, because he knows the names of the crew." I was like, "Shouldn't he? He spent five months with these 30 people." If you worked in any office for five months and didn't know people's names, everyone would think you were nuts. In my spiritual studies, it's all about connecting with other human beings. That's what it means to be grounded.