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Hugh Jackman Gives Teary-Eyed Tribute to His Wife During Santa Barbara Film Festival Honor

Hugh Jackman, Deborra-lee Furness. Hugh Jackman,
Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP/REX

Hugh Jackman may have been praised and gushed over every which way on Monday while being honored for his movie career with the Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Film, but there was only one person in the room who moved him to tears.

The “Front Runner” star teared up while talking about his wife of 22 years Deborra-lee Furness, saying she taught him that life is “not defined” by highlight reels, like the ones shown throughout the night’s tribute.

“Life actually happens in between that. Life happens when the camera is not going,” Jackman said. “You believed in me when I couldn’t. You’ve loved me with a passion and a depth that I didn’t even know existed — and I don’t think I felt that I deserved. You have pushed and encouraged me when I was scared to venture out. You have smiled me into smiling. You have sung me into singing. You have loved me into loving and like everything I do in my life, I share this with you. I love you.”

The evening at the Ritz Carlton Bacara in Santa Barbara, Calif., began with remarks by Ben Mendelsohn followed by J.K. Simmons, who recalled watching Jackman learn how to throw an axe for his starring role as embattled presidential candidate Gary Hart in “The Front Runner.” The scene required Jackman to hit a bullseye from about 75 feet. “He throws the axe and hits the bullseye on the first take!” Simmons said, adding, “There’s evidence of that preparation in every film that Hugh Jackman does.”

“Front Runner” director Jason Reitman imagined that is “required to be Hugh Jackman.

“You must dance — and not just a little bit of choreography stitched together with your body double,” Reitman said. “Recently Hugh texted me a video of him tap dancing on stairs and I said, ‘What is this for?’ and he said, ‘I don’t know, I just wanted to see if I could do it.’

Jackman began his remarks by thanking SBIFF executive director Roger Durling and the fest’s board of directors president Lynda Weinman, along with an additional nod to the victims and first responders of the California wildfires.

“My heart goes out to all those families that have been so deeply affected by the loss of life and the loss of homes and just the first responders who right now as we sit here are dealing with these things. We want to thank them,” he said.

He also recalled landing his star making role as Wolverine with the help of his WME agent Patrick Whitesell.

One of the funnier, if not slightly awkward, moments of the night came when a clip was shown from “Eddie the Eagle” in which Jackman demonstrates how ski jumping is like making love to Bo Derek.

Derek was actually sitting at Jackman’s table at the gala.

“I’m sitting next to my wife at a table opposite from the Bo Derek, who taught me about fictitiously making out,” Jackman said. “There’s some fantasy in there that I could cross off the list.”