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Hugh’s homecoming

Hugh Jackman
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Tony Award winner, Academy Award nominee and all-round nice guy Hugh Jackman remembers his time studying acting in Perth with fondness.

So much so that the X-Men star returned on Saturday to launch the Jackman Furness Foundation for the Performing Arts (JFFPA) at the place where he learned his craft – The WA Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA).

“The dreams of students here are just as strong as dreams of people in America and London, wherever you are,” he told reporters.

The difference was in the training that the internationally revered institution provided, he said.

“You ask any casting director in New York, in LA, they will know about this place,” he said.

“What they always say – and this is the thing that I’m most proud of for WAAPA – not only are they talented, not only are they professional, but they’re optimistic and they have a good time.”

Jackman and his actress wife, Deborra-Lee Furness, created the charitable foundation to support art education institutions in Australia and are hoping to raise at least $10 million over the next four years.

The inaugural recipient of the funding will be WAAPA for the expansion of its existing visiting artists program and international internships, as well as new programs and special projects for Indigenous students.

Jackman, 45, said it was important for him to give back to the community that taught him and make dreams come true for other aspiring performers.

He said his acting teachers told him he was at WAAPA to “learn how to learn”.

“It doesn’t matter if you’ve been in this business 20 years, 40 years, you walk onto the set and it’s like you’re beginning again,” he said.

Guests at the launch included WA Premier Colin Barnett, former cricketer Adam Gilchrist, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, WA Governor Malcolm McCusker and designer Aurelio Costarella.

Billionaire Andrew Forrest also attended and donated $1 million to the foundation, which was matched by Jackman and Furness.

Jackman said he was 26 when he graduated from WAAPA, which was “old for the business”.

“I worked in every restaurant, gas station, you name it, clowned at kids parties, I’ve done it all,” he said.

“I recognise that acting is like a small business and that every small business that survives the first five years, seven days a week, you don’t sit back.

“I vowed to never wait for a phone call, that every day for five years I’d do something.”

Veteran Australian actor Jack Thompson, whose son is a WAAPA student, is the founding patron of the foundation.

Other WAAPA graduates include Tim Minchin, Jai Courtney, Marcus Graham and Lisa McCune.

Jackman graduated from WAAPA in 1994, winning a Tony Award in 2004 for his performance in the Broadway musical The Boy From Oz about Australian entertainer Peter Allen.

Jackman will host this year’s Tony Awards on June 8.