Town & Country’s “Mr. Nice Guy”

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When Hugh Jackman and Deborra-Lee Furness met for the first time, in 1995 in Melbourne, on the set of the TV drama “Correlli,” she was the star playing the title character and Jackman was the novice, hired to play her love interest less than an hour after graduating from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, in Perth. Right from the start the producers liked what they saw. At 26, tall and slim, with a rangy prettiness, Jackman played a feral sort, a convict beaten senseless in police custody, and Furness, then 39, played the prison psychologist battling her own attraction as she nursed him back to health.

You can see their first kiss online: The six-foot-two Jackman corners Furness in a prison hallway, blocking her exit and taking her breath away with a kiss that combines menace and unhurried sexual electricity. The difference in age didn’t seem to get in their way. The producers told her, “We’re really happy with your chemistry.” She told them she’d keep working on that.

The couple have clearly told their story before. Over a leisurely lunch three days before the premiere of Jackman’s sixth outing as Wolverine – the immortal X-Men mutant with the adamantium claws – in a restaurant nine stories below their Manhattan river-view apartment, Hugh and Deb happily recall the cat-and-mouse game of their mutual seduction: how Jackman suddenly stopped talking to her on set; how Furness, who is blonde, bluff, and quick to laugh, called him on his crazy behavior; how, by way of explanation, he waved her off, embarrassed about falling for the leading lady on his first professional job, confessing his attraction to her at the same instant he was saying he’d get over it; how she responded to the confession by saying, Yeah, she was falling for him too.

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