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12/20/2017 05:31 EST

Hugh Jackman Says A Sexist Comment Almost Stopped His Dancing Feet

The actor is "so happy" about Australia passing marriage equality, too.

Hugh Jackman says his latest movie, “The Greatest Showman,” has a message for those who feel ostracized by society, including members of the LGBTQ community: “Be who you are.”

Earlier this week, the actor-singer-dancer sat down with entertainment journalist Micah Jesse to discuss “Showman,” which hits theaters nationwide on Dec. 20. The hotly anticipated movie musical also stars Michelle Williams and Zac Efron. It’s based on the life of P.T. Barnum (Jackman), the 19th century impresario and co-founder of the Barnum & Bailey Circus

The film depicts Barnum’s working relationship with “freaks,” including a bearded lady (Keala Settle) and a dwarf performer (Sam Humphrey). While the actual merits of such sideshow acts are debatable at best, Jackman said Barnum “inadvertently created a family that was really, really valuable to him.”

“He brought these people out of the shadows, out of basements, out of locked bedrooms in homes ― people who’d been cast aside ― and he celebrated them,” Jackman said. “He made people love them.” 

As to how Jackman himself related to the character of Barnum, the actor recalled his interest in studying dance as an 11-year-old. Although his father was supportive, he overheard someone else say, “Dancing’s for sissies,” and opted out of enrolling in a dance class. 

Years later, the person who had discouraged him early on apologized for the remark. “I went and enrolled the next day,” Jackman said.  

Later in the interview, the Golden Globe-, Emmy- and Tony-winning star reflected on the passage of marriage equality in his native Australia earlier this month. 

“I am just so happy,” he said. “We can only march further into the future of creating an environment where we absolutely celebrate equality, and we judge people on who they are, not who they love.” 

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