Luckily, Deb took things into her own hands – because if she hadn’t, it’s likely that they would have never become a couple!
“She said, ‘I noticed you haven’t talked to me in like a week, what’s going on?’ I said, ‘I’ve got a crush on you. I’ll get over it, I’m sorry.’ She goes, ‘Oh? Because I’ve got a crush on you, too.’ I never in a million years thought she reciprocated.”
They married within a year, on April 11, 1996 at St John’s church in Toorak, Melbourne.
“Hugh was besotted,” says a source. “He couldn’t believe his luck that this magnificent woman was now his wife.”
By the end of that decade, Hugh’s stardom had risen so exponentially that he began to eclipse his wife.
“Deb was happy to take a back seat, at least publicly,” says the source. “But at home, she remained very much in charge. It’s a dynamic that suits them both, and her strength behind the scenes is what has driven him to such amazing heights in his career.
“All that aside, any woman who can put up with his eating poached chicken and broccoli for every meal while he’s shredding for roles is a saint!”
Deb, 65, is widely believed to have helped heal Hugh’s feud with his mum, Grace McNeil, who abandoned him in Australia when he was 8 to return to her native England, leaving her son distraught.
“Grace now lives with Hugh and Deb most of the time in New York,” reveals the source. “Deb knew Hugh would never get over the trauma of his mum walking out if he didn’t forgive her.
She was a huge part of mending that relationship and is very close with Grace now.”
The pair have weathered plenty of scandals of their own, with Hugh, 52, once admitting that he’s “managed to talk her out of breaking up with me”.
Among claims levelled against Hugh are his “flirty” friendships with pretty female co-stars.
But perhaps the most damaging of all have been the persistent rumours that Hugh and Deb’s marriage – which has produced adopted children Oscar, 20, and Ava, 15, after they struggled to conceive naturally – is a ruse to cover for him being gay.
The pair remained silent on the relentless speculation over his sexuality, until last year. “Hugh’s been ‘gay’ for so many years,”
Deb said waspishly on Anh’s Brush With Fame. “I was ‘gay’ too, when I did [1988 film] Shame. They were shocked when I got married.”
Hugh has also admitted the gay rumours “bug” his wife.
“Neither of them see any shame in talking about sexuality,” says the source. “But in recent years Deb became worried about how speculation would affect the kids, now they’re old enough to read everything on the net.”
Aside from their millions, Hugh and Deb are about as normal as any Aussie couple.
“Deb would be thrilled if Hugh agreed to move home permanently to Sydney as an anniversary gift, but so far he’s determined to remain in New York, where he’s hoping to revive the Broadway scene.”
Hugh recently gushed of Deb: “You are, and always will be, the great love of my life. I love you to the moon and back.”
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