Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Actor Bill Hunter Passes On

Australian actor Bill Hunter, who appeared in films ranging from The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994) to Gallipoli (1981), passed Saturday, 21 May 2011 at the age of 71. The cause was cancer.

Bill Hunter was born in Melbourne and grew up in the countryside of Victoria. As a teenager he was an Olympic level swimmer and would have made the Australian swimming team in 1956 had a bout with meningitis not intervened. He was an extra in the film The Shiralee (1957) and served as a swimming double on the American film On the Beach, which filmed in Australia. By the Sixties he was guest starring in such Australian television shows as The Hunter, Riptide The Long Arm, and Skippy, as well as the British classic Doctor Who. He also appeared in the film Ned Kelly (1970). In the Seventies Mr. Hunter was a regular on the TV series Spyforce and Prisoner. He appeared on such shows as Catwalk, King's Men, Division 4, Homocide, and Matlock Police. He appeared in such films as 27A (1974), Stone (1974), Dragon Flies (1975), Rate of Exchange (1976), Mad Dog Morgan (1976), Newsfront (1978), Vox Pop (1979), Dead Man's Float (1980), and Hard Knocks (1980).

In the Eighties he appeared in such films as Gallipoli, Heatwave (1982), Street Hero (1984), Sky Pirates (1986), Mull (1989), and Call Me Mr. Brown (1990). He appeared in several mini-series, including The Last Bastion, The Flying Doctors, and Joe Wilson. The Nineties would be a busy time for Mr. Hunter when he appeared in some of his most notable films. He appeared in such films as Strictly Ballroom (1992), The Last Days of Chez Nous (1992), The Adventures of Priscilla, Queent of the Desert (1994), Muriel's Wedding (1994), Race the Sun (1996), and Road to Nhill (1997).  On television he appeared on the series Phoenix, Police Rescue, Minder, Fallen Angels, SeaChange, and All Saints.

Bill Hunter remained active in the Naughts. He appeared in such films as Crackerjack (2002), Kangaroo Jack (2003), Horseplay (2003), Tom White (2004), The Square (2008), Australia (2008), The Wedding Party (2010), and the soon to be released The Cup. He was the voice of the dentist in Finding Nemo (2003). He appeared on the series Water Rats, White Collar Blue, and The Pacific.

More so than the character of Crocodile Dundee or wildlife expert Steve Irwin, I dare say that for the world, Bill Hunter was Australia. Even if one could not remember his name, his was the face and the voice that came to mind when thought of the land down under. If the world at large identified Bill Hunter with Australia and vice versa, it was perhaps because he was a great actor. He was so very versatile, playing everything from Muriel's psychologically abusive father in Muriel's Wedding to Major Barton in Gallipoli to Bill Fife, president of the Australian Dancing Federation, in Strictly Ballroom. He could play everything from heroes to heavies, everything from authority figures to the everyday Australian, and do so convincingly. While he may not be a household name in North America or Europe, Bill Hunter will probably remain the best actor to emerge from Australia and the face that the world sees when it pictures Australia.

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