It’s hard to know where to begin with an obituary of Bill Hunter, the well-loved Australian actor who passed away last night in a Melbourne hospice from cancer, age 71. So many roles, so many classics.
Hunter appeared in more than 60 films and was much more than a go-to guy for gruff true blue characters, his trademark role. He carried a legendary aura and was an iconic figure of old school Australiana — the burly, thick bearded, straight talkin’ working class bloke at the pub. The sort of man who could enunciate Aussie vernacular — “struth,” “fair dinkum,” “bugger me!” — better than virtually anybody in the world.
Hunter’s unpretentious approach to acting was perfectly encapsulated in comments he made during a recent interview for upcoming film The Cup, which were released by his manager yesterday:
‘‘As long as the director told me where to stand and what to say, I was happy. Anyone who says there’s any more to it than that is full of bullshit.”
Hunter grew up in rural Victoria, the son of a publican. His first appearance was as an extra in the 1957 British film The Shiralee. Over the next five and a half decades he appeared in mostly supporting roles, but won a best leading actor AFI award in 1978 for his performance in director Phillip Noyce’s Newsfront.
The films for which Hunter will be best remembered include Gallipoli, Muriel’s Wedding, Strictly Ballroom and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. He recently appeared in The Square (2008) and Australia (2008) and performed voice over work for last year’s animated feature Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole.
Hunter’s last two films are Red Dog, which will be released in August, and The Cup, which opens in October.