If you reside in Australia and have no idea who Bill Hunter is, you’d better get on the first plane to New Zealand. Bill, who died on Sunday at age 71, was a bona fide legend of Australian film. It was once said in jest by a friend of mine that if you make a film in Australia and not cast Bill Hunter in it, you haven’t made an Aussie film. Bill’s involvement in some of this country’s classic films will remain a timeless reminder of his austerity and talent.
I could tell you that Bill began in television and that his contribution to celluloid Downunder is immeasurable. Typical plaudits and compliments. Not undeserved. But Bill’s legacy transcends his mere presence on film. Bill seemed to have a sincere love and respect for the people who shaped this nation and a genuine love for the country itself. He was often considered by many people to be the quintessential Australian. (Maybe it was his ocker voice?) The man could easily have gone to Hollywood and ‘enjoyed’ a career playing bit parts in blockbusters, much like Jack Thompson. But in doing that, he would have rejected the sense of pride in his country that seemed so overwhelmingly Bill.
From the stalwart Len Maguire in the classic Newsfront, to his gruff outback mechanic who falls for a transsexual in The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert, Bill Hunter lent authority and humour to every role he played. To me, Bill will always be the sympathetic Major Barton in the trenches of Peter Weir’s Gallipoli, softly humming to Adagio in G Minor as he writes one final letter to his wife. Despite appearing in more than sixty films, if there is any regret to be had at the passing of Bill Hunter, it is that he did not make more films for us to enjoy in perpetuity.
Rest easy, Bill. You won’t readily be forgotten.
Recommended films of Bill Hunter:
The Hit (1983)
The Last Days Of Chez Nous (1992)
Strictly Ballroom (1992)
Broken Highway (1993)
The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert (1994)
Muriel’s Wedding (1994)
Finding Nemo (2003) (voice only)
The Square (2008)
by Wadrick Jones