I found out this morning that Aussie actor, Bill Hunter, died yesterday after a long battle with cancer. I always feel this sadness when great actors die because, even though I didn't know them, I feel like I knew a part of them through their screen presence – Bill Hunter is certainly one of these actors.
Bill Hunter at the AFI Awards in 2007 (image)
If you don't know his name, you will definitely know his face. If you have even only seen a few Aussie films in your life, there is no doubt that you will have seen one of the classics that he was in. Strictly Ballroom, The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Gallipoli, Muriel's Wedding – just to name a few – and if you're more into Pixar movies, the voice of the Dentist. These are some exceptional Aussie films that I insist you add to your movie list (that is if you're a list nerd like me!)
I think my favourite role of his is in Priscilla Queen of the Desert (1994), where he plays Bob, a man in a bad marriage whose life is changed forever when two drag queens and a transsexual happen upon his pub. He is so unhappy and the arrival of Bernadette into his life turns him into a whole new man – it's such a great story of finding love in the strangest places and of acceptance of people who are a little different to you. Also, great fun to see Agent Smith, Charlie Burns, and Chancellor Valorum in the most incredible costumes you can imagine.
In Strictly Ballroom (1992), Baz Luhrman's brilliant debut, Bill plays Barry Fife, the meanest man to ever wear a powder blue suit and judge a dance competition. I love the classic Luhrman dream sequence and the end when Paul Mercurio dances the paso doble and Barry Fife loses his shit and his toupee in a hate-fueled rage. Please enjoy the very 90's trailer – it's a little bit hilarious!
Gallipoli (1981) is a movie I saw in high school as part of a study of Australian cinema and was my introduction to the supremely talented Peter Weir. This movie is about as classic to Australia as you can get and the 80's were such an interesting time in the development of our industry. Mel Gibson plays a sprinter who ends up in Gallipoli as a runner in the war – it is heartbreaking and beautiful, and I think an beautiful depiction of the First World War.
In Muriel's Wedding (1994), Bill Hunter plays Muriel's father…Bill. This film is iconic to Australian cinema, the phrase "you're terrible, Muriel" is embedded in our vernacular, but this great 90's film is about friendship and being true to yourself. It also is probably the reason Toni Collette and Rachel Griffiths are who they are today, show casing their talent in this hilarious, uniquely Australian film. Just a warning, you will be singing Abba songs for the rest of the week after watching it!
I wish that I could have found more Bill Hunter-related trailers, however he often played the supporting roles and did exactly as that role entailed – filling a void in a film with such precision that he boosted the main characters and the story up to another level whilst still leaving his unique mark on the film. In fact, he won an AFI Award for his supporting role in Gallipoli. He will be missed, I think, by all Australians but I feel grateful that he will live on in some of these iconic Aussie films.