Bill Hunter (actor)

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Bill Hunter
Born William John Hunter[1]
(1940-02-27)27 February 1940
Ballarat, Victoria, Australia
Died 21 May 2011(2011-05-21) (aged 71)
Kew, Victoria, Australia
Cause of death Liver cancer
Occupation Actor/Comedian
Years active 1957–2011
Spouse(s) Robbie Anderson (m. 1963–1973, divorced)
Pat Bishop (m. 1976, divorced)
Rhoda Roberts (m. 1993–1999, divorced)[2]

William John "Bill" Hunter (27 February 1940 – 21 May 2011[3]) was an Australian actor of film, stage and television, who was also prominent as a voice-over artist. He appeared in more than 60 films and won two AFI Awards. He was also a recipient of the Centenary Medal.

Life and work[edit]

Hunter was born in Ballarat, a son of William and Francie Hunter.[2] He had a brother, John, and a sister, Marie Ann.[2]

During his teens, Hunter was a champion swimmer, and briefly held a world record for the 100 yards freestyle until his record was broken by John Devitt in the very next heat ten minutes later.[4] Hunter had qualified for the Australian swimming team in the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia but a bout of meningitis ended his Olympic hopes.[5]

Hunter made his film debut as an extra in 1957 film The Shiralee. An introduction to Ava Gardner saw him gain a job as an extra and swimming double in the Hollywood film On the Beach, which was filming in Melbourne.[4] Hunter claimed that he was inspired to take up acting after watching one of the leads (variously claimed to be either Gregory Peck or Fred Astaire) do 27 takes of a scene, and thinking he could do better.[6][7] He took an intensive drama course in Melbourne, and then won a two-year scholarship to the prestigious Northampton Repertory Company in England. In 1966, he made his television debut in an uncredited role in two episodes of the Doctor Who serial The Ark.[8][9]

Returning to Australia in the 1960s, Hunter started out in television, and became a prolific performer in television and feature films, in which he often played the strong, opinionated, archetypal gruff Australian whose exterior belies a softer heart.[10]

Some of his most notable movie roles include Newsfront[11] (1978), Gallipoli (1981), The Dismissal, Scales of Justice[12] (1983), Strictly Ballroom[13] (1992), Muriel's Wedding[14] (1994), The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994) and Australia (2008). In 2007, he reprised the role of Bob in the Australian touring stage production of Priscilla.[15] He also provided the voice of the dentist in Finding Nemo (2003) and the voice of Bubo in Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole (2010). He portrayed United Nations Secretary General Spencer Chartwell in the American science fiction series Space: Above and Beyond. His last film role was in The Cup (2011).

Of acting, Hunter said, "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. ... It's a job. It is a craft, but there's no art involved. What you need is common sense and a reasonably rough head. You put on the makeup and the wardrobe, and that is half the performance. That upsets the purists, but never mind, they don't work as much as I do."[16]

Personal life[edit]

Hunter's first marriage was to Robbie Anderson from 1963 to 1973, with whom he had a son, named James Hunter. His next marriage was to actress Pat Bishop, in 1976.[4] According to writer Bob Ellis, the marriage was short-lived after Hunter ran off with their marriage celebrant.[17] His third marriage was to artist and television presenter Rhoda Roberts, from 1993 until their divorce in 1999.[18]

On 15 May 2011, Hunter was admitted to Caritas Christi hospice in Kew after refusing to go to a hospital.[19] Surrounded by family and friends, he died of liver cancer[20] on 21 May 2011, aged 71.[21]

A memorial service for Hunter was held at Melbourne's Princess Theatre on 26 May.[22]

Close friend and co-star Mick Molloy paid tribute to Bill Hunter on stage at the 54th Logie Awards in April 2012.[23]

Selected filmography[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1966 Doctor WhoThe Ark Guardian Uncredited, two episodes: The Steel Sky, The Plague
1970 Ned Kelly Officer
1974 27A Cornish
1974 Stone Barman
1975 Man from Hong Kong, TheThe Man from Hong Kong (a.k.a. The Dragon Flies) Peterson
1976 Eliza Fraser Youlden
1976 Mad Dog Morgan Sgt. Smith
1977 Backroads Jack
1978 In Search of Anna Peter
1978 Newsfront Len Maguire AFI Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
1978 Weekend of Shadows Bosun
1980 Dead Man's Float Eddie Bell
1980 Hard Knocks Brady
1981 Gallipoli Major Barton AFI Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
1981 Maybe This Time, ...... Maybe This Time Stephen
1982 Heatwave Robert Duncan
1982 Far East Walker
1983 Hit, TheThe Hit Harry
1983 Return of Captain Invincible, TheThe Return of Captain Invincible Tupper / Coach
1984 Street Hero Detective Fitzpatrick
1985 Indecent Obsession, AnAn Indecent Obsession Colonel Chinstrap
1985 Rebel Browning
1986 Death of a Soldier Detective Sgt. Adams
1986 Sky Pirates O'Reilly
1988 Rikky and Pete Whitstead
1989 Cassidy Charles Parnell Cassidy Television film
1989 Fever Sgt. Jack Welles
1989 Mull Frank Mullens
1990 Call Me Mr. Brown McNeill
1991 Deadly Vernon Giles
1992 Last Days of Chez Nous, TheThe Last Days of Chez Nous Beth's Father
1992 Leaving of Liverpool, TheThe Leaving of Liverpool Father O'Neill Television miniseries
1992 Strictly Ballroom Barry Fife
1993 Broken Highway Wilson
1993 CustodianThe Custodian Managing Director
1993 Shotgun Wedding Police Commissioner Andrews
1993 Stark Ocker Tyron Television miniseries
1994 Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, TheThe Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert Bob
1994 Everynight ... Everynight Berriman
1994 Muriel's Wedding Bill Heslop
1995 Blue Murder Angus McDonald Television miniseries
1996 Cody: Fall from Grace Sam Wolfe Television film
1996 Race the Sun Commissioner Hawkes
1996 River Street Vincent Pierce
1997 Road to Nhill Bob
1998 15 Amore Brendan's Voice Voice
1998 Difficult WomanA Difficult Woman Paul Scanlon Television miniseries
1998 Echo of Thunder, TheThe Echo of Thunder Cooper Television film; uncredited role
2000 On the Beach Prime Minister Seaton Television film
2002 Crackerjack Stan Coombs
2003 Finding Nemo Dr. Philip Sherman Voice
2003 Bad Eggs Ted Pratt
2003 Horseplay Barry Coxhead
2003 Kangaroo Jack Blue
2004 Tom White Malcolm
2008 Square, TheThe Square Gil Hubbard
2008 Australia Skipper (Qantas Sloop)
2010 Pacific, TheThe Pacific James Television miniseries
2010 Wedding PartyThe Wedding Party Priest
2010 Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole Bubo Voice
2011 Red Dog Himself
2011 Cup, TheThe Cup Bart Cummings Final film appearance

Awards and honours[edit]

Hunter won the 1978 AFI Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for Newsfront, and the 1981 Best Supporting Actor award for Gallipoli.[24]

In 2001, he was awarded the Centenary Medal for service to acting.[1]

A painting of Hunter by artist Jason Benjamin won the Packing Room Prize in conjunction with the 2005 Archibald Prize.[25]


  1. ^ a b Hunter, William John, It's an Honour, 1 January 2001.
  2. ^ a b c Blake, Jason: Aussie bloke of screen was larger than life, The Sydney Morning Herald, 23 May 2011.
  3. ^ "Bill Hunter, Actor Who Typified Australia, Dies at 71". The New York Times. Associated Press. 22 May 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c Atterton, Margot; Alan Veitch: The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Australian Showbiz (1984).
  5. ^ Bill Hunter gravely ill with inoperable cancer, Herald Sun, 19 May 2011.
  6. ^ Bill Hunter faces the final curtain, Herald Sun, 19 May 2011.
  7. ^ Bodey, Michael: Charismatic wild man of cinema, The Australian, 23 May 2011.
  8. ^ Muriel's Wedding star Bill Hunter 'gravely ill' Archived 20 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine., ninemsn, 18 May 2011.
  9. ^ Production notes, The Ark DVD, BBC.
  10. ^ Preiss, Benjamin (18 May 2011). "Acting legend Bill Hunter gravely ill". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 18 May 2011. 
  11. ^ "National Film and Sound Archive: Newsfront on australianscreen online". Retrieved 2 June 2011. 
  12. ^ "National Film and Sound Archive: Scales of Justice on australianscreen online". Retrieved 2 June 2011. 
  13. ^ "National Film and Sound Archive: Strictly Ballroom on australianscreen online". Retrieved 2 June 2011. 
  14. ^ "National Film and Sound Archive: Muriel's Wedding on australianscreen online". Retrieved 2 June 2011. 
  15. ^ "Bill Hunter to join Priscilla cast". Aussie Theatre. 16 April 2007. 
  16. ^ Bill Hunter, 71, voiced the dentist in Finding Nemo[dead link]., 23 May 2011
  17. ^ Ellis, Bob: "I don't do auditions, mate": remembering Bill Hunter, ABC The Drum Unleashed, 23 May 2011.
  18. ^ Queen of arts, The Sun-Herald, 17 November 2003.
  19. ^ Actor Bill Hunter dies, ABC News, 21 May 2011
  20. ^ "Mourners farewell acting great Bill Hunter". Sydney Morning Herald. 26 May 2011. Retrieved 29 May 2011. 
  21. ^ "Australian acting legend Bill Hunter dies from cancer at 71", The Australian, 21 May 2011.
  22. ^ Quinn, Karl: A man of the people, Hunter farewelled with heart, Bendigo Advertiser, 27 May 2011.
  23. ^
  24. ^ Feature Film Award Winners 1958–2010 Archived 19 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine., Australian Film Institute, 2010.
  25. ^ "Bill gets a kiss from the packing room". The Sydney Morning Herald. 16 April 2007. Retrieved 24 January 2008. 

External links[edit]