I’ve many great moments from Bill Hunter etched firmly in my mind, the least of which are some of his great performances (across such flicks as “Gallipoli”, “Newsfront” and, of course, “Muriel’s Wedding”), but there’s also a couple of more personal memories I’ll always have.
One of those memories is of Hunter, who sadly died yesterday from Cancer at a hospice in Kew, at the “Muriel’s Wedding” premiere in NSW. Having clearly had too much to drink (he was known to have a beer or three with his dinner), Hunter hobbled down the steps of the cinema, giggling as he made his way down, before doing a Charlie Chaplin-esque tumble. The audience was, of course, rather concerned for the then fifty-something actor but Hunter thought it was a laugh. He dusted himself off, grabbed the mic and spoke to the audience for a good half-hour or so – so many terrific stories of years gone by – before “Muriel’s Wedding” was played.
After wards, Hunter stuck around to talk to the punters and to see what they thought of the film – and, of course, to share a beer with us.
The man was a riot to be around – didn’t care what anyway thought of him, nor did he even attempt to behave in, well, whatever way an actor is supposed to behave off-screen (guessing they’re supposed to be sober at events like this?). He was, quite simply, Bill. A Bloke with a Job and he didn’t give two shits whether you liked him or not. Gotta love that.
Several years later I got to spend some quality time with ‘Bill’ on the set of Mick Molloy’s film “Crackerjack”. Mick had invited my wife and I down to the set – the filming locale that day being a suburban lawn bowling club – for the day and lucky for us, this was the day that Molloy was filming many of his scenes with Bill. It’s a wonder they even made their days on this film, what with all the laughing and hijinks going on on that set – Mick and Bill had clearly clicked. Both have a similar sense of humour and also have that appreciable ‘I like me, even if you don’t’ attitude. It was a joy spending time with them that day.
Bill Hunter essentially worked right up until his death. I can’t speak about the films yet, but let’s just say his last two films – “Red Dog”, a heartwarming tale of a kelpie and the townspeople it befriended, and “The Cup”, a Damien Oliver biopic that has Hunter playing, rather brilliantly, Bart Cummings – are definite high-notes to end an illustrious, admirable career on.
Our readers outside of Australia may recognize Hunter’s mug from “Muriel’s Wedding” or “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”, after all both films played to bravura raves outside of the country, but it’s his voice that may ring more of a bell – Hunter lent his lungs to the role of ‘The Dentist’ in Disney’s hit “Finding Nemo” and Bubo in last year’s “Legend of the Guardians : The Owls of Ga’Hoole”. UK viewers might also remember him as George Lucas (no, not that one) in “Prisoner” back in ’79.
It was predicted that the world would end yesterday. The world remains in one piece, but the Australian Film world has been rocked by something big.
R.I.P Bill Hunter.
Here are a few of my favourite performances from Hunter :