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Bill Hunter
Bill-hunter.jpg
Born
William John Hunter

(1940-02-27)27 February 1940
Ballarat, Victoria, Australia
Died 21 May 2011(2011-05-21) (aged 71)
Kew, Victoria, Australia
Occupation
  • Actor
  • comedian
  • voice-over artist
Years active 1957–2011
Spouse(s) Robbie Anderson (m. 1963–1973, divorced)
Pat Bishop (m. 1976, divorced)
Rhoda Roberts (m. 1993–1999, divorced)
Awards Best Lead Actor in a Telefeature
1989 Police State
Best Supporting Actor in a Film
1981 Gallipoli
Best Actor in a Film
1978 Newsfront

William John Hunter (27 February 1940 – 21 May 2011) 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.

Early life

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

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. 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.

Career

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. 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. He took an intensive drama course in Melbourne, and aboard the RHMS Ellinis on New Year's Eve 1964 sailed for adventures of luck in England. There he won a two-year scholarship to the prestigious Northampton Repertory Company in England. In 1966, Hunter made his first television appearance, two episodes in The Ark, a serial within the third season of the BBC television drama series Doctor Who.

Hunter discovered what he wanted to know: the acting business was brutal in the big city and he returned to the terrain he knew, Australia, in 1967, finding a new beginning in television drama, becoming a prolific performer there and in feature films. His character was most often the strong, opinionated, archetypal gruff Australian whose exterior belies his softer heart and within his performances sensibilities vulnerable to pressure.

Some of his most notable movie roles include Mad Dog Morgan (1976), Newsfront (1978), Gallipoli (1981), The Dismissal, Scales of Justice (1983), Strictly Ballroom (1992), Muriel's Wedding (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. 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).

Personal life and death

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. According to writer Bob Ellis, the marriage was short-lived after Hunter ran off with their marriage celebrant. His third marriage was to artist and television presenter Rhoda Roberts, from 1993 until their divorce in 1999.

Hunter was a supporter of the Australian Labor Party, appearing in the party's official 1996 Federal Election Campaign advertisement.

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

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

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

Awards and honours

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

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

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

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