Bill Hunter (actor)

William John 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.

Bill Hunter
William John Hunter[1]

(1940-02-27)27 February 1940
Ballarat, Victoria, Australia
Died21 May 2011(2011-05-21) (aged 71)
Kew, Victoria, Australia
  • Actor
  • comedian
  • voice-over artist
Years active1957–2011
Spouse(s)Robbie Anderson (m. 1963–1973, divorced)
Pat Bishop (m. 1976, divorced)
Rhoda Roberts (m. 1993–1999, divorced)[2]
AwardsBest Lead Actor in a Telefeature
1989 Police State
Best Supporting Actor in a Film
1981 Gallipoli
Best Actor in a Film
1978 Newsfront

Early lifeEdit

Hunter was born in Ballarat, Victoria, the 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 10 minutes later.[4] Hunter qualified for the Australian swimming team for the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia before 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 sailed aboard the RHMS Ellinis on New Year's Eve 1964 for 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.[8][9]

Hunter returned to Australia in 1967 and began working in television drama and feature films. He had interviewed with Gavrik Losey in London making no great impression in that highly competitive atmosphere but Losey was able to offer Hunter his first Australian film appearance in Ned Kelly when it came into being in Australia with Losey as production supervisor. Hunter often played characters who were the strong, opinionated, archetypal gruff Australian whose exterior belies a softer heart and sensibilities vulnerable to pressure.[10]

Some of his most notable movie roles include Mad Dog Morgan (1976), 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 and deathEdit

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]

Hunter was a supporter of the Australian Labor Party, appearing in the party's official 1996 Federal Election Campaign advertisement.[19]

On 15 May 2011, Hunter was admitted to Caritas Christi hospice in Kew after refusing to go to a hospital.[20] Surrounded by family and friends, he died of liver cancer[21] on 21 May 2011, aged 71.[22]

A memorial service for Hunter was held at Melbourne's Princess Theatre on 26 May 2011.[23] Close friend and co-star Mick Molloy paid tribute to Bill Hunter on stage at the 54th Logie Awards in April 2012.[24]


Year Title Role Notes
1966 Doctor WhoThe Ark Guardian Uncredited, two episodes: The Steel Sky, The Plague
1970 Ned Kelly Officer Uncredited
1974 27A Cornish
1974 Stone Barman
1975 The 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 Stephen
1982 Heatwave Robert Duncan
1982 Far East Walker
1983 The Hit Harry
1983 The Return of Captain Invincible Tupper / Coach
1984 Street Hero Detective Fitzpatrick
1984 The Keepers Jack Wolfe 9 part ABC TV series shown April-May 1984
1985 An 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 The Last Days of Chez Nous Beth's Father
1992 The Leaving of Liverpool Father O'Neill Television miniseries
1992 Strictly Ballroom Barry Fife
1993 Broken Highway Wilson
1993 The Custodian Managing Director
1993 Shotgun Wedding Police Commissioner Andrews
1993 Stark Ocker Tyron Television miniseries
1994 The 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 A Difficult Woman Paul Scanlon Television miniseries
1998 The Echo of Thunder Cooper Television film; uncredited role
2000 On the Beach Prime Minister Seaton Television film
2002 Crackerjack Stan Coombs
2003 Finding Nemo Dentist Voice
2003 Bad Eggs Ted Pratt
2003 Horseplay Barry Coxhead
2003 Kangaroo Jack Blue
2004 Tom White Malcolm
2008 The Square Gil Hubbard
2008 Australia Skipper (Qantas Sloop)
2010 The Pacific James Television miniseries
2010 The Wedding Party Priest
2010 Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole Bubo Voice
2011 Red Dog Himself
2011 The Cup Bart Cummings Final film appearance

Awards and honoursEdit

Hunter won the 1978 AFI Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for Newsfront, and the 1981 Best Supporting Actor award for Gallipoli.[25]

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.[26]


  1. ^ a b Hunter, William John Archived 29 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine, It's an Honour, 1 January 2001.
  2. ^ a b c Blake, Jason: Aussie bloke of screen was larger than life Archived 24 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine, 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 Archived 23 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine, The Ark DVD, BBC.
  10. ^ Preiss, Benjamin (18 May 2011). "Acting legend Bill Hunter gravely ill". Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 20 May 2011. Retrieved 18 May 2011.
  11. ^ "National Film and Sound Archive: Newsfront on australianscreen online". Archived from the original on 13 October 2011. Retrieved 2 June 2011.
  12. ^ "National Film and Sound Archive: Scales of Justice on australianscreen online". Archived from the original on 31 March 2011. Retrieved 2 June 2011.
  13. ^ "National Film and Sound Archive: Strictly Ballroom on australianscreen online". Archived from the original on 26 February 2011. Retrieved 2 June 2011.
  14. ^ "National Film and Sound Archive: Muriel's Wedding on australianscreen online". Archived from the original on 2 March 2011. 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 Archived 27 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine, ABC The Drum Unleashed, 23 May 2011.
  18. ^ Queen of arts Archived 15 January 2012 at the Wayback Machine, The Sun-Herald, 17 November 2003.
  19. ^ Australian Labor Party Federal Election Campaign Ad- February 1996, archived from the original on 22 December 2021, retrieved 24 January 2020
  20. ^ Actor Bill Hunter dies Archived 23 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine, ABC News, 21 May 2011
  21. ^ "Mourners farewell acting great Bill Hunter". Sydney Morning Herald. 26 May 2011. Archived from the original on 8 November 2012. Retrieved 29 May 2011.
  22. ^ "Australian acting legend Bill Hunter dies from cancer at 71", The Australian, 21 May 2011.
  23. ^ Quinn, Karl: A man of the people, Hunter farewelled with heart Archived 7 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine, Bendigo Advertiser, 27 May 2011.
  24. ^ "The 54th TV Week Logie Awards – Television.AU". Archived from the original on 25 April 2017. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  25. ^ Feature Film Award Winners 1958–2010 Archived 19 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Australian Film Institute, 2010.
  26. ^ "Bill gets a kiss from the packing room". The Sydney Morning Herald. 16 April 2007. Archived from the original on 19 November 2007. Retrieved 24 January 2008.

External linksEdit