Aussie film star Bill Hunter dies of cancer at 71

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“He’s so iconically Australian. He turns typical, minimalist Australian gestures into a lot of emotional expression,” Turnour said.

Hunter was born Feb. 27, 1940, and raised in rural Victoria state in Australia’s southeast. He was the son of a struggling country pub owner who eventually went broke. Hunter told Melbourne’s The Sunday Age newspaper in 1994 that he left school at the age of 13 to become a cowboy, known in Australia as a drover, guiding cattle herds across Victoria.

He began building his career in the 1960s in Australian television crime dramas in which he specialized as hard characters who were usually policemen or criminals.

A gregarious hard drinker with an endearing knack of recalling names of people who had expected to be forgotten, Hunter was universally popular in the movie industry in which he became a stalwart with few peers.

An early career highlight came when he played a newsreel cameraman in the Phillip Noyce-directed movie about the media and politics in Australia in the 1950s, “Newsfront.” Hunter won the Australian Film Industry’s best actor award for 1978 for the role, the first of three such Australian equivalents of an Oscar that he earned.

He also won acclaim for his roles as a doomed army major in Peter Weir’s 1981 World War I drama “Gallipoli,” a meddling dance judge in Luhrmann’s 1992 romantic comedy “Strictly Ballroom,” father of the bride in P.J. Hogan’s “Muriel’s Wedding” and an open-minded mechanic in the company of drag queens in Stephan Elliott’s “Priscilla.”

The two comedies “Muriel’s Wedding” and “Priscilla” were made at the same time in 1994 in different parts of Australia and required Hunter to have different length hair, a beard in one and to be clean shaven in the other, The Internet Movie Database says.

Hunter also had minor roles in Luhrmann’s 2008 epic “Australia” and in the U.S.-Australian television miniseries co-production “The Pacific” released last year.

Hunter recently narrated a television documentary about this year’s floods and cyclone that were Australia’s most expensive natural disasters. He plays the legendary Australian racehorse trainer Bart Cummings and a cameo role in two movies to be screened later this year.

“Red Dog,” a family film based on a true Outback story, appears in Australian theaters in August. “The Cup” is scheduled to be released in Australia in October.

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