x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Australia mourns movie great Bill Hunter

Bill Hunter, the much-loved Australian actor recognisable from films ranging from Muriel's Wedding to Gallipoli, has died at 71.

Australian cinema is mourning one its greats, following the death of the much-loved actor Bill Hunter at the age of 71. Although, if you are not an Australian, you may not recognise the name, you'll probably have seen him in Muriel's Wedding, Strictly Ballroom or the acclaimed First World War film Gallipoli.

With a career spanning more than 50 years, Hunter's big break came in 1959 as a stunt man in On the Beach, a movie about the survivors of a nuclear war, starring Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner and Fred Astaire.

He went on to become a prolific presence on the big and the small screens, best known for his down-to-earth style and raspy voice - characteristics that earned him the status of Australia's favourite "ocker" and saw him often play the role of the opinionated, archetypal gruff guy.

In the course of a career that saw him take part in more than 60 films and rack up more than 100 credits, Hunter won the Australian Film Industry's Best Actor award, the national equivalent to an Oscar, three times. In a recent interview to promote his movie The Cup, Hunter described his straightforward approach to acting: "As long as the director told me were to stand and what to say, I was happy."

The Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard, led tributes to the acting legend, saying: "Mr Hunter played a key role as an acclaimed actor in helping to define Australian culture over five decades on screen and on stage."

His fellow actor Russell Crowe also paid his respects, saying the country had lost a "unique talent".