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Bruce Beresford

Bruce Beresford

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Also Known As: Died:
Born: August 16, 1940 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Australia Profession: director, screenwriter, producer, editor, cameraman, factory worker, teacher

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Perhaps the least lionized of the Australian New Wave filmmakers, Bruce Beresford has developed a reputation for drawing extraordinary performances from his actors, as well as enjoying great success making stage plays work on film. Much-acclaimed for historical dramas of social and moral conflict, he surprisingly first made his name with low comedy, delighting in juvenile scatology that horrified critics while regaling the Australian public. Though he had always wanted to make films, he had to leave his native country to do so, and when England proved inimical, he applied for and got a job as a film editor (and sometime cameraman) in Nigeria, remaining there until the Nigerian civil war broke out in 1967. Returning to England, he secured a position as a films officer for the Production Board of the British Film Institute, but on a visit to Australia in 1971, he found its film community in a state of high excitement over the formation of the Australian Film Commission. Within a matter of weeks he was back in Sydney, ready for action.

Perhaps the least lionized of the Australian New Wave filmmakers, Bruce Beresford has developed a reputation for drawing extraordinary performances from his actors, as well as enjoying great success making stage plays work on film. Much-acclaimed for historical dramas of social and moral conflict, he surprisingly first made his name with low comedy, delighting in juvenile scatology that horrified critics while regaling the Australian public. Though he had always wanted to make films, he had to leave his native country to do so, and when England proved inimical, he applied for and got a job as a film editor (and sometime cameraman) in Nigeria, remaining there until the Nigerian civil war broke out in 1967. Returning to England, he secured a position as a films officer for the Production Board of the British Film Institute, but on a visit to Australia in 1971, he found its film community in a state of high excitement over the formation of the Australian Film Commission. Within a matter of weeks he was back in Sydney, ready for action.

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

3.
5.
  Evelyn (2002) Director
6.
  Bride of the Wind (2001) Director
7.
  Double Jeopardy (1999) Director
8.
  Paradise Road (1997) Director
9.
  Last Dance (1996) Director
10.
  Good Man in Africa, A (1994) Director

CAST: (feature film)

VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1959:
Offered scholarship to attend USC but couldn't raise airfare
:
Gained some experience as a film trainee with the Australian Broadcasting Commission
1962:
Sailed for England (a six-week journey) on the day of his graduation from university; once there, roomed with future critic-poet Clive James
:
Moved to London to get into English film industry; blocked by unions
1964:
Worked as a film editor in East Nigeria; left at outbreak of Nigerian Civil War
:
Worked in administrative capacity with Production Board of the British Film Institute, sometimes serving as photographer or editor; directed shorts on Roy Lichtenstein, Rene Magritte, and the sculpture of Picasso and Barbara Hepworth, among others
1971:
Returned to Australia
1972:
Feature co-writing (with Barry Humphries) and directing debut, "The Adventures of Barry McKenzie"
1973:
Turned to Australian TV, directing two feature-length, historical films, "Poor Fella Me" (also teleplay writer) about the destruction of Australian aborigines under white rule, and "The Wreck of the Batavia," telling the tale of Jeronimus Corneliusz, a religious fanatic who became the murderous dictator of a shipload of castaways on the West Australian coast
1974:
First feature as producer (also co-wrote with Humphries and directed), "Barry McKenzie Holds His Own"
1975:
Wrote and directed "Side by Side," a "staggeringly crass" musical that starred Humphries
1976:
First commercial and critical success, "Don's Party"; first collaboration with playwright David Williamson
1977:
Fourth film with Humphries (again only acting), "The Getting of Wisdom", garnered some international attention
1980:
"Breaker Morant," the greatest box-office success to that time of the Australian cinema earned the Best Film award from the Australian Film Institute and an Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay
1980:
Reteamed with Williamson in "The Club"
1982:
U.S. directorial debut, "Tender Mercies"; garnered an Academy Award nomination as Best Director
1985:
Directed first opera "La Fancicella del West" at Spoleto USA Festival
1986:
Helmed "Crimes of the Heart," adapted from Beth Henley's play; reportedly took large pay cut (as did actresses Diane Keaton, Sissy Spacek, and Jessica Lange) to ensure film was made
1987:
Directed the "Die Tote Stadt" segment of the opera anthology "Aria"
1989:
Signed with HISK Productions in L.A. to direct TV commercials
1989:
Helmed the Oscar-winning Best Picture "Driving Miss Daisy," adapted from Alfred Uhry's Pulitzer Prize-winning play; was ironically not nominated for Best Director
1991:
Directed the award-winning historical "Black Robe" about Jesuit missionaries in Canada
1991:
First screenplay for an American feature, "Mister Johnson"; adapted from the Joyce Carey novel and also directed
1993:
Reteamed with "Daisy" producing team of Richard and Lili Fini Zanuck for "Rich in Love"
1994:
Co-produced and directed "A Good Man in Africa"
1995:
Executive produced and scripted Showtime adaptation of Sam Shepard's "Curse of the Starving Class" (did not direct); script changed considerably from the time it was finished until the time it premiered, prompting Beresford to say, "I know now why writers get so angry" (from <i>Written By</i>, June 1997)
1997:
Wrote and directed "Paradise Road" about female prisoners held captive during WWII in Singapore
1998:
Announced as director of the TV adaptation of Alfred Uhry's play "The Last Night of the Ballyhoo" (unproduced as of fall 1999)
1999:
Helmed the stage opera based on Arthur Miller's "The Crucible"
1999:
Directed "Double Jeopardy," a thriller starring Ashley Judd and Tommy Lee Jones that became a surprise box office hit
1999:
Co-directed (with Geoff Burton) and produced "Sydney: A Story of a City," a 41-minute docudrama in the large screen IMAX format; backed by the Sydney City Council, this breathtaking and unapologetic piece of propaganda seductively sold Sydney, the home of the 2000 Olympic Games
2000:
Staged Los Angles Opera production of "Rigoletto"
2000:
Produced and directed the Bravo series "Aria & Pasta"
2003:
Directed Antonio Banderas in the HBO biopic "And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself"
2006:
Helmed crime thriller "The Contract"; re-teamed with "Driving Miss Daisy" star Morgan Freeman
2009:
Directed the biographical drama "Mao's Last Dancer" based on the autobiography by Li Cunxin
2012:
Directed Jane Fonda and Catherine Keener in the comedy-drama "Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

University of Sydney: Sydney , New South Wales - 1962

Notes

On his ability to portray the American South so well in movies: "Well, I think the only reason for that is that I've come across a number of good Southern writers. And they write . . . they seem to have this flair of someone like Tennessee Williams. Not that they write like him, but there seems to be a wonderful feeling for language. Beth Henley, Josephine [Humphreys], Horton Foote, Alfred Uhry--they all write in a different style, but they've all got a great ear.

"I mean, there's plaenty of Northern writers like that, too, I guess, but I just haven't heard 'em! See, David Mamet, who everyone's telling me writes great dialogue, just writes people saying 'Fuck, fuck, fuck' all the time--I don't think it's very good dialogue. It's boring!" --Bruce Beresford quoted in Written By, June 1997

"I've always been interested in different cultures and different stratas of society other than the one I grew up in. I'll make one [movie] on one group and then, having said everything I've got to say on the subject, move onto something different and refresshing. I remember, as a kid, my favorite reading used to be atlases. I used to pick out countries at random, think that I'd love to go see what people do in that place and how they behave. By now, I've been to most of them." --Beresford to Bob Strauss in The Boston Globe, September 19, 1999

On his part in Australia's cinematic blossoming of the 1970s: "It was exciting being a part of that group. There's a marvelous moment whan you see your own culture put up on-screen, which had never happened before in Australia. There'd been a few, very self-conscious things that they used to load up with kangaroos and like that, but nothing measurable in real terms. But suddenly, there were all these films that examined Australian life; and the film renaissance put Australia on the global map and made tourism the country's number-one industry." --Beresford quoted in The Boston Globe, September 19, 1999

"In the old days--only a couple of years ago--you'd make a film, show the studio the cut, they'd look at it and comment and then go away. It was often useful because their comments were quite spontaneous--they were comments that an average audience would make, comments like, 'It's too slow there,' or 'I didn't quite understand that.'

"Now they all get videocassettes, they take it home and then not only run it back and forth as many times as they like, they can actually do their own little edits on it . . ." --From The New York Times, April 23, 1997

About working on "Last Dance": "Disney would call and they'd say, 'We think you should do so-and-so.' And I'd say, 'OK, you told me this yesterday.' And an hour later someone else would call, that afternoon someone else would call, the next morning comeone would call, all with the same thing. It never stopped!

"Every day there were pages and pages, and they were doing all their cuts all the time. And a few times I just said to them, 'Look, either I'll cut the film or you'll cut the film, but we both can't cut the film because it'll end up a mess.'

"I mean, I've kept all the notes and sent them to the National Library in Australia. I said: 'I want you to keep all these notes. They're going to be very interesting to some historian in the future.'" --From The New York Times, April 23, 1997

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Rhoisin Beresford. Graphic designer. Designed set for husband's "Don's Party" (1976); shared screenplay credit with husband on "The Fringe Dwellers" (1985).
wife:
Virginia Beresford. Filmmaker, screenwriter. Sister of director John Duigan; married in 1985.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Leslie Beresford. Salesman.
mother:
Lona Beresford.
brother-in-law:
John Duigan. Director, screenwriter.
son:
Benjamin Beresford. Mother, Rhoisin Harrison; has worked in various capacities (e.g., production assistant, property assistant) on several of father's films.
son:
Adam Beresford. Mother, Rhoisin Harrison; was a camera production assistant on father's "Silent Fall" (1994).
daughter:
Cordelia Beresford. Mother, Rhoisin Harrison; acted in "The Getting of Wisdom" (1977) and "Black Robe" (1991).
child:
Trilby Beresford. Mother, Virginia Duigan.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

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