Peter Weir

Peter Weir

Infobox actor

name = Peter Weir
imagesize =
caption =
birthdate = 21 August 1944
location = Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
occupation = Filmmaker
birthname = Peter Lindsay Weir
spouse = Wendy Stites (1966-)
academyawards =
baftaawards = Best Direction
1998 "The Truman Show"
2003 '
BAFTA Award for Best Film"'
1989 "Dead Poets Society"
cesarawards = Best Foreign Film
1991 "Dead Poets Society"

Peter Lindsay Weir AM (born 21 August 1944) is an Australian film director. After exerting a strong influence on the Australian New Wave with his films "Picnic at Hanging Rock", "The Last Wave" and "Gallipoli", Weir directed a diverse group of U.S. and international films including the Academy Award nominees "Witness", "Dead Poets Society", "The Truman Show" and "".

Early life and career

Born in Sydney, Australia, Weir attended The Scots College before studying art and law at the University of Sydney. His interest in film was sparked by his meeting with fellow students, including Phillip Noyce and the future members of the Sydney filmmaking collective Ubu Films.

After leaving university in the mid-1960s he joined Sydney television station ATN-7, where he worked as a production assistant on the groundbreaking satirical comedy program "The Mavis Bramston Show". During this period, using station facilities, he made his first two experimental short films, "Count Vim's Last Exercise" and "The Life and Flight of Reverend Buckshotte".

Weir then took up a position with the Commonwealth Film Unit (later renamed Film Australia), for whom he made several documentaries, including a short documentary about a Sydney suburb, "Whatever Happened to Green Valley", in which residents were invited to make their own film segments; and the short rock music film "Three Directions In Australian Pop Music" (1972), which featured in-concert colour footage of three major Melbourne rock acts of the period, Spectrum, The Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band and Wendy Saddington. He also directed one section of the three-part, three-director feature film "Three To Go" (1970), which won an AFI award.

After leaving the CFU, Weir made his first major independent film, the short feature "Homesdale" (1971), a black comedy which co-starred actress Kate Fitzpatrick and musician and comedian Grahame Bond, who later became famous as the star of "The Aunty Jack Show"; Weir also played a small role, but this was to be his last significant screen appearance. "Homesdale" and Weir's two aforementioned CFU shorts have recently been released on DVD.

Weir's first full-length feature film was the underground cult classic, "The Cars That Ate Paris" (1974). This paved the way for considerable success in Australia and internationally with the atmospheric "Picnic at Hanging Rock" (1975), based on the novel by Joan Lindsay. Widely credited as a pivotal work in the so-called Australian film renaissance of the mid-1970s, the film also helped launch the career of internationally renowned Australian cinematographer Russell Boyd. It was widely acclaimed by critics, many of whom praised it as a welcome antidote to the so-called "ocker film" genre, typified by "The Adventures of Barry McKenzie" and "Alvin Purple".

His next feature, "The Last Wave" (1977), which starred American actor Richard Chamberlain, was a pensive, ambivalent film that expanded on the themes of "Picnic", exploring the interaction between the native Aboriginal and European cultures. "The Last Wave," also starring the aboriginal actor David Gulpilil, won the Golden Ibex (Oscar equivalent) at the Tehran International Festival in 1977. It was only moderately successful at the time, but Weir scored a major hit with his next film "Gallipoli" (1981). Scripted by renowned Australian playwright David Williamson, it is regarded as classic Australian cinema. "Gallipoli" was instrumental in making Mel Gibson into a major international film star, though Gibson's co-star Mark Lee, who also received high praise for his role, has made only a handful of film appearances since.

The climax of Peter Weir's early career was the $6 million international production "The Year of Living Dangerously" (1983) which united Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver in a story about journalistic loyalty, idealism, love and ambition in Sukarno's Indonesia of 1965. The film also brought Linda Hunt (who played a man in the film) an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

On 14 June 1982, Weir was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia for his service to the film industry. [ [ It's an Honour] - Member of the Order of Australia]

Filmmaking in the United States

Weir's first American film was the successful thriller "Witness" (1985), which was partly set in an Amish community. "Witness" also gave Weir his first Oscar nomination as Best Director, and was his first of several films to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. It was followed by the darker, less commercial "The Mosquito Coast" (1986), an adaptation of Paul Theroux's novel set in Central America. Both films starred Harrison Ford and were seen as providing the star with opportunities to avoid being typecast by his work in the "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones" series, and to play more subtle and substantial roles. Ford was nominated for an Oscar for his work in "Witness", the only Academy Awards recognition in his career.

Weir's next film, "Dead Poets Society" (1989), again received credit for expanding the acting range of its Hollywood star. Robin Williams, at the time known for lowbrow comedies, played an inspirational teacher in a dramatic story about conformity at a New England prep school in the 1950s. The film, nominated for four Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director for Weir, also helped launch the acting careers of Ethan Hawke and Robert Sean Leonard. It became a major hit and is possibly Weir's most well known film to mainstream audiences.

The romantic comedy "Green Card" (1990) was another casting risk. Weir cast the French icon Gérard Depardieu in his first English-language role, along with American actress Andie MacDowell. "Green Card" was a box-office hit but regarded as much less of a critical success, though it helped Depardieu's path to international fame, and Weir received an Oscar nomination for his original screenplay. Weir's next film, "Fearless" (1993), starred Jeff Bridges as a man who believes he has become invincible after surviving a catastrophic air crash. Though well reviewed, particularly the performances of Bridges and Rosie Perez (who received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress), its unsettling subject matter was less appealing to large audiences than Weir's two preceding films.

After five years, Weir returned to direct "The Truman Show" (1998), a bittersweet satire of the media's control of life, later noted to have predated the reality TV trend begun by "Survivor". "The Truman Show" was both a box office and a critical smash, receiving glowing reviews and numerous awards, including three Academy Awards nominations, for Best Original Screenplay (by Andrew Niccol), Best Supporting Actor (Ed Harris), and Best Director for Weir himself. In addition, Weir was again noted to have given his star, comedian Jim Carrey, the chance to prove himself in a serious acting role. "The Truman Show" also included a reference back to the very beginning of Weir's directorial career: Australian actor Terry Camilleri, who starred in his first feature, "The Cars That Ate Paris", appears in a cameo role.

In 2003 Weir directed "", starring Russell Crowe. A screen adaptation of Patrick O'Brian's blockbuster adventure series set during the Napoleonic Wars, it was well received by critics, but only mildly successful with mainstream audiences. This was perhaps due to a slow pace and focus on period detail and characterization, qualities that are characteristic of much of Weir's work, though this is his only film set before the 20th century. Despite winning two Oscars (for frequent collaborator Russell Boyd's cinematography, and for sound effects editing) and another Best Picture nomination, it made a moderate $93 million at the North American Box Office, considering the production values and the star power of Crowe. Overseas it did better, with $114 million.

Unfinished projects and current work

In 1993 Weir spoke about making "The Playmaker", a film based on a Thomas Keneally book, focusing on the theatre profession in Australia at the turn of the 20th century, [ [ Interview With Peter Weir: Fearless ] ] but this did not see production. In the 1990s, Weir was considered as a director for the film adaptation of Toni Morrison's novel "Beloved", but he was ruled out in favor of Jonathan Demme at an early stage, allegedly due to conflicts over the casting of star/producer Oprah Winfrey. [ [,,285239_2,00.html Who should get credit for the 'Beloved' screenplay? | Beloved | Movie News | Movies | Entertainment Weekly | 2 ] ]

In the mid-2000s, according to The Internet Movie Database, Weir was attached as director of several other projects. He was to direct a film adaptation of William Gibson's 2003 novel "Pattern Recognition". He was also attached to a film adaptation of Gregory David Roberts' book "Shantaram", starring Johnny Depp; this film is now being made by Mira Nair. Weir's involvement in a possible sequel to "Master and Commander" was at one stage considered likely. [ [ Master and Commander sequel could happen this year ] ] He was also planning to direct other two other films: "War Magician" and "Shadow Divers".

Weir's next likely project is "To Light a Fire". [ [ Possible Fall '08 start for Weir's "To Light a Fire" - Variety.] ]

Themes and celebrity

Although Peter Weir's films are extremely varied in subject and locale, all are linked by Weir's enduring thematic interest, that of exploring the reactions and behaviour of characters who find themselves in isolating or alienating situations.

Often his films will involve a between macrocosm and microcosm, with the characters often making the difficult choice of choosing to live within the macrocosm. Examples include the phoney television studio town in "The Truman Show" and the prep school in "Dead Poets Society" and its characters' choices to break free from its confines.

Despite his international success and celebrity, Weir has maintained close connections with his home city and on several occasions he has returned to Green Valley, the suburb where his early CFU documentary was set. There he has been closely involved in programs designed to teach filmmaking skills to disadvantaged young people. In April 2005 Weir returned to Sydney and reunited with the stars of "Gallipoli" to celebrate the film's release on DVD.

Themes such as forbidden love, clash between two cultures, violence versus pacifism and conformity versus non-conformity, are portrayed with the use of many techniques.


Feature films

*"Homesdale" (1971)
*"The Cars That Ate Paris" (aka "The Cars That Eat People") (1974)
*"Picnic at Hanging Rock" (1975)
*"The Last Wave" (1977)
*"Gallipoli" (1981)
*"The Year of Living Dangerously" (1982)
*"Witness" (1985)
*"The Mosquito Coast" (1986)
*"Dead Poets Society" (1989)
*"Green Card" (1990)
*"Fearless" (1993)
*"The Truman Show" (1998)
*" (2003)
*"Shadow Divers" (2009)

Short films

*"Three to Go" (1971) (segment "Michael")

TV work

*"Man on a Green Bike" (1969)
*"The Plumber" (1978)
*"Wayside" (2005)


External links

*imdb name|id=0001837|name=Peter Weir
* [ Peter Weir Cave] (unofficial Peter Weir site)
* [ Photo of Peter Weir at the 76th Annual Academy Awards]
* [ Senses of Cinema: Great Directors Critical Database]
* [;adv=yes;group=;groupequals=;holdingType=;page=0;parentid=;query=356859;querytype=;rec=0;resCount=10 Peter Weir at the National Film and Sound Archive]

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