Bill Hunter, 71, the archetypal working-class Australian of a multitude of movies - including the quirky trio
Muriel's Wedding, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
- died of cancer Saturday in a Melbourne hospice.
The prolific star of Australian movie and television screens with a distinctively broad and gravelly accent and an authoritative no-nonsense style remained an actor in demand until the end. He recently narrated a two-part television documentary about the floods and cyclone that became Australia's most expensive natural disasters early this year.
Director Baz Luhrmann described Mr. Hunter in a statement last week as "the go-to iconic actor to synthesize quintessential Australian-ness."
Mr. Hunter's weatherworn face has become almost omnipresent on Australian screens since he first appeared as an extra in 1957 in The Shiralee, a British-made movie set in Australia. His real break into the industry came as a stuntman when Hollywood made On the Beach in his hometown of Melbourne in 1959 - a movie about survivors of a nuclear war that starred Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, and Fred Astaire.
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. He won the Australian Film Industry's best actor award for 1978 for the role, the first of three such Australian equivalence of an Oscar that he won.
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.
He also had minor roles in Luhrmann's 2008 epic Australia and in the U.S.-Australian television miniseries coproduction The Pacific released last year. He found his most youthful audience as the voice of the dentist who captured the clown fish star of the hit 2003 animated feature Finding Nemo. - AP