Peter Weir

From Academic Kids

For the Northern Ireland politician see Peter Weir (politician)

Peter Weir (born August 21, 1944) is an Australian film director. Born in Sydney, Australia, Weir studied 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.


Early life and career

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 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 (now Film Australia), for whom he made several documentaries, including a short documentary about young people living in the underprivileged outer suburbs of Sydney, and the short rock music film Three Directions In Australian Pop (1970), which featured rare in-concert colour footage of three major Australian rock acts of the period, Spectrum, The Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band and Wendy Saddington.

After leaving the CFU Weir made 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 his only significant screen appearance.

His first full-length feature film was the underground cult classic, The Cars That Ate Paris (1974). He achieved 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 much-discussed Australian film renaisssance of the mid-1970s, the film also helped launched the career of internationally renowned Australian cinematographer Russell Boyd. It was widely praised 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.

His next feature, The Last Wave, which starred American actor Richard Chamberlain, was a pensive, ambivalent film which expanded on the themes of Picnic, exploring the interaction between the native Aboriginal culture and the European. 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, but Gibson's co-star Mark Lee, who also received high praise for his role, has made only a handful of film appearances since.

Filmmaking in the United States

Weir's first American film was the highly successful thriller Witness (1985), which was set in an Amish community. It was followed by the darker and less accessible The Mosquito Coast (1986). Both films starred Harrison Ford and provided him with opportunities to avoid being typecast by his previous roles in the Star Wars and Indiana Jones films, and to play more subtle and substantial roles.

Both of Weir's next two films, Dead Poets Society (1989), starring Robin Williams, and Green Card (1990), starring Gerard Depardieu, were major box-office hits, and they brought Weir significant critical and commercial success; the latter remains a favourite with many comedy lovers. His next film, Fearless, starred Jeff Bridges as a man who believes he has become invincible after surviving a catastrophic air crash. Though well reviewed and featuring a sterling performance by Bridges, its unsettling subject matter and darker tone was less appealing to audiences than his two preceding films.

But Weir bounced back in 1998 with the hugely successful The Truman Show, a wry satire on the nascent reality TV trend. It was a box-office smash and won numerous awards including three Oscars -- Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Ed Harris), and Best Director for Weir himself. It also gave its star, comedian Jim Carrey, the chance to prove himself in a serious acting role and he received glowing reviews for his performance. The Truman Show also includes a small reference back to the very beginning of Weir's directorial career -- Australian actor Terry Camilleri, who starred in Weir's first feature, The Cars That Ate Paris, appears in a cameo role.

In 2003 Weir directed the blockbuster movie, Master and Commander, starring Russell Crowe; it was successful with mainstream audiences despite its slow pace and focus on period detail and characterization, qualities that are characteristic of Weir's work.

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.

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 flim's release on DVD.


External links

es:Peter Weir fr:Peter Weir it:Peter Weir nl:Peter Weir pl:Peter Weir


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