Born: Established: 1949 Hampshire,
Film and television director, screenwriter, producer, actor, and novelist.
One of Australia's leading New Wave filmmakers of the 1970s, John Lawless Duigan (pronounced Dy-gan) has established a reputation over four decades as a prolific director and screenwriter. His films have explored coming-of-age, post-Vietnam, and sociological themes, with a particular interest in interpersonal relationships and in outsiders attempting to assimilate.
Duigan was born in Hartley Wintrey (Hampshire) to an Australian R.A.F. pilot stationed in the UK during and immediately after the war. He and his sister Virginia Duigan (q.v.) were raised in England and Malaya (ca. 1959/1960), before their parents returned to Australia in 1961. After attending boarding school, Duigan undertook studies at Melbourne University. It was there that he developed an interest in theatre and film, initially as an actor and later as a writer. In 1971, Duigan co-wrote the screenplay to Bonjour Balwyn with director Nigel Buesst (q.v.) and writer/actor John Romeril (q.v.). Three years later, he wrote and directed his first feature The Firm Man (1974, also as producer), followed by The Trespassers (1976).
Since the mid-1970s, Duigan has directed numerous films, not only in Australia but also in the USA and Canada. Among his best-known Australian films (as director and/or writer) are Dimboola (1979); Winter of Our Dreams (1981); Far East (1982); and the first two films in the Danny Embling trilogy, The Year My Voice Broke (1987) and Flirting (1990).
After making his American directing debut with the biopic Romero (1989), a film about the assassinated archbishop of El Salvador, Duigan moved to London. His subsequent works have included two features dealing with erotic love: Wide Sargasso Sea (1993), a prequel to Jane Eyre adapted from the Jean Rhys novel of the same name; and Sirens (1994), about a repressed couple who are liberated by their encounter with a famous painter. In 1995, Duigan directed an adaptation of John Ehle's novel, The Journey of August King, which is about a principled man who, in the early 1800s, assists a runaway slave. He has since directed such films as Leading Man (1996), written by his sister Virginia; Lawn Dogs (1997); Molly (1999); Paranoid (2000); The Parole Officer (2001); and Head in the Clouds (2004).
In addition to his career as a filmmaker, Duigan has published three novels: Badge (1974), which he wrote while an undergraduate; Players (1988); and Room to Move (ca. 1993). He has also completed the screenplay for the third film in the Danny Embling trilogy.
Among Duigan's television credits are the mini-series Vietnam (1987) and The Dirtwater Dynasty (1988) and the dramas Three of a Kind (1981, as writer) and Room to Move (1987). A tale of two young girls from different backgrounds who become friends, Room to Move was shown originally as part of the Australian series Winners and aired in the US on the PBS series Wonderworks. Duigan was also at the helm of Fragments of War: The Damien Parer Story (1988).
Duigan has also made a number of minor acting appearances in films, including Bonjour Balwyn (1971), Come out Fighting (1973), Dalmas (1973), The Firm Man (1975), Sirens (1994), and Dr Terrible's House of Horrible (2001).
Filmography (as writer and/or director) includes:
A coming-of-age story, The Year My Voice Broke is set in a New South Wales country town in 1963. Fifteen-year-old Danny Embling's life is complex. Not only does he have to deal with teenage development, death, and departure, but his evolving relationship with a girl called Freya also begins to reveal the town's deepest secrets.