AustLit logo
Peter Weir Peter Weir i(A10833 works by) (a.k.a. Peter Lindsay Weir)
Born: Established: 1944 Sydney, New South Wales, ;
Gender: Male
The material on this page is available to AustLit subscribers. If you are a subscriber or are from a subscribing organisation, please log in to gain full access. To explore options for subscribing to this unique teaching, research, and publishing resource for Australian culture and storytelling, please contact us or find out more.

BiographyHistory

Award-winning film director.

Born in Sydney, Weir attended The Scots College and Vaucluse Boys' High School, then undertook an Arts/Law degree at the University of Sydney, where his fellow students included Phillip Noyce and the film-makers who would form the film-making collective Ubu Films.

After leaving university in the mid-1960s, Weir began work with television station ATN-7, where he was a production assistant on The Mavis Bramston Show. Using the facilities available to him in the station, Weir made two short films in 1968: the 16-minute Count Vim's Last Exercise and the thirty-seven-minute The Life and Times of the Reverend Buck Shotte.

After ATN-7, Weir went to work with the Commonwealth Film Unit (now Film Australia), for which he made a number of documentaries, including Whatever Happened to Green Valley? (1973), for which residents of an underprivileged outer Sydney suburb were invited to make their own film segments. He continued to make short films, including the six-minute Stirring the Pool (1969), and began making longer works, including the fifty-minute comedy Man on a Green Bike (1969), which he co-wrote with Grahame Bond, soon to come to prominence with The Aunty Jack Show.

In 1970, he was one of three writer-directors for the three-part film Three to Go: he wrote and directed the segment 'Michael', while other segments were written and directed by Brian Hannant and Bob Ellis ('Judy') and Oliver Howes ('Toula'). The film won producer Gil Brealey the Australian Film Institute Grand Prix in 1970.

Shortly after this, Weir made his first major film: the independent film Homesdale (1971), a black (and black-and-white) comedy starring Kate Fitzpatrick and Grahame Bond. He continued to make documentaries for the Commonwealth Film Unit throughout the early 1970s: titles listed under his name on the Internet Movie Database include Incredible Floridas, Boat Building, The Billiard Room, The Computer Centre, The Field Day, and Three Directions in Pop Music (all 1972).

In 1974, Weir directed his first feature film, The Cars that Ate Paris, a small-town horror film based on a story by Weir, Keith Gow, and Piers Davies. A minor success (and popular in the then thriving drive-in circuit), the film was overshadowed a year later by Weir's first major success: Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975). Adapted by script-writer Cliff Green from Joan Lindsay's novel, the film won or was nominated for a plethora of awards: two Saturn Awards (a win for Best Cinematography and a nomination for Best Writing, 1979), an AWGIE Award (a win for Feature Film, 1976), three BAFTA Awards (a win for Best Cinematography and nominations for Best Costume Design and Best Sound Track, 1977), a British Cinematography Award (nomination, 1976), and the Golden Charybdis at the Taormina International Film Festival (1976).

Weir followed Picnic at Hanging Rock with a return to television, directing two episodes of Luke's Kingdom, an historical series starring British actor Oliver Tobias, as well as directing Judy Morris, Ivar Kants, and Robert Coleby in the telemovie The Plumber (1977). But from the mid-1970s, he was more occupied with films than with television.

In 1977, he directed the supernatural thriller The Last Wave, which attracted awards and nominations across the spectrum of organisations: Saturn Awards (nominations for Best Director and Best Fantasy Film, 1980), AFI Awards (wins for cinematography and sound, and nominations for editing and music, as well as for Best Director and Best Screenplay: Original, 1978), and the Special Jury Award at the Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival (1978).

Successful as both Picnic at Hanging Rock and The Last Wave were, however, they were overshadowed by 1981's Gallipoli: written by David Williamson from a story by Weir, the film was instrumental in the development of Mel Gibson's film career, and attracted eight AFI Awards (including Best Director, Best Film, and Best Screenplay: Original or Adapted) and an additional four nominations (1981); Cinematographer of the Year for director of photography Russell Boyd (Australian Cinematographers Society, 1982); an AWGIE Award for Feature Film: Original for Williamson (1981); an NBR Award from the National Board of Review, United States (1981); and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Foreign Film (1982).

In 1982, Weir directed Gibson again, in The Year of Living Dangerously. The film's accolades centred on Linda Hunt, who won numerous awards, including an Oscar, for her performance as photographer Billy Kwan. But it was also nominated for twelve AFI Awards (including for Best Director, Best Film, and Best Screenplay: Adapted, 1983), the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival (1983), and a WGA Award (Writers Guild of America) for Best Drama Adapted from Another Medium.

The Year of Living Dangerously was Weir's final film before he began working in the United States. In 1985, he made the first of two back-to-back films with Harrison Ford: Witness, in which a detective goes into hiding in an Amish community to protect his young witness, won two Oscars (including for Best Writing: Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen), and attracted Weir's first Oscar nomination for Best Director (and an additional five Oscar nominations, including for Best Picture). It also won a BAFTA Award and was nominated for six more (including Best Film), was nominated for six Golden Globes (including Best Director and Best Motion Picture: Drama), and attracted a plethora of other awards and nominations. Weir followed this with his second film starring Ford: The Mosquito Coast (1986) attracted fewer awards than Weir's earlier films, but was nominated for two Golden Globes.

Weir's next film, Dead Poet's Society (1989), won an Oscar for the screenplay, and gained Weir his second nomination for Best Director: in addition to other awards and nominations, it won two BAFTAs and was nominated for four more (including Best Direction) and was nominated for four Golden Globe Awards (including Best Director: Motion Picture).

Green Card (1990), the first film in some time that Weir had both written and directed, attracted an Oscar nomination for Best Writing (Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, 1991), a BAFTA Award nomination (for Best Screenplay: Original, 1992), and a WGA award nomination (for Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen), and won Weir a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture: Comedy/Musical.

Fearless (1993), directed to a screenplay by Rafael Yglesias (and based on Yglesias's novel) was lauded primarily for its acting (including an Oscar nomination), but also attracted a nomination for Weir for the Golden Berlin Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival (1994). The awards continued to increase with Weir's next film, The Truman Show (1998), with twenty-nine wins and thirty-six nominations, including three Oscar nominations (including another for Best Director), two Saturn Awards (Best Fantasy Film and Best Writer) and three more nominations (Weir's first Saturn Awards since The Last Wave), an AFI Award nomination for Best Foreign Film Award, three BAFTAs and four more nominations, and three Golden Globes plus an additional three nominations. Finally, the film won 1999's Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation (presented to Weir and script-writer Andrew Niccol).

In 2003, Weir directed Master And Commander: The Far Side of the World. Based on Patrick O'Brian's novels and written by Weir and John Collee, the film attracted even more awards and nominations than The Truman Show, with an AFI Award, two Oscars and an additional eight nominations (including Best Director and Best Picture), four BAFTAs (including the David Lean Award for Direction) and an additional four nominations, and three Golden Globe nominations (including Best Director and Best Motion Picture: Drama), as well as a slew of other awards and nominations.

Most recently, Weir directed The Way Back, co-written by Weir and Keith Clarke, which attracted an Oscar nomination (for Best Achievement in Makeup) and a number of acting awards.

Most Referenced Works

Notes

  • Peter Weir was included in the Bulletin's '100 Most Influential Australians' list in 2006.

Personal Awards

1996 Ken G. Hall Preservation Award For his significant personal and financial commitment to the preservation of Australia's film heritage including his support for the Last Film Search and the re-release of the classic 1955 film, Jedda.

Awards for Works

Master and Commander : The Far Side of the World 2003 single work film/TV war literature historical fiction

During the Napoleonic Wars, Captain Jack Aubrey, in command of HMS Surprise, purses the heavier and more powerfully armed French privateer Acheron across the Pacific Ocean and around the Galapagos Islands, under orders to 'sink, burn, or take her as a prize'. But his friend, ship's doctor Stephen Maturin, worries that Aubrey is motivated more by pride than by duty.

2004 nominated International Awards Golden Globe Awards (USA) Best Motion Picture - Drama
2004 nominated International Awards Golden Globe Awards (USA) Best Director - Motion Picture
2004 nominated International Awards British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards Best Film
2004 won International Awards British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards David Lean Award for Direction
2004 nominated International Awards Academy Awards Best Picture
2004 nominated International Awards Academy Awards Best Director
Green Card 1990 single work film/TV humour romance

An American woman and a Frenchman enter into a marriage of convenience to obtain, for her, a dream apartment and, for him, a green card, permitting him to work in the U.S. They marry, and go their separate ways. But when they attract the suspicions of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, they are forced to live as husband and wife in an effort to convince the government that their marriage is not a sham.

1992 nominated International Awards British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards Best Screenplay - Original
1991 nominated International Awards Writers Guild of America Award Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
1991 won International Awards Golden Globe Awards (USA) Best Motion Picture - Comedy/Musical
1991 nominated International Awards Academy Awards Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
The Year of Living Dangerously 1982 single work film/TV

Set in Indonesia, The Year of Livingly Dangerously is based on the real events that occurred in the country in 1965. The story revolves around Guy Hamilton, who has arrived in Jakarta on his first overseas posting for the Australian Broadcasting Service. Having had no time to build relationships or contacts, he stumbles around the city, attempting to cover the political tensions that are daily increasing. He is eventually taken under the wing of a small but well-connected Chinese-Australian cameraman, Billy Kwan, who recognises great potential in Hamilton. Hamilton is groomed by Kwan, who then sets up exclusive interviews for him while also engineering a romance with Jill Bryant, the young assistant at the British Embassy. Bryant warns Hamilton that violence is about to break out between right-wing factions and the Communist Party of Indonesia, but he pursues the story anyway. Billy Kwan, disheartened by all the people he once believed in, decides to make a public protest against President Sukarno. When the situation eventually escalates into violence, Hamilton is caught between his career ambitions, his conscience, and his feelings for Jill Bryant.

1984 nominated International Awards Writers Guild of America Award Best Drama Adapted from Another Medium
1983 nominated Australian Film Institute Awards Best Adapted Screenplay Best Screenplay, Adapted
Last amended 9 May 2013 19:25:38
Other mentions of "" in AustLit:
    X