Oral History: Actors

Three actors discuss their careers
 Bronwyn Murphy

Part Three: Actors

The Oral History program provides personal recollections of careers in film, TV, radio or recorded sound. This week we’re featuring recent Oral History interviews with musicians, directors, journalists and film crew. Today we’re looking at actors.

Read an outline of the interviews below, and listen to excerpts or the full interviews embedded from SoundCloud.

Bruce Spence

Bruce Spence is a prolific New Zealand-born actor who has appeared in Hollywood blockbusters and in many notable Australian theatre, television and film productions.

In the interview, he talks about commencing his career in Melbourne in the late 1960s at La Mama Theatre and the legendary Pram Factory with the Australian Performing Group (APG). On film Bruce played the lead role in Stork (1971), for which he won the AFI Award for Best Actor. He has amassed over 100 film and television credits, as well as continuing to act in the theatre. His best known film role is as the gyro pilot in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981) but he also played the lead in Werner Herzog’s Where the Green Ants Dream (1984) and has small roles in The Matrix, The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars franchises, and voiced a character in Finding Nemo (2003).

In this excerpt, Bruce talks about his first encounter with director Phillip Noyce, and how his theatre training helped him make the most of a ‘nothing role’ in Newsfront (1978):

During his career, Bruce has devoted many hours to representing actors as an official of the MEAA (Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance), being particularly prominent in the discussions about permitting foreign actors to play in Australian films. Geoff Gardner recorded this oral history with Bruce in 2012.

You can listen to the full interview on SoundCloud:


Jeanie Drynan

Jeanie Drynan is an actress who has been appearing on our screens since the 1960s. Her Australian film roles include Muriel’s Wedding (1994), Soft Fruit (1999) and Don’s Party (1977).

Jeanie talks about being happiest acting in front of the camera, as opposed to on stage. She discusses appearing on television in popular series like Skippy, Riptide, Division 4, Spyforce, The Young Doctors, A Country Practice and The Girl From Tomorrow.

In this excerpt, she talks about Crawford Productions police dramas like Homicide and Division 4 and how working for Crawfords was like being in a repertory theatre company:

Among her many TV movies and feature films are two films written and directed by her husband, Antony Bowman: Relatives (1985) and Cappuccino (1989), for which she was an Associate Producer. She also talks at length about playing Betty Heslop in Muriel’s Wedding (1994).

Margaret Leask interviewed Jeanie in Sydney in February 2014. A second oral history interview, covering the 20 years since Muriel’s Wedding, is forthcoming.

You can listen to the full interview on SoundCloud:


Graeme Blundell

Graeme Blundell has worked extensively in Australian theatre, film, television and print media as an actor, director, producer, writer and biographer.

In Part 1 of his interview, he talks about his acting and directing career in theatre, including for the Melbourne Theatre Company, and his role as a founding member of Melbourne’s La Mama and Playbox Theatres. On television, Blundell’s career stretches from an uncredited appearance in the debut episode of Homicide (1964) to the second series of Laid (2012). His most famous acting role is Alvin Purple, which he played in three films and a TV series in the 1970s and ‘80s.

Graeme has written biographies of Brett Whiteley and Graham Kennedy, as well as an autobiography, The Naked Truth: A Life in Parts (2008). He discusses writing his regular commentary on television and crime writing for The Australian newspaper.

In Part 2 of the interview Graeme notes the impact of Alvin on his subsequent career and discusses some of the more than 40 films he has appeared in, including: Don’s Party (1977), Idiot Box (1996), Looking for Alibrandi (2000) and Star Wars: Episode III (2005). He talks about some of the hundreds of hours of television comedy and drama he has appeared in, including Ocean Star (2003) and Medivac (1996).

In this excerpt, Graeme Blundell discusses his role in the film of Don’s Party (1977), how he almost played the title role, and working with director Bruce Beresford and cinematographer Don McAlpine:

Margaret Leask interviewed Graeme Blundell in April-May 2013 and you can listen to the full interview on SoundCloud: