A tribute to one of Australia's most loved actors

BY MEG LABRUM AND KEN BERRYMAN

Wendy Hughes in Petersen (1974)

  NFSA title: 626420

An accomplished actress and an arresting beauty, Wendy Hughes really is one of the key identities of the Australian film renaissance beginning in the 1970s and continuing in film and television terms, for the rest of her life. One of the most recognisable screen faces and voices, her roles were often poignant, sometimes brash, but always eminently watchable. She will be sadly missed.

The NFSA holds much of Wendy’s on screen work, which means that opportunities to appreciate her performances will continue. Recent restoration work on the 1978 feature film [legacy-smartlink:Newsfront] (Phillip Noyce) has reminded us of the striking young woman who literally glows on scene in beautifully restored colour.

And, whilst her work in so many films and television productions over the years tell their own tales, we are also fortunate enough to hold an oral history interview with Wendy. This conversation, recorded in 2009 by journalist Michaela Boland, has been published in full on our SoundCloud channel.

It is the NFSA’s privilege to share in the celebration of a notable actor’s life and times through its work in locating and preserving her cinematic memory.

Meg Labrum
Senior Curator – Film, Documents, Artefacts

 

I first became aware of Wendy Hughes’ luminous presence on the screen in Tim Burstall’s campus romp Petersen (1974) at the time of its initial cinema release. I remember thinking that hers was a somewhat unforgiving part but that she would no doubt go on to secure better and more rewarding roles – and so it proved.

In more recent times, it concerned me in managing the NFSA’s Oral History Program that we had no major interview with Wendy in the national collection. Accordingly I took the opportunity to approach her in person in this regard while she was in Melbourne as special guest for ACMI’s ‘Focus on Wendy Hughes’ film season in April 2009. In fairness, and otherwise preoccupied, Wendy wasn’t much moved by my stumbling invitation to participate in the Oral History Program, but confided to others later that she only agreed to be interviewed because I was so enthusiastic about it.

Either way, we were able to lure her in to our Sydney Office for this purpose two months later – the bonus being that experienced arts journalist/ writer Michaela Boland (co-author with partner Michael Bodey of Aussiewood, an examination of Australian actor and director success stories in Hollywood) was available to conduct this interview for us – one of the last substantial audio interviews that Wendy would have recorded, as Michaela herself has since sadly observed.

Ken Berryman
Manager, Oral History Program