(Information for this biography was obtained from a variety of
sources including The Internet Movie Database and Baseline)
Peter Weir briefly attended Sydney University (majoring in art and law) prior to dropping
out and traveling around Europe. He eventually took a job at a TV station where he used
his free time to make short films. In due time he signed on with the Commonwealth Film
Unit as an assistant cameraman and production designer, which ultimately provided him
with the opportunity to direct a number of short films and inevitably feature films.
Weir was a member of the Australian New Wave (which began in the late 1970s), where
he earned a reputation as the most stylish of the new Australian directors. This was
partially as a result of his ability to sketch Australia's landscape and cultural eccentricities
with a sense of reverence, and partially as a result of his genius for depicting the
impending disruption of the rational world by irrational forces. At his heart Weir has always
remained an iconoclast whose films have generally taken an antiestablishment view of the world.
Over the years Weir has developed a reputation as both an actor's director (he has always
managed to elicit outstanding performances from his leading men), and as a visual director
(he genuinely is a master of cinematography in his own right).
Weir first gained attention with his second feature film "Picnic At Hanging Rock"
(1975), in which a turn-of-the-century girls' school picnic in the Australian bush turns tragic.
Weir contrasted the imported and repressive cultural values of the English-style boarding
school with the unsettling but liberating influence of the natural environment of Hanging
His next film, "The Last Wave" (1977), utilized water as an allegory, until all
civilization seems at the mercy of an immense tidal wave prophesied by an aborigine.
Many of Weir's early films depicted a rigid society on the verge of disintegration both from
fear and from events beyond its control. Never was this more apparent than in
Weir's breakthrough film (or at least the one that brought him to international attention).
"Gallipoli" is a superlative film about the ultimate waste of war. The film
revolves around two young Australian runners, played by
Mel Gibson (in a star making role)
and Mark Lee who are, along with
other Australians, ultimately sacrificed in an ill-conceived battle designed to protect the british. In "Gallipoli", Weir establishes himself as one of the masters of the
long establishing shot. Indeed, the director has subsequently become known for his elegant
"In The Year Of Living Dangerously " (1983), Weir again showcases
Mel Gibson as an Australian
journalist opposite Sigourney
Weaveras an embassy employee. The two fall in love in the midst of political unrest
in 1965 Jakarta. Watch for Linda
Hunt in her Oscar winning performance as Billy Kwan. As with all of his films, Weir clearly evokes a palpable sense of place and time in this film.
In the thriller
"Witness" (1985), Weir beautifully contrasts the dichotomy of the simple and virtuous Amish way of life, and the sinister realm of urban police politics.
Harrison Ford turns in an oscar
nominated performance as John Book, the rugged and honorable cop who functions in both
worlds. Ford subsequently
appeared in Weir's next film,
"The Mosquito Coast" (1986),
as an idealistic inventor who moves his family from America to
an untainted village in Central America.
In his next major film
"Dead Poets Society",
Robin Williams turns in a
passionate performance as an inspirational professor at an American private boys' school.
Weir genuinely went Hollywood with his next film, the light romantic comedy
(1990). This film marks the English-language debut for the French heart throb
Gearard Depardieu. In his
next film, "Fearless"
(1993), Weir returned to more substantive issues, people's varying reactions to tragedy.
Weir's latest film, the highly acclaimed
"The Truman Show", is a scathing look at the media and corporate world of
product placements and consumer manipulation. The film features a remarkably restrained
performance by Jim Carrey, as
Truman a man who has been raised since birth in a controlled environment that B.F. Skinner
would have been proud of. Watch for Ed Harris' riveting performance as Christof the man who plays God with Truman's life.