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Film Appreciation... Peter Weir


(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 Rock.

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 "Gallipoli" (1981), 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 widescreen staging.

"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 "Green Card" (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.

Truman Show, The (1998) Director
Fearless (1993) Director
Green Card (1990) Director, producer, writer
Dead Poets Society (1989) Director
Mosquito Coast, The (1986) Director
Witness (1985) Director
Year of Living Dangerously, The (1983) Director, producer, writer
Gallipoli (1981) Director, writer
Plumber, The (1979) Director
Last Wave, The (1977) Director, writer
Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) Director
Cars That Ate Paris, The (1974) Director, writer
Homesdale (1971) Director

Honors and Awards

Academy Awards, USA...

  • 1991 - Nominated Oscar Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen for: Green Card
  • 1990 - Nominated Oscar Best Director for: Dead Poets Society
  • 1986 - Nominated Oscar Best Director for: Witness

Australian Film Institute...

  • 1990 - Won Raymond Longford Award
  • 1981 - Won AFI Award Best Film for: Gallipoli

Golden Globes, USA...

  • 1990 - Nominated Golden Globe Best Director for: Dead Poets Society
  • 1986 - Nominated Golden Globe Best Director for: Witness


1999 Debbie Twyman. All rights reserved. TERMS OF USE