Well-built, dark-haired Australian leading actor Bryan Brown had got his feet wet with several stage productions in the Great Britain and movies in his native country before gaining worldwide fame as Carbineer Lt. Peter Handcock in the critically-lauded film Breaker Morant (1980). He received additional attention for playing roles in such films as John Duigan’s The Winter of Our Discontent (1981, with Judy Davis) and Far East (1982), F/X (1986) and its continuation FX2 - The Deadly Art of Illusion (1991), Cocktail (1988, opposite Tom Cruise), Gorillas in the Mist (1988, with Sigourney Weaver) and Two Hands (1999, opposite Heath Ledger). More recently, Brown earned positive reviews after portraying the venturesome, strict sports-minded CEO in Along Came Polly (2004), starring Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston.
On the small screen, the Emmy nominee initially attracted the attention of American viewers with his starring role opposite Helen Morse in the PBS mini “A Town Like Alice” (1981). He is maybe best-known as Rachel Ward’s ne’er-do-well husband in “The Thorn Birds” (1983), where he took home a Golden Globe and Emmy nominations. His more recent vehicles include Dead in the Water (1991), Devlin (1992), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1997), On the Beach (2001), Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman (2004), Spring Break Shark Attack (2005) and The Poseidon Adventure (2005).
Off screen, 6’ 0¾” Brown was listed as one of Queen’s Birthday Honors’ “Appointed Member (AM) of the Order of Australia” (2005) due to his services to television and films and for his support of community organizations, including the Hope for World Vision, the YWCA and the Children Foundation. On more personal note, he has been married to actress Rachel Ward since 1983, and has three children with her.
Childhood and Family:
In Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, Bryan Brown was born on June 23, 1947, to mother Molly Brown. Along with his younger sister Kristine, he was raised in a suburb of Sydney called Painania. He was an insurance salesman before shifting gears to acting. At age 17, he relocated to London to perfect his craft on stage and later returned to his native land to work in films and with Theater Australia.
On April 16, 1983, Bryan became a one-woman man after his marriage to former model and actress Rachel Ward (born on September 12, 1957). The two met during the production of the ABC miniseries “The Thorn Birds” (1983) where they were paired as husband and wife. With his English wife, Bryan has three children, daughters Rosie (born in 1984) and Matilda (born in 1987) and son Joe (born in 1992).
The Thorn Birds
A native of Sydney, Bryan Brown started his career as an insurance salesman before participating in regional amateur productions. Immediately caught by the acting bug, he decided to pursue a career in acting and then moved to England to hone his craft and find work. Thanks to his hard work and persistence, in 1973, Brown finally scored small roles in the National Theatre of Britain at the Old Vic. Armed with the exposure, he made his way back to Australia to try his luck in films, while continuing his stage work by joining the Queensland Theatre Company.
In 1977, Brown hit the wide screen for the first time when writer/director Stephen Wallace cast him in the second lead of Len in the Aussie production The Love Letters from Teralba Road, opposite Kris McQuade. After his debut, the actor was seen playing roles in nine more movies over a two years period, remarkably as editor Geoff in the Philip Noyce-directed drama Newsfront (1978, starred Bill Hunter and Wendy Hughes) and as Paul Kite, a crook who bungles a robbery, in Palm Beach (1979) for writer-director Albie Thoms. He also made his TV miniseries debut in the syndicated “Against the Wind” (1978), appearing as Michael Connor.
However, it was his supporting portrayal of Lt. Peter Handcock, a Carbineer facing court-martial on trumped up charges, in the critically acclaimed Breaker Morant (1980) that brought Brown international recognition and acclaim. The war film starred Edward Woodward, Jack Thompson and John Waters, and helmed by Bruce Beresford.
Despite the widespread attention, Brown continued to appear in Australian films, and in 1981, he offered one of his finest acting as Rob, a bookstore owner drawn to a hooker (played by Judy Davis), in John Duigan’s The Winter of Our Discontent. He rejoined the director for the drama Far East (1982), in which Brown stood out as Morgan Keefe, the owner of a club who revives a past affair. In between, Brown caught the eye of American TV audiences with his role of Joe Harmon, opposite Helen Morse, in the miniseries “A Town Like Alice” when it broadcast on PBS’ Masterpiece Theater in 1981. His small screen victory was further confirmed with the award-nominating performance of Luke O’Neill, the good-for-nothing husband of the heroine (Rachel Ward) in the well-liked ABC mini “The Thorn Birds” (1983). For his effort, Brown was handed an Emmy and a Golden Globe nods for Best Supporting Actor in Series, Mini-Series or Television Movie. It was followed by co-starring roles in miniseries “Eureka Stockade” (1984) and CBS film remake of Kim (1984).
Back to films, Brown could be seen in Parker (1984), Give My Regards to Broad Street (1984), The Empty Beach (1985) and Rebel (1985). His first Hollywood movie came in 1986 when he took on the starring role of special effects technician Rollie Tyler in F/X, a questionable, but compelling thriller directed by Robert Mandel, and reunited with wife Rachel in the Aussie period drama The Good Wife, that same year. Brown returned to American films two years later, and is unforgettable for his roles in Roger Donaldson’s Cocktail (1988, as the bartender-mentor to Tom Cruise) and the biopic Gorillas in the Mist (1988, as the married lover of Sigourney Weaver).
By the ‘90s, Brown’s movie productions had slowed. Among his film works were the comedy Sweet Talker (1991, also served as a writer), the sequel FX2 - The Deadly Art of Illusion (1991, first credited as a movie executive producer), the comic misfire Blame It on the Bellboy (1992, costarred as assassin Mike Lawton) and the Australian-made Two Hands (1999), where he was perfectly cast as a local tough guy named Pando. The latter film also starred Heath Ledger and David Field. Brown, however, maintained a busy work on the small screen. During the decade, he had approximately a dozen different projects, including the USA Network film Dead in the Water (1991), the Showtime drama Devlin (1992, had the title role of a New York City police on the scamper from the gang), the syndicated series “The Wanderer” (1994) and Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (ABC, 1997).
The new millennium found roles in the Toronto Film Festival-screened Risk (2000), the Showtime miniseries adaptation of “On the Beach” (2001, re-teamed with his wife as alienated couples), Mullet (2001, voiced of publican), the Peter Weller actioner Styx (2001) and the Australian gangster drama Dirty Deeds (2002). After starring in the thriller-made-for-TV Footsteps (2003), Brown again attracted the attention of public with his superb supporting portrait of risk-taking, severe sports-minded CEO Leland Van Lew in the Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston starring vehicle Along Came Polly (2004). He followed it up with assignments in television films Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman (2004), Spring Break Shark Attack (2005) and The Poseidon Adventure (2005).