The Thorn Birds
First earning recognition through her Golden Globe-nominated performance as a prostitute in Sharky’s Machine (1981), British-born actress Rachel Ward gained nationwide prominence with the leading role of Meggie Cleary, who had a love affair with a Catholic priest, in the miniseries “The Thorn Birds” (1983, earned a Golden Globe nomination). Ward, who received a Tokyo International Film Festival’s Best Actress Award for playing Marge Hills in the war drama The Good Wife (1987), was also praised for her directing work. Her self-written/directed short drama The Big House (2000) garnered her an Australian Film Institute’s (AFI) Best Short Fiction Film Award and an AFI Best Screenplay in a Short Fiction Film nomination, whereas the short drama Martha’s New Coat brought her an IF nomination for Best Short Film
Off screen, Ward, who previously modeled on catwalks and commercials, was voted one of the “10 Most Beautiful Women in the United States,” in 1983. In 2005, the actress was named the Appointed Member (AM) of the Order of Australia for “raising awareness of social justice through lobbying, mentoring and advocacy for the rights of disadvantaged and at-risk young people.”
As for her romantic life, after briefly seeing David Kennedy, son of Robert F Kennedy, Ward married Bryan Brown in 1983. She and Brown now have two daughters and a son.
Childhood and Family:
Born on September 12, 1957, in Cornwell Manor in the UK’s Oxfordshire, Rachel Claire Ward has royal bloodlines in her family tree. She is a daughter of Peter Alistair Ward and Claire Leonora Ward, and is a granddaughter of the Third Earl of Dudley. Her sister, actress Tracy-Louise Ward, is now the wife of the Marquis of Worcester, the eldest son and heir of the 11th Duke of Beaufort.
At age 16, Rachel left her education at the Byram Art School in London to be a model. Later, she began acting.
Rachel met her husband, actor Bryan Brown, while filming her flourishing TV mini-series “The Thorn Birds” (1983). They exchanged wedding vows on April 16, 1983, and are the parents of daughters Rosie (born in 1984) and Matilda (born in 1986), and son Joe (born in 1992).
The Big House
Rachel Ward modeled for commercials and catwalks before eventually making her first screen appearance in the TV film Christmas Lilies of the Field (1979), as Jenny. Two years later, she starred on the big screen as Eleanor Adjai in the horror Night School (1981). She also made an episodic appearance in the soap drama “Dynasty” (1981, as Edna MacReady).
Almost simultaneously, Ward appeared in Time magazine and attracted the attention of actor/director Burt Reynolds, who then offered her the supporting role of a prostitute named Dominoe in his cop thriller Sharky’s Machine (1981). Before long, her fine delivery of the role brought a Golden Globe nomination for New Star of the Year, as well as the role of Juliet Forrest, daughter of a murdered scientist, in Carl Reiner’s comedy Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982, opposite comedian Steve Martin).
Before long, Ward gained higher fame with her starring turn as Meggie Cleary, the strong-willed heroine in love with a Catholic priest, in the miniseries “The Thorn Birds” (1983), adapted from Colleen McCullough’s novel. The new actress was soon nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV.
After taking part in Against All Odds (1984, played Sally Jones) and the horror thriller Fortress (1986, TV), Ward fared even better with her magnificent performance as Marge Hills, an Australian wife in a love triangle, in the pre-WWII drama The Good Wife (1987), in which she was handed a Best Actress award from the 1987 Tokyo International Film Festival. The victory was followed with her performance in Bruce Robinson’s comedy How to Get Ahead in Advertising (1989, starred as Julia Bagley), After Dark, My Sweet (1990, as Fay Anderson), the TV film And the Sea Will Tell (1991, based on Vincent Bugliosi and Bruce B. Henderson’s book), Christopher Columbus: The Discovery (1992, starring Marlon Brando and Tom Selleck), Wide Sargasso Sea (1993, had the supporting part of Annette Cosway) and the war drama The Ascent (1994, appeared as Patricia).
Following her guest performance in the supernatural series “Twisted Tales” (1996) and the leading role of Kate Linthorne in the TV drama Seasons of Love (1999), Ward made a first directorial attempt with the short film “Overdose,” which was screened at Sydney’s Tropfest. Her second directing work, the short romantic drama “Blindman’s Bluff” (2000, also wrote), made its Australian premiere at Melbourne’s St. Kilda Festival.
Also in 2000, Ward’s next project, the short drama The Big House, was released. Centering on the main characters’ life in jail, Ward’s self-written and directed film received applause from the Australian Film Institute, who awarded her a Best Short Fiction Film award and a Best Screenplay in a Short Fiction Film nomination. The actress achievement her next success with the Golden Globe-nominated portrayal of Moira Davidson in the TV sci-fi movie On the Beach (2000).
Still on the small screen, Ward delivered beautiful performances in the crime drama And Never Let Her Go (2001, had the leading role of Christine Sheve) and Bobbie’s Girl (2002, starred as Roberta Langham). In 2003, the performer helmed the short drama Martha’s New Coat and received an IF nomination for Best Short Film (shared with producer Liz Watts).
Ward recently appeared as Sally Dunbar in the historical miniseries about the titular pirate from the 17th century, “Blackbeard” (2006), for director Kevin Connor. The actress will continue performing on TV with a role in the upcoming drama series “Bianca: Journey to Paradise” (2006). In the series, she will act alongside Virginia Williams, Kieren Hutchison and Simon Rex.
- Australian Film Institute: Best Short Fiction Film, The Big House, 2001
- Tokyo International Film Festival: Best Actress, The Good Wife, 1987