A leading member of the new wave of Australian filmmakers, John Duigan (pronounced DY-gan) has been a prolific director who also wrote the screenplays for his works and often explored coming-of-age an...
The actress was just 16 years old when she flew to Australia to film her debut movie, 1991's Flirting, and began a turbulent six-year romance with the director, who was then 39.
After recently working with schoolgirls at Oprah Winfrey's Leadership Academy in South Africa, Newton was reminded of how young she was when she started her love affair with Duigan.
And the Crash star still wonders how the filmmaker could have dated someone so "vulnerable".
She says, "I was 16. I didn't tell my parents about it (the relationship) but really young people who are vulnerable have to be looked out for. I've just been out to South Africa to Oprah's Leadership Academy. It educates girls from impoverished backgrounds and I was taking part in an arts week.
"I looked at the 16-year-old girls there. How can it possibly be right to start a serious relationship with someone that age when you are so much older? I've been through a lot of therapy so I sort of know why people do things now.".
Helmed "Wide Sargasso Sea", a prequel to "Jane Eyre"
Taught at University of Melbourne and Latrobe University
While university student, acted professionally on stage and in seven films; served as president of the Melbourne University Student Theatre; co-edited the Melbourne University Magazine
Directed and wrote first film, "The Firm Man"
Born in England; father had served in RAF during WWII and remained in England after the war
Published first novel, "Badge"
Began association with Kennedy Miller Films
Moved with family to Sydney, Australia; attended boarding school
"The Winter of Our Dreams" released; first film with wide American distribution
Directed "Molly", a distaff version of the 1960s film "Charly" starring Elisabeth Shue
Helmed sister Virginia's script "The Leading Man"
Won critical acclaim for "The Year My Voice Broke"
Wrote and produced episodes of miniseries "Vietnam"
Directed the art-house hit "Sirens"
Published second novel, "Players"
Helmed the comedy "The Parole Officer"
Wrote and directed Wonderworks special, "Room to Move"
American directorial debut, "Romero"
Helmed the romantic drama "Head in the Clouds" starring Charlize Theron, Penélope Cruz and Stuart Townsend
A leading member of the new wave of Australian filmmakers, John Duigan (pronounced DY-gan) has been a prolific director who also wrote the screenplays for his works and often explored coming-of-age and post Vietnam/1960s themes. His films have often been cited for their sociological themes, particularly their interpersonal relationships and their focus on the outsider attempting to assimilate.<p> Duigan was born in England to Australian parents and raised there and in Malaya, before settling in his native land while attending boarding school. He began acting on stage and in films while in college. It was not until 1974 that Duigan wrote and directed his first film, "The Firm Man". He followed with "The Trespassers" (1976), about 60s-era political activists facing the contradictions of their lives in the 70s. Duigan received critical acclaim for "Mouth to Mouth" (1978), about four homeless, unemployed youths who establish a community in an abandoned power station. His follow-up, "Dimboola" (1979), was an unsuccessful adaptation of a popular stage comedy. Most Australian critics dismissed the film as unfunny and unfaithful to its source material. Reportedly, Duigan clashed with the producers and in some video releases, there is no directorial credit.<p> Duigan's "Winter of Our Dreams" (1981) restored his reputation and earned widespread distribution in the USA and abroad. The film explored the complex relationship between a now successful former radical (Bryan Brown) and a drug-addicted prostitute (Judy Davis) who are brought together by the suicide of a mutual friend. "Far East" (1982) reteamed director and star (Brown) in a story inspired partly by "Casablanca". Brown portrays an ambivalent club owner in an unnamed East Asian country who becomes enmeshed in the life of a former lover (Helen Morse) with fatal consequences. Many critics felt the film was an unsuccessful mixture of Hollywood-style romance with a simplistic political thriller.<p> Duigan began a fruitful affiliation with Australian production company Kennedy Miller, scripting and producing episodes of the epic miniseries "Vietnam" (1987) for Australian TV. The same year, he wrote and directed the coming-of-age story "The Year My Voice Broke", centering on the triangular relationship of the charismatic petty thief Trevor (Ben Mendelsohn), the mystical Freya (Loene Carmen) and the hero, Danny (Noah Taylor). "Flirting" (1990) was a continuation of Danny's story. Now a boarding school student, he falls in love with Thandiwe (Thandie Newton), the daughter of an African nationalist. At first drawn together by their mutual status as outsiders, the pair find they are connected on a more mysterious and mystical level. Featured in the cast was Nicole Kidman who had previously starred in a children's TV special directed by Duigan, "Room to Move". The tale of two young girls from different backgrounds who become friends, "Room to Move" was shown originally as part of the Australian series "Winners" and aired in the US on the PBS series "Wonderworks" in 1987.<p> Duigan made his American directing debut with the biopic "Romero" (1989), about the assassinated archbishop of El Salvador. Starring Raul Julia, the film, funded in part by Catholic groups, earned respectable notices. In the early 1990s, Duigan moved to London. His subsequent works have included two features dealing with erotic love: "Wide Sargasso Sea" (1993), a "prequel" to "Jane Eyre" adapted from the Jean Rhys novel; and "Sirens" (1994), about a repressed couple (Hugh Grant and Tara Fitzgerald) who are liberated by their encounter with a famous painter (Sam Neill). In 1995, he directed an adaptation of John Ehle's novel set in the early 1800s, "The Journey of August King", about a principled man (Jason Patric) who assists a runaway slave (Thandie Newton). The film was generally considered to be well-made but narratively unexciting.<p> In addition to being a successful filmmaker, Duigan has written three novels: "Badge", written when he was an undergraduate and published in 1974; "Players", published in London in 1988; and "Room to Move" (c. 1993). He has also completed the screenplay for the third film in the trilogy begun with "The Year My Voice Broke".
married to director Bruce Beresford; wrote "The Leading Man" (1997)
University of Melbourne
University of Melbourne
University of Melbourne
Director Bruce Beresford is married to Duigan's sister.
"What distinguishes his best films is his acute observations of young people. He seems to have an extraordinary insight into teenagers, which is difficult, because teen culture changes so much. I'm surprised that he's not better known internationally, but he's very unassuming and self-effacing" --Bruce Beresford on Duigan in The New York Times, November 6, 1992.
"As an actor I was rather self-indulgent, and I needed more help than I got. So I thought I'd try my hand at doing something myself, and I was able to get a very small grant and started off doing experimental films." --Duigan quoted in The New York Times, November 6, 1992.
"They're not mainstream subjects generally. They don't have car chases or heroes in the Stallone or Eastwood mold, or the triumph of a competition. I'm more interested in the interaction between an individual and society, and moral questions of individual responsibility. They usually have enigmatic endings. The question mark is still there. In that respect they're lifelike." --Duigan in The New York Times, November 6, 1992.