Sigrid Thornton

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Sigrid Thornton
Sigrid Thornton.jpg
Thornton at the AACTA Awards in Sydney, Australia, January 2012
Born Sigrid Thornton
(1959-02-12) 12 February 1959 (age 56)
Canberra, Australia
Occupation Actress
Years active 1973–present
Spouse(s) Tom Burstall

Sigrid Thornton (born 12 February 1959) is an Australian multi-award winning actress.

Early years[edit]

Thornton was born in Canberra, the daughter of Merle, a teacher of women's studies and writer, and Neil Thornton, an academic.[1] She spent most of her formative years in Brisbane, attending school at St. Peter's Lutheran College. From 1966 to 1968 she lived with her parents in London, where she was a member of the Unicorn Theatre.

On her return to Brisbane she attended Twelfth Night Theatre Junior Workshop, where she came to the attention of the theatre director Joan Whalley. In 1970, during the Captain Cook Bicentenary Celebrations, Thornton appeared before Queen Elizabeth II as a young Rosa Campbell-Praed in Looking Glass on Yesterday (written by Brisbane writer and Churchill Fellowship holder Jill Morris and directed by Joan Whalley).[2] Four years later, Thornton landed the plum role in the Lady Mayoress of Brisbane Social and Welfare Committee annual pantomime Christmas In Storyland in the role of Little Red Riding Hood, once again written by Jill Morris and directed by Joan Whalley.

Around this time, Thornton accompanied her mother to Melbourne, where she came to the attention of Hector Crawford. She acted in the Homicide episode "The Other Man", and the Division 4 episode "Little Raver", in 1975. These appearances for Crawford Productions marked the start of a long and successful professional career in film and television.

Acting career[edit]

Thornton quickly gained numerous roles in Melbourne and Sydney, where the majority of stage and television work took place at this time. In 1977, she made her film debut in a minor role as Wendy in the modern Australian film, The FJ Holden directed by Michael Thornhill, and in the same year as Maria in the film adaptation of Henry Handel Richardson's colonial Australian novel, The Getting of Wisdom (1977) directed by Bruce Beresford. In 1978, Thornton displayed her versatility as a performer appearing in the Australian television sequel of the British comedy series Father, Dear Father in Australia alongside original cast member Patrick Cargill, as Sue Glover. The same year she played Angela in the film Snapshot (aka The Day After Halloween) directed by Simon Wincer in which she appeared topless and for which role she was nominated for Australian Film Awards Best Actress in a Feature Film in 1979.

A year later she appeared as Roslyn Coulson, a young woman imprisoned for shooting her mother's killer, in the long running Australian television drama Prisoner (known overseas as Prisoner: Cell Block H).[3] Thornton starred in 1981 in Duet for Four. 1982 saw her take on the roles of Jessica Harrison in the films The Man from Snowy River and its sequel in 1988 The Man from Snowy River II. 1983 marked an appearance in Street Hero. She starred in 1983's miniseries All the Rivers Run. 1986 saw her in The Lighthorsemen, the TV adaptation of Nevil Shute's novel The Far Country, Great Expectations: The Untold Story and Slate, Wyn & Me.

From 1988 to 1991 she appeared as bank manager Amelia Lawson in the American television drama series Paradise. Syndication of All the Rivers Run and The Man from Snowy River and The Man from Snowy River II brought her to a wider international audience.

In 1991 she starred in Over the Hill directed by George T. Miller and in 1996, Love in Ambush directed by Carl Shultz. Her leading role as Laura Joy Gibson in the more modern Australian television series SeaChange from 1998 to 2000 brought her greater Australian audience appeal, as well as the Most Outstanding Actress award in 1999 and 2000.

Stage highlights[edit]

Thornton is also known for her stage performances, including an early 2000s production of The Blue Room co-starring with Marcus Graham.[4] In 2009 she made her debut with Opera Australia in its production at Melbourne's Arts Centre as Desiree Armfeldt in Sondheim and Wheeler's A Little Night Music, directed by Stuart Maunder, opposite Nancye Hayes and Robert Grubb.[5]

In 2014, she won critical acclaim for her portrayal of Blanche DuBois in Tennessee Williams' play A Streetcar Named Desire for the Black Swan State Theatre Company in Perth.[6]

Recent film and television work[edit]

In 2003 Thornton appeared in Mittens directed by Emma Freeman. In 2004, she has played a brilliant geneticist in a four-episode arc on MDA. She shaved her head for her role in the 2005 telemovie Little Oberon.

Thornton hosted the Nine Network's award-winning health show, What's Good For You, a program which examines popular conceptions of how to ensure good health.

In 2010, she appeared in Underbelly: The Golden Mile as recurring character Geraldine "Gerry" Lloyd, an Australian Federal Police detective and investigator for the Wood Royal Commission.

In 2011, Thornton starred in Face to Face, an independent Australian film directed by Michael Rymer.

In 2012 she participated in Who Do You Think You Are[7]

The "Sigrid factor"[edit]

In his book The Big Shift, about changing Australian demographics and culture, Bernard Salt coined the term the "Sigrid factor" amusingly pointing out that Australian towns in which movies had been made featuring Thornton had prospered since that time.[8] More broadly he was actually referring to changing Australian cultural values which were well reflected in the types of places in which Sigrid Thornton had acted: the Riverland during the 1980s All the Rivers Run and the coast in the 2000s SeaChange.


Thornton has been nominated and won several Logie Awards in her acting career. She has won:

  • Most Outstanding Actress (1999 and 2000) for her role in SeaChange.

She has been nominated for:

  • the Gold Logie (in 2000 and 2001)
  • Most Outstanding Actress (in 2001)
  • Most Popular Actress (in 2000 and 2001)

Personal life[edit]

Thornton is married to actor and film risk manager Tom Burstall, son of film director Tim Burstall and theatre founder Betty Burstall; the couple have two children, son Ben and daughter Jaz.


Thornton is known for her ongoing work with World Vision, the Royal Children's Hospital, Vision Australia, Reach Foundation and other charitable causes. She has lobbied successive governments to keep libraries open and to resource the Australian film and television industry so it can tell more Australian stories. As a result of her advocacy, she has been appointed to numerous Australian federal and state film bodies, including Film Victoria[3] and is regularly involved in helping to sustain and develop the industry.[9]



  1. ^ Sigrid Thornton: biography and credits
  2. ^ A Looking Glass On Yesterday by Jill Morris
  3. ^ a b "The Sigrid Weapon"
  4. ^
  5. ^ A Little Night Music, Opera Australia
  6. ^ "Sigrid Thornton shines as Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire" by Jay Hanna, Perth Now, 20 March 2014
  7. ^ "Season 2, episodes – Who Do You Think You Are". SBS. Retrieved 7 January 2014. 
  8. ^ The Big Shift by Bernard Salt
  9. ^ Thornton, Sigrid (28 March 2006). "National Press Club Address: Expanding Horizons". National Press Club, Council of the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences. Retrieved 23 January 2012. 


External links[edit]