Jump to content

Bruce Beresford

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Bruce Beresford
Beresford in 2016
Born (1940-08-16) 16 August 1940 (age 83)
Alma materUniversity of Sydney (BA)
  • Film director
  • screenwriter
  • producer
Years active1970–present
SpouseVirginia Duigan

Bruce Beresford (/ˈbɛrɪsfərd/; born 16 August 1940[citation needed]) is an Australian film director, opera director,[1] screenwriter, and producer. He began his career during the Australian New Wave, and has made more than 30 feature films over a 50-year career, both locally and internationally in the United States. He is a two-time Academy Award nominee, and a four-time AACTA/AFI Awards winner out of 10 total nominations

Beresford's films include Breaker Morant (1980), Tender Mercies (1983), Crimes of the Heart (1986), Driving Miss Daisy (1989) - which won four Oscars including Best Picture,[2][3] Black Robe (1991), Silent Fall (1994), Mao's Last Dancer (2009), and Ladies in Black (2018). He was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Adapted Screenplay for Breaker Morant, and Best Director for Tender Mercies. He won AACTA/AFI Awards - Best Direction (2) for Don's Party (1976) and Breaker Morant, and Best Screenplay (2) for Breaker Morant and The Fringe Dwellers (1986).

In addition, four of Beresford's films have been nominated for the Palme d'Or, and four have been nominated for the Golden Bear. He has also been nominated for two BAFTA Awards, a Golden Globe Award, a Directors Guild of America Award, and won a Genie Award.

Early life and education[edit]

Beresford was born in Paddington, New South Wales, the son of Lona (née Warr) and Leslie Beresford, who sold electrical goods.[4] He grew up in the then outer-western suburb of Toongabbie, and went to The Meadows Public School and then The King's School, Parramatta. He made several short films in his teens including The Hunter (1959).[5]

He completed a Bachelor of Arts majoring in English at the University of Sydney, where he graduated in 1964. While at university he made the short film The Devil to Pay (1962) starring John Bell and Ron Blair, It Droppeth as the Gentle Rain (1963) co-directed by Albie Thoms and starring Germaine Greer, Clement Meadmore (1963) with Bell and King-size Woman (1965).[6]


Nigeria and England[edit]

Beresford then moved to England in search of film work. He could not break into the British film scene, so he answered an advertisement for an editing job in Nigeria, where he worked for two years, in Enugu.[5]

He then returned to England and worked for the British Film Institute as a producer of short films by first-time directors, including Magritte: The False Mirror (1970) and Paradigm (1970).

Beresford directed the documentary Lichtenstein in London (1968) about Roy Lichtenstein, and Extravaganza (1968), Barbara Hepworth at the Tate (1970), The Cinema of Raymond Fark (1970), and Arts of Village India (1972).

Early feature films[edit]

Beresford returned to Australia to make his first feature film, The Adventures of Barry McKenzie (1972), which he also wrote with Barry Humphries. The film, produced by Phillip Adams, was a box office success in England and Australia, but Beresford later said making the film was a "mistake" because reviews were so bad that he had trouble finding other work.[7]

Beresford directed a documentary for TV, The Wreck of the Batavia (1973) and did some other TV films, Poor Fella Me (1973), and Monster or Miracle? Sydney Opera House (1973). These were financed by Reg Grundy who also financed Beresford's second feature as director, Barry McKenzie Holds His Own (1974), a sequel to Barry McKenzie.

Beresford went to England to direct and co-write a comedy, Side by Side (1975) starring Humphries and Terry-Thomas and was eventually released on DVD in 2013.[8]

Beresford says his career was at a low ebb when Phillip Adams "saved my life" by offering him the job of directing an acclaimed version of David Williamson's play Don's Party (1976).[7]

Beresford directed an adaptation of The Getting of Wisdom (1977), also produced by Adams.


Beresford signed a contract with the South Australian Film Corporation for whom he wrote and directed a thriller, Money Movers (1979), which was a box office disappointment. He did some uncredited directing on the SAFC's Blue Fin (1978), then co-wrote and directed Breaker Morant (1980).[9] The latter film was a notable success at the box office and earned Beresford an Oscar nomination. It was widely seen in Hollywood and Beresford began to receive US offers.

Beresford directed The Club (1980), from another Williamson play, and Puberty Blues (1981).

Early US films[edit]

Beresford received an offer from EMI Films to direct Horton Foote's Tender Mercies (1983). Star Robert Duvall won a Best Actor Oscar for his performance and Beresford earned a Best Director nomination.

He followed it with King David (1985) starring Richard Gere which was a notable box office failure.[7]

Beresford returned to Australia to direct The Fringe Dwellers (1986), co-written with his first wife, Rhoisin Beresford.[10] In the US he directed Crimes of the Heart (1986) from the play by Beth Henley, did a segment of the film Aria (1987), and did the comedy thriller Her Alibi (1989) with Tom Selleck.

Driving Miss Daisy[edit]

Beresford directed Driving Miss Daisy (1989) with Morgan Freeman and Jessica Tandy, based on the play by Alfred Uhry. It won the Academy Award for Best Picture, although Beresford was not nominated as director. The film was a commercial and critical success.

Asked if he minded not even being nominated for the Best Director Oscar for Driving Miss Daisy, Beresford said: "No, not at all. I didn't think it was that well directed. It was very well written. When the writing's that good, you've really just got to set the camera up and photograph it."[11]

He directed Mister Johnson (1990) in Nigeria, with Edward Woodward; Black Robe (1991), an Australian-Canadian film based on the novel by Brian Moore; Rich in Love (1992), co-written by Uhry; A Good Man in Africa (1994) with Sean Connery from a novel by William Boyd, which in 2015 Beresford called his worst film;[12] Silent Fall (1994), which was nominated for the Golden Bear at the 45th Berlin International Film Festival;[13] and Last Dance (1996) with Sharon Stone.

He adapted but did not direct Curse of the Starving Class (1994).[14]

Beresford returned to Australia to direct Paradise Road (1997), which was a commercial disappointment. He directed a documentary, Sydney: A Story of a City (1999), then had a hit with the thriller Double Jeopardy (1999).

Later films[edit]

Beresford made Bride of the Wind (2001); Evelyn (2002) with Pierce Brosnan; and And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself (2003) with Antonio Banderas.

He spent several years looking for financing for various projects before making The Contract (2006) with Freeman and Cusack. He followed it with a TV film Orpheus (2006) and returned to Australia to make Mao's Last Dancer (2009) which was also filmed in Houston, Texas.

Beresford's later credits include Peace, Love & Misunderstanding (2011) with Jane Fonda, the documentary H.H. Dalai Lama: Essence of Mahayana Buddhism (2011), the mini series Bonnie & Clyde (2013), Mr. Church (2016) with Eddie Murphy, an episode of the remake of Roots (2017), the TV movie Flint (2017) and the Australian film Ladies in Black (2018).[15]


In addition to films, Bruce Beresford has also directed several operas and theatre productions. In 1996, he directed a Portland Opera (Oregon) production of the Stephen Sondheim musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.[16]

In 2016, he directed Benjamin Britten's opera Albert Herring for the Queensland Conservatorium of Music, in a production conducted by Nicholas Cleobury.

He often works with film editor Mark Warner. (See: List of film director and editor collaborations)

In 2012, he directed a production of Erich Wolfgang Korngold's opera Die tote Stadt for Opera Australia.

In 2018, he directed the Australian premiere of Rossini's Otello for Melbourne Opera.


Beresford is a contributor to The Spectator Australia.[17]


In August 2007, he published a memoir, Josh Hartnett Definitely Wants To Do This... True Stories From A Life in the Screen Trade.[18]

Personal life[edit]

Beresford's second wife is novelist Virginia Duigan, sister of film director and editor John Duigan.[19] He has five adult children and now works both in Australia and the United States.[citation needed]

Contemporaries and friends[edit]

Beresford attended the University of Sydney with critic and documentary maker Clive James, art critic and aficionado Robert Hughes, activist and author Germaine Greer, journalist Bob Ellis, poet Les Murray, and writer Mungo McCallum. His contemporary and friend, actor and theatre director John Bell, shared a house and also did some film acting. Beresford was close friends with Australian comedian, satirist and character actor Barry Humphries, best known for his on-stage/television alter ego Dame Edna Everage, and his family.



  1. ^ "Bruce Beresford". Opera Australia. Retrieved 20 June 2024.
  2. ^ Beresford, Bruce (8 September 2018). "Bruce Beresford: At last, making the film that obsessed me for 30 years". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  3. ^ "Bruce Beresford, 75, on The Getting of Wisdom". The Australian. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  4. ^ "Bruce Beresford Biography (1940-)". Filmreference.com. 16 August 1940. Retrieved 8 August 2015.
  5. ^ a b Stated in a 2007 interview on Radio National in Australia (on Late Night Live)
  6. ^ "Meet a living legend: Bruce Beresford". sydney.edu.au. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  7. ^ a b c "Interview with Bruce Beresford", Signet, 15 May 1999 Archived 20 December 2012 at archive.today accessed 17 November 2012
  8. ^ "Side By Side DVD". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 16 August 2023.
  9. ^ David Stratton, The Last New Wave: The Australian Film Revival, Angus & Robertson, 1980 p271-272
  10. ^ Beresford, Bruce, The Fringe Dwellers (Drama), Fringe Dwellers Productions, Ozfilm Limited, retrieved 5 July 2022
  11. ^ Steve Dow, Journalist (10 October 2006). "Action Men: Australian directors on film". Retrieved 17 October 2016.
  12. ^ "Driving Miss Daisy Director Bruce Beresford on Aussie Cinema, Powerless Characters, and His Worst Film Experience". Vulture.com. 23 September 2015. Retrieved 16 August 2023.
  13. ^ "Berlinale: 1995 Programme". Berlinale.de. Retrieved 31 December 2011.
  14. ^ Levy, Emanuel (14 September 1994). "Curse of the Starving Class". Variety. Retrieved 25 June 2020.
  15. ^ "Bruce Beresford on the Decades-Long Road of Getting 'Ladies in Black' Off the Ground". Hollywoodreporter.com. 2 January 2019. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  16. ^ "Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Portland Opera Production (1996)". Ovrtur.com, Retrieved on April 5, 2023.
  17. ^ "Author: Bruce Beresford". The Spectator Australia. Retrieved 20 June 2024.
  18. ^ Beresford, Bruce (8 January 2007). Josh Hartnett Definitely Wants To Do This... True Stories From A Life in the Screen Trade. HarperCollins Publishers Australia. ISBN 9780732284398. Archived from the original on 31 August 2007.
  19. ^ Groves, Don (4 June 2017). "Why Bruce Beresford had his US visa waiver cancelled". If.com.au. Retrieved 3 April 2019.

External links[edit]