Early life and education
Gillies studied art teaching at Frankston Teachers College and featured in the theatre productions School for Scandal and Summer of the Seventeenth Doll with Kerry Dwyer in 1964. He graduated from Monash University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1966. He then studied secondary teaching at the Melbourne Teachers' College, now part of the University of Melbourne.
In 1984–85, Gillies hosted The Gillies Report on ABC Television. This was followed in 1986 by Gillies Republic and in 1992 by Gillies and Company. He was known for his ability to dress up and parody a wide range of political figures, both on television and in live solo theatrical performances (i.e. The Big Con, You're Dreaming). In July 2008 he resurrected his caricatures of Australia's former prime ministers in a live production of No Country for Old PMs: An Evening with Max Gillies at the Noosa Long Weekend festival.
Gillies stated in an interview with The Courier-Mail that he and co-writer Guy Rundle were watching the then prime minister, Kevin Rudd, for a possible new caricature in a new production being developed. "I'm watching him closely" he said.
He is married to publisher Louise Adler, and they have two adult children.
Gillies became a member of the Order of Australia on New Year's Day 1990 for his services to the performing arts. In 1997, he was recognised with a Distinguished Alumni Award from Monash University and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 2015.
Gillies, through his television programs or theatre performances, has caricatured the following people:
- Australian prime ministers: Robert Menzies, William McMahon, Gough Whitlam, Malcolm Fraser, Bob Hawke, Paul Keating, John Howard.
- Other Australian politicians: Alexander Downer, Amanda Vanstone, Ian Sinclair, Philip Ruddock, Sir John Kerr, Don Chipp, Andrew Peacock, Fred Nile, Russ Hinze, Gareth Evans.
- Australian state premiers: Neville Wran, Joh Bjelke-Petersen.
- Australian businessmen: Kerry Packer, Rupert Murdoch, Alan Bond, John Singleton, John Elliott.
- Australian writers: Phillip Adams, Bob Ellis, Geoffrey Blainey, Clive James, Gerard Henderson, Bob Santamaria.
- Foreign leaders: Ronald Reagan, Pik Botha, Margaret Thatcher, François Mitterrand, Yasuhiro Nakasone, Mikhail Gorbachev, David Lange, Queen Elizabeth II, George W. Bush, Pope John Paul II.
- Other people: Tony Barber, Sir David Attenborough, Jonathon Shier, D. D. McNicoll, Arthur Daley (a main character from Minder)
- "Max Gillies was delighted to discover videos of himself on YouTube", The Courier-Mail, 31 May 2008
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