Renowned Australian actor David Gulbell dies at 68

Renowned Australian actor David Gulbell dies at 68

Canberra Australia’s most famous Aboriginal actor and dancer, David Gulbell, has died of lung cancer, a government leader said on Monday. He was 68 years old.

Gulpilil found his widest audience through his roles in the hit movie “Crocodile Dundee” in 1986 and in Baz Luhrmann’s 2008 epic “Australia” in a career spanning five decades. It has often been described as a bridge between Aboriginal peoples in Australia and the outside world who never fit comfortably anywhere.

“It is with great sadness that I share with the people of South Australia the passing of an unprecedented, iconic artist of one generation who shaped the history of Australian film and Aboriginal representation on screen,” said South Australian Premier Stephen Marshall. in the current situation.

An accomplished didgeridoo player, Gulbel mingled with Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley. He was honored in New York and Paris. He also spent parts of his life roving drinking and sleeping in parks in the northern Australian city of Darwin and serving periods in prison for alcohol offences.


Gulbell was born in a tribal land in a sparsely populated prairie on the northern Australian border in the early 1950s, his girlfriend and carer Mary Hood said. His date of birth was recorded as July 1, 1953, a conjecture date set by local missionaries.

The first contacts between Aboriginal Australians and the outside world became rare but continued in the Outback for another 30 years since the time of Gulbil’s birth. Family groups followed Bedouin traditions unaware that their land had been colonized by Britain two centuries earlier.

His biographer, Derek Riley, wrote Gulbel said he had never seen an Australian European until he was eight and considered English his sixth language. The other thirteen were indigenous dialects. The Christian name of Galilee was imposed on him at school.

Gulbel was a 16-year-old ceremonial dancer performing on an Aboriginal assignment in Maningerida in 1969 when he met British director Nicolas Rogge, who was looking for filming locations. Gulpilil starred in Roeg’s popular 1971 movie “Walkabout” when a lonely young man wanders the outback as part of a tribal rite of passage, who encounters and rescues two missing British children. The British brothers and sisters played teenage Jenny Agutter, who later became famous in Hollywood, and the 7-year-old son of director Lucien.


Roles in the popular films “Storm Boy” in 1976 and “The Last Wave” in 1977 followed.

His last role was in the 2019 remake of Storm Boy, playing the father of the central character in the original Fingerbone Bill.

Gulbell recalled learning about alcohol and drug abuse at the hands of counterculture icon Dennis Hopper, who starred in the 1976 film about 19th-century Australian outlaw, “Mad Dog Morgan.” The 22-year-old original actor took the third bill for the film after Hopper and Jack Thompson, a stalwart in Australian cinema.

Gulpilil won several Best Actor Awards for Rolf de Heer’s 2002 film The Tracker, in which he played one of several Aboriginal men routinely used by Australian police as trackers of fugitives in the outback.

Weeks before the film’s release, reporters visited it in the small Aboriginal community of Ramingining on its crocodile-infested tropical tribal land. He was living in a hut with his then partner, Aboriginal painter Robin Jonginyi, with no electricity or running water.


They cooked kangaroo meat and fish over an open fire under a scrap iron roof. Hunting spears were dangling from a transom and Gulpilil kept an aboriginal wooden fighting club known as nulla nulla for self-protection.

“I grew up in a tin shed. I’ve wandered all over the world—Paris, New York—and now I’m back in a tin shed,” Gulbeel said.

He presented himself as a victim of his celebrity status and his people’s misunderstanding of his place in the wider world.

“People tell me: You’re a big name. You have money. Why don’t you buy yourself a house? Get out of Ramingining?” he said.

“This is my country. I belong here, and I’m broke.”

It was not clear exactly why it was broken. He has been vague about how much he has earned over the years, and wealth in the Indigenous Australian community has been communal, and tends to seep through relatives and friends.

At the time, Gulpilil loved to drink beer, smoke marijuana, and eat kava. But since all three were banned in Ramming, he avoided some of the temptations of the excesses of city life.


Gulpilil’s friend and caregiver, Hood, first met in 2006 at the premiere of Darwin’s “Ten Canoes,” the first feature-length film in Indigenous Australia.

Gulpilil narrated the film and his son, Jamie Gulpilil, was part of the cast that was drawn mostly from Ramingining.

“When I first met him, I saw real kindness,” Hood said. She admitted that there was a “dark” side.

A Darwin judge sentenced Gulbell in 2011 to a year in prison for breaking the arm of his then partner, original artist Miriam Ashley, during a drunken argument in a Darwin home. He used his time in prison to turn his life away from alcohol and cannabis.

Hood regularly visited Gulbil in prison. He was released to live with her, and for a while, Ashley was released into Hood’s home in Darwin while on parole. He eventually followed Hood to Murray Bridge in South Australia, 3,500 kilometers (2,200 mi) from Ramming and his traditional hometown.


Hood became his caregiver after being diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer in 2017.

He is survived by his sisters Marie and Yvonne, daughters Macia and Phoebe, and sons Jamie and Jida. Director Peter Weir said during an interview in New York in 1977 while promoting his supernatural villain “The Last Wave,” that Gulbell created untold personal tensions through the intertwining of two different cultures.

He is an actor, a dancer, a musician. “He has a foot in both cultures,” Weir said. It’s a tremendous pressure on the man.”

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