Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Australian director, writer and producer Peter Weir first became famous in his native country with the films “Picnic at Hanging Rock” (1975), “Gallipoli” (1981) and “The Year of Living Dangerously” (1982) before making his auspicious American debut with the 1985 thriller “Witness,” starring Harrison Ford in his Oscar nominated role of John Book. The film brought the director his first Academy Award and Golden Globe nomination. He received four more Oscar nominations for his direction in “Dead Poets Society” (1989), “Green Card” (1990), “The Truman Show” (1998) and “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” (2003), from which he earned an additional nomination for Best Picture. He picked up Golden Globe nominations for “Dead Poets Society,” “The Truman Show” and “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.” Weir also produced the disappointing films “The Mosquito Coast” (1986) and “Fearless” (1993).
Weir has been married to Wendy Stites since 1966. His wife picked up an Oscar nomination for Best Costume Design for her work in “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.” The couple has two kids together.
Childhood and Family:
Peter Lindsay Weir was born on August 21, 1944, in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, to Peggy and Lindsay Weir, a real estate agent. He was educated at the Scots College and Vaucluse Boys' High School in Sidney. He then studied art and law at the University of Sidney, but later dropped out. He discovered a love for filmmaking while at college after meeting fellow students that included Phillip Noyce and the future associates of the Sydney filmmaking collective Ubu Films.
While traveling Europe, Peter met Wendy Stites in England. They were married in 1966 and welcomed their first child, daughter Ingrid Weir, in 1973. Their second child, son Julien Weir, was born in 1977.
Dead Poets Society
After quitting college, Peter Weir briefly tried his hand at his father's real estate business before starting his career on television with the Sydney television station ATN 7 in the mid 1960s. He served as a production assistant on the groundbreaking satirical comedy show “The Mavis Bramston Show” (1964-1968) and the drama series “You Can't See Round Corners” (1967). During his stint at the station, he also made his first two short films, “Count Vim's Last Exercise” (1967) and “The Life and Flight of the Reverend Buckshotte” (1968).
Returning to Australia after traveling in Europe, Weir landed a post with the Commonwealth Film Unit (later known as Film Australia) in 1969, in which he developed his craft on the sets of documentaries and educational films. Some of the documentaries he made during that period included “Whatever Happened to Green Valley” and the short music film “Three Directions In Australian Pop Music” (1971). He also contributed the segment “Michael” to the three part Aussie movie “Three to Go” (1971), which won the Grand Prix at the 1970 Australian Film Institute.
Following his departure from CFU, Weir directed his first medium length feature, “Homesdale,” an independent comedy which he co-wrote and acted in. The film earned the Grand Prix at the 1972 Australian Film Institute. Previously, he had directed, co-written and acted in the short film “Man on a Green Bike,” which was shown in 1969. In 1973, Weir worked as a staff writer on the Aussie comedy series “The Aunty Jack Show,” which starred comedian Grahame Bond who previously worked with Weir in “Homesdale.”
Weir made his feature film debut with “The Cars That Ate Paris” (1974), which he directed and wrote and was based on a story he developed with Keith Gow and Piers Davies. A low budget comedy, the film was an underground cult success despite being a minor hit in theaters. It starred John Meillon and Terry Camilleri. Weir returned to the director's chair when he helmed Rachel Roberts, Vivean Gray and Helen Morse in the mystery film “Picnic at Hanging Rock” (1975), from a screenplay by Cliff Green that was based on the novel of the same name by Joan Lindsay. The film gained critical acclaim and was an international success. It won a 1977 BAFTA Award for Best Cinematographer (Russell Boyd) and a 1979 Saturn Award in the same category.
After his major breakthrough, Weir briefly revisited the small screen to co-direct the Australian miniseries “Luke's Kingdom,” which was broadcasted in the U.K. in 1976. He then directed and co-wrote the thriller “The Last Wave” (1977). The film was nominated for seven AFI Awards, including Best Director and Best Screenplay, Original for Weir, and brought Weir a Special Jury Award at the 1978 Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival and a Saturn nomination for Best Director at the 1980 Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, where the film was nominated for Best Fantasy Film. Under his direction, star Richard Chamberlain picked up a Clavell de Plata for Best Actor at the 1982 Sitges - Catalonian International Film Festival. However, despite the praise the film earned, it only enjoyed average success at the time of release.
In 1979, Weir wrote and directed the quirky low budget television film “The Plumber,” starring Judy Morris. When he returned to Australian cinema in the early 1980s, Weir achieved significant success with the release of the drama “Gallipoli” (1981), which he directed and was scripted by playwright David Williamson. With a budget of $2.6 million, the film grossed nearly $12 million at the domestic market. It also topped the Australian Film Rental's list in 1981. “Gallipoli” was nominated and won many awards and received a 1982 Golden Globe nomination for Best Foreign Film. The film is credited for helping promote the worldwide reputation of the Australian film industry and helping to establish the career of Mel Gibson.
After the success of “Gallipoli,” Weir was reunited with Gibson for “The Year of Living Dangerously” (1982), which was adapted from the novel of the same name by Christopher Koch. About a love affair set in Indonesia during the termination of President Sukarno, the drama, which also starred major Hollywood leading lady Sigourney Weaver, was entered into the 1983 Cannes Films Festival and received a good response from audiences and critics. It also brought Weir a Golden Palm nomination. The film won costar Linda Hunt a 1984 Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture. Weir also nabbed AFI nominations for Best Director, Best Screenplay, Adapted (shared with Christopher Koch and David Williamson) and the Jury Award, and a 1984 Writers Guild of America for Best Drama Adapted from Another Medium for his work in the film.
Weir made his Hollywood directorial debut with the 1985 thriller “Witness,” which was written by William Kelley, Pamela Wallace and Earl W. Wallace and starred Harrison Ford and Kelly McGillis. The film received positive reviews and was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Director and Best Actor in a Leading Role. The film was a success at the box office and in addition to his Oscar nomination, Weir nabbed a Golden Globe nomination for Best Director - Motion Picture, a BAFTA nomination for Best Film, a Directors Guild of America nomination for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, a Blue Ribbon Award for Best Foreign Language Film, a Hochi Film Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and a Readers' Choice Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 1986 Kinema Junpo Awards. “Witness” is also celebrated as the screen debut of Lukas Haas and Viggo Moertensen.
In 1986, Weir directed Ford, Helen Mirren and Andre Gregory in his next American film, “The Mosquito Coast,” based on the 1982 novel of the same name by Paul Theroux. Unlike his debut, the drama was a critical and financial disappointment. However, under his direction, Ford received a Golden Globe nomination for his starring role of Allie Fox. Weir rebounded three years later with the Robin Williams dramatic vehicle “Dead Poets Society” (1989), from the Oscar winning script by Tom Schulman that was based on his life at the Montgomery Bell Academy, an all boy’s preparatory school in Nashville, Tennessee. The film received favorable reviews from critics and was a huge box office success when it grossed over $235 million against its budget of $16.4 million. For his directing effort, Weir took home his second Academy Award nomination, a Golden Globe nomination, a BAFTA Award for Best Film (and an additional BAFTA nomination for Best Direction), a Directors Guild of America nomination, a Silver Ribbon Award from the 1990 Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists, a Cesar Award for Best Foreign Film, a David di Donatello Award for Best Foreign Film, a Guild Film Award - Gold for Foreign Film from the 1991 Guild of German Art House Cinemas, an Audience Award at the 1990 Warsaw International Film Festival, and a Silver Condor nomination for Best Foreign Film at the 1991 Argentinean Film Critics Association Awards. Williams received the Best Actor nomination for his portrayal of inspiring English teacher John Keating.
In 1990, Weir wrote, directed and produced the romantic comedy “Green Card,” starring Gérard Depardieu and Andie MacDowell. The film won Golden Globes for Best Picture and Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Comedy/Musical (Depardieu) and was nominated for an Oscar for Weir's outstanding direction. It also brought Weir a BAFTA nomination for Best Screenplay - Original and a WGA nomination for Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen. Weir next directed Jeff Bridges, Isabella Rossellini, Rosie Perez, Tom Hulce, Benicio del Toro, John Turturro and Deirdre O'Connell in the unsuccessful drama “Fearless” (1993), which was scripted by Rafael Yglesias and based on his novel. Perez received Oscar and Golden Globe nominations and a BAFTA Award for her scene stealing portrayal of Carla Rodrigo. Weir earned a Golden Berlin Bear nomination from the 1994 Berlin International Film Festival for his work on the film.
After “Fearless,” Weir took a break from directing until 1998 when he directed “The Truman Show,” which starred Jim Carrey and was written by Andrew Niccol. Produced with a $60 million budget, the film grossed over $125 million in North America and over $138 million in foreign countries. It became the 11th most successful film of 1998. “The Truman Show” was nominated for Oscars for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Ed Harris), Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, and Best Director. Weir also received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Director - Motion Picture, a Saturn nomination for Best Director, an AFI nomination for Best Foreign Film, BAFTA's David Lean Award for Direction, and a London Critics Circle Film's ALFS Award for Director of the Year, to name a few.
Five years after “The Truman Show,” Weir co-wrote, directed and co-produced the big budget adventure film “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” (2003), which starred Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany, Billy Boyd, James D'Arcy and Edward Woodall. The film was nominated for 10 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography (won), Best Costume Design and Best Sound Editing (won). In addition to his two Oscar nominations, Weir received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Director - Motion Picture, the David Lean Award for Direction and a nomination for Best Film from the 2004 BAFTA Awards, a Chicago Film Critics Association nomination for Best Director, a David nomination for Best Foreign Film, a DGA nomination, an Empire nomination for Best Director, and an ALFS Award for Screenwriter of the Year, to name a few.
Weir's new film, “The Way Black,” which he directed, co-produced and scripted based on the memoir by Sławomir Rawicz, is slated to be released in 2010. It will star Colin Farrell, Ed Harris, Jim Sturgess, Saoirse Ronan, Mark Strong and Gustaf Skarsgård.
BAFTA: David Lean Award for Direction, “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World,” 2004
London Critics Circle Film: ALFS Award, “Screenwriter of the Year,” Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World,” 2004
Broadcast Film Critics Association: Passion in Film Award, 2004
BAFTA/LA Britannia: Britannia Award, Artistic Excellence, 2003
Camerimage: Special Award, Best Duo: Director - Cinematographer, 2003
Australian Directors Guild: Outstanding Achievement Award, 2001
Australian Screen Directors' Association: Outstanding Achievement Award, 2001
Taormina International Film Festival: Taormina Arte Award, 2000
BAFTA: David Lean Award for Direction, “The Truman Show,” 1999
Florida Film Critics Circle (FFCC): Best Director, “The Truman Show,” 1999
Fotogramas de Plata: Best Foreign Film (Mejor Película Extranjera), “The Truman Show,” 1999
London Critics Circle Film: ALFS Award, Director of the Year, “The Truman Show,” 1999
Robert: Best American Film (Årets amerikanske film), “The Truman Show,” 1999
European Film: Screen International Award, “The Truman Show,” 1998
Hamburg Film Festival: Douglas Sirk Award, 1998
César: Best Foreign Film (Meilleur film étranger), “Dead Poets Society,” 1991
Guild of German Art House Cinemas: Guild Film Award - Gold, Foreign Film (Ausländischer Film), “Dead Poets Society,” 1991
Australian Film Institute: Raymond Longford Award, 1990
BAFTA: Best Film, “Dead Poets Society,” 1990
David di Donatello: David, Best Foreign Film (Miglior Film Straniero), “Dead Poets Society,” 1990
Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists: Silver Ribbon, Best Director - Foreign Film (Regista del Miglior Film Straniero), “Dead Poets Society,” 1990
Warsaw International Film Festival: Audience Award, “Dead Poets Society,” 1990
Blue Ribbon: Best Foreign Language Film, “Witness,” 1986
Kinema Junpo: Readers' Choice Award, Best Foreign Language Film, “Witness,” 1986
Hochi Film: Best Foreign Language Film, “Witness,” 1985
Australian Film Institute: AFI Award, Best Director, “Gallipoli,” 1981
Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival: Special Jury Award, “The Last Wave,” 1978