Bille Brown

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Bille Brown
William Gerard Brown

(1952-01-11)11 January 1952
Biloela, Queensland, Australia
Died 13 January 2013(2013-01-13) (aged 61)
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Alma mater University of Queensland
Occupation Actor, playwright
Years active 1976–2012
Awards Member of the Order of Australia

Bille Brown AM (11 January 1952 – 13 January 2013)[1] born as William Gerald Brown was an Australian stage, film and television actor and acclaimed playwright.

Early life

Brown was born in Biloela, Queensland and studied drama at the University of Queensland. He began his career in the early 1970s at Queensland Theatre Company, working alongside Geoffrey Rush. He was openly gay.


Brown's career took him abroad to Britain, where he joined the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), and was the first Australian commissioned to write and perform in their own play – The Swan Down Gloves. The show opened at the Barbican Theatre (RSC's home theatre from 1982–2002) and had a Royal Command Performance. As a member of the RSC (between 1976–1982, 1986–88 and 1994–96) Brown toured with their productions throughout Europe, playing Paris, Vienna, Berlin and Munich. He also appeared in the RSC's premiere production of The Wizard of Oz in the gender-bending roles of The Wicked Witch of the West and Miss Gulch, for which he was nominated for an Olivier Award in 1988.

While working in the United Kingdom, Brown also performed in the West End, at the Aldwych and Haymarket Theatres, the Chichester Festival Theatre, English National Opera and Dublin Theatre Festival. While performing onstage at Stratford he was spotted by John Cleese, who cast him in Fierce Creatures, the sequel to A Fish Called Wanda.

In New York, Brown made his Broadway debut as an actor in 1986 in Michael Frayn's Wild Honey with Ian McKellen, directed by Christopher Morahan, and as a playwright with his adaptation of a benefit performance of A Christmas Carol in 1985, featuring Helen Hayes, Len Cariou as Scrooge, MacIntyre Dixon, Celeste Holm, Raúl Juliá, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Harold Scott, Carole Shelley, and Fritz Weaver, directed by W. Stuart McDowell.[2][3] He was also an Artist-in-residence at the State University of New York in 1982.

Bille Brown was a visiting Professor at the State University of New York at New Paltz.


Brown returned to Australia to live permanently in 1996. He had an outstanding career on stage and performed for many leading Australian theatre companies, including Queensland Theatre Company, Sydney Theatre Company, Bell Shakespeare Company, Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne Theatre Company, Company B, State Theatre Company of South Australia, Marian St Theatre, La Boite and the Old Tote Theatre at the Sydney Opera House.

In 1996, he directed the Australian stage production of Hugh Lunn's Over the Top with Jim, which exceeded box office expectations. He had huge success with his role as Count Almaviva in Beaumarchais' The Marriage of Figaro, with Geoffrey Rush, which opened the new Playhouse in Brisbane in September 1998. In 1999 he also had major success in Sydney and subsequently throughout Australia as Oscar Wilde in the Belvoir St production of David Hare's The Judas Kiss.

The same year he accepted an offer to be Adjunct Professor in the School of English, Media Studies and Art History at the University of Queensland, and gave workshops and master classes for drama students.

In 2009, Brown wrote and performed in Queensland Theatre Company's The School of Arts. The play follows the story of the old 'College Players' who toured Shakespeare through Queensland in the late 1960s.

His playwriting credits include Bill and Mary, based on imaginary conversations between the poet Mary Gilmore and the portrait painter William Dobell while she was sitting for him.[4]


Brown appeared in films including Fierce Creatures (as "Neville"), The Dish (as "the Prime Minister"), Oscar and Lucinda (as "Percy Smith") and Singularity.[5]


Brown was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the Australia Day Honours 2011.[6] He received an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Queensland.


Brown died from bowel cancer on 13 January 2013, two days after his 61st birthday.[7] After a private funeral, a public memorial service was held at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre on 4 February 2013. The eulogy was delivered by longtime friend and colleague Geoffrey Rush.[8]

Film credits

Television credits


  1. ^ "Bille Brown, a truly original titan of the theatre". The Australian.
  2. ^ New York Times, 27 November 1986.
  3. ^ Bille Brown — Internet Broadway Database
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ "Josh Hartnett and Olga Kurylenko filming in Brisbane for Singularity". The Courier Mail. Tristan Swanwick. 16 November 2010. Retrieved 20 November 2010.
  6. ^ "Brown, Bille". Search Australian Honours. Australian Government. Retrieved 26 January 2011.
  7. ^ "Veteran stage actor Bille Brown dies". The Australian. 13 January 2013.
  8. ^ "Stars celebrate Bille Brown's talent, warmth and fierce humour". Brisbane Times. 5 February 2013.

External links

  • Bille Brown on IMDb
  • Alyce Faye Cleese interviews Bille Brown in Montecito, Ca. 35 minutes.
  • Bille Brown – Stage acting credits
  • "Merry Wives of Windsor" – special Waratah Festival performance, at Albert Park Amphitheatre, Brisbane (1987)
  • "The Merry Wives of Windsor" – Albert Park Amphitheatre, Brisbane (1987)
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