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(Credit: Alamy)

Film

David Gulpilil, star of Australian cinema, has died aged 68

The adored Australian actor and artist, star of Nicolas Roeg’s Walkabout and Charlie’s Country, David Gulpilil, has passed away at the age of 68 after a four year battle with lung cancer. 

Announcing the news in a statement on Monday night, the South Australian premier, Steven Marshall stated, “It is with deep sadness that I share with the people of South Australia the passing of an iconic, once-in-a-generation artist who shaped the history of Australian film and Aboriginal representation on-screen – David Gulpilil Ridjimiraril Dalaithngu”. 

Living a long and extraordinary life, Gulpilil’s career spanned 50 years and included independent Australian films as well as Hollywood blockbusters such as Crocodile Dundee. Though, as detailed in Steven Marshall’s statement, David Gulpilil’s life wasn’t without significant hardship, as the actor “encountered racism and discrimination and lived with the pressures of the divide between his traditional lifestyle and his public profile”. 

A documentary about Gulpilil’s life called My Name Is Gulpilil marked the final film of the actor’s career, with Molly Reynolds documentary tracking the actor’s cancer diagnosis as well as his defiance in the face of such a life-changing illness. 

David Gulpilil’s most famous role came in 1971 where he starred as the young aboriginal boy who guides the lead two characters across the deserted Australian outback in Nicolas Roeg’s Walkabout. A cinematic puzzle of dreamlike wonder, Roeg’s film speaks to the perils of the adolescent transition that explores existential themes of birth, death and mortality. Establishing a new future for Australian New Wave cinema, Walkabout and the performance of David Gulpilil would become iconic. 

A highly influential figure in Australian filmmaking, Steven Marshall told the press in a statement that David Gulpilil was “an actor, dancer, singer and painter, he was also one of the greatest artists Australia has ever seen”.