The West Live: The time David Gulpilil got high with Bob Marley

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Ben O'SheaThe West Australian
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David Gulpilil’s amazing career is the subject of a new documentary.
Camera IconDavid Gulpilil’s amazing career is the subject of a new documentary.

Getting high with Bob Marley and convincing the Queen to ditch royal etiquette and eat with her hands are just two of the revelations about famed Aboriginal actor David Gulpilil in a new documentary about his incredible life.

Gulpilil is the only actor to appear in both of the two highest-grossing Australian films of all time — 1986’s Crocodile Dundee and Baz Luhrmann’s Australia — and his 50-year career has included unforgettable performances in Walkabout (1971), Storm Boy (1976), Mad Dog Morgan (1976) and The Tracker (2002).

He won the best actor award at Cannes for his role in Rolf de Heer’s Charlie’s Country (2013), and it is de Heer’s partner and fellow filmmaker, Molly Reynolds, who has decided to chronicle the actor’s life in the documentary, My Name is Gulpilil.

“He has a legacy that we really should ensure doesn’t disappear, because he was one of the first blackfellas on screen, and, not only that, he was a thespian,” Reynolds told The West Live.

When Reynolds set out to make this film a few years ago, she did so because Gulpilil had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, and it seemed like the last opportunity to capture this amazing performer on camera.

There was just one problem — Gulpilil refused to stick to the script and die.

Director Molly Reynolds with David Gulpilil.
Camera IconDirector Molly Reynolds with David Gulpilil. Credit: Bonnie Paku/RegionalHUB

“We started making this film with a sense of urgency in April 2017 because David was meant to be dead by 2018, he wasn’t going to see in the New Year,” Reynolds explained.

“But David being David defied the odds, and 2018 rolled into 2019, and at the beginning of 2020, Rolf said, ‘David’s doing well, he may live for another decade yet, so I think we have to look at finishing the film differently’.

“So, we spoke to David and said, ‘This film was supposed to finish with you in the grave, but what if we finish it with you on stage?’”

The director said the icon of Australian cinema didn’t hate the idea.

David Gulpilil in The Tracker
Camera IconDavid Gulpilil in The Tracker

“David loves celebrity — I think if he was about to die, and there were people in the room who started applauding, he’d come to and say, ‘Here I am’,” she laughed.

Reynolds will take part in a special Q&A at the Perth premiere of My Name is Gulpilil at Luna Palace Leederville tonight, before the film opens on May 27.

Listen to the full interview with Molly Reynolds at The West Live link above.

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