Legendary indigenous Australian actor and artist David Gulpilil has died aged 68


One of Australia’s greatest Aboriginal actors who was immortalised in an Archibald Prize winning portrait has died following a battle with lung cancer. 

David Gulpilil’s death at his home in Murray Bridge in South Australia aged 68 was confirmed on Monday night. 

His daughter Phoebe Marson announced two years ago that her father had been diagnosed with the aggressive cancer and he would soon ‘go to the Dreamtime’. 

The actor appeared in such iconic Australian films as Storm Boy, Charlie’s Country, Ten Canoes, Crocodile Dundee and The Tracker.  

David Gulpilil (pictured) is a renowned actor and artist who has appeared in numerous iconic films (his family has allowed his image to be used after his death according to his wishes) 

A Yolngu man raised in Arnham Land in the Northern Territory, Gulpilil was trained as a traditional dancer.

He caught the eye of British director Nicolas Roeg who cast him in a main role in his 1971 film ‘Walkabout’. 

Five years later he appeared in the Australian classic Storm Boy which raised him to star status and helped create a longstanding partnership with the South Australian film industry. 

South Australia Premier Steven Marshall paid tribute to Gulpilil on Monday night, saying his work helped shape the cultural landscape of South Australia. 

Jamie Gulpilil (left) starred with his father David (right) in the acclaimed film Ten Canoes (pictured at the premiere at Her Majesty's Theatre in Adelaide as part of the Adelaide Film Festival on March 19, 2006)

Jamie Gulpilil (left) starred with his father David (right) in the acclaimed film Ten Canoes (pictured at the premiere at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Adelaide as part of the Adelaide Film Festival on March 19, 2006)

‘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 (AM),’ Mr Marshall’s statement said.

He said Mr Gulpilil was a man who ‘loved his land and his culture and took it to the world’. 

‘In his later years he was a resident of Murray Bridge. He was a brother, son, friend, father, grandfather and husband.

‘An actor, dancer, singer and painter, he was also one of the greatest artists Australia has ever seen.’ 

The actor has had an extremely long and successful career (pictured on the set of the film 'Walkabout' in 1971)

The actor has had an extremely long and successful career (pictured on the set of the film ‘Walkabout’ in 1971) 

He starred in the 2013 highly acclaimed film Charlie's Country (pictured)

He starred in the 2013 highly acclaimed film Charlie’s Country (pictured) 

Film critic Jason Di Rosso said Mr Gulpilil's had an 'immense magnetism' (pictured with fellow Australian actor Cate Blanchett in 2009)

Film critic Jason Di Rosso said Mr Gulpilil’s had an ‘immense magnetism’ (pictured with fellow Australian actor Cate Blanchett in 2009)

‘But David Gulpilil’s life was not without its struggles – he encountered racism and discrimination, and lived with the pressures of the divide between his traditional lifestyle and his public profile,’ Mr Marshall said.

That divide was captured in a painting which won the 2004 Archibald Prize – the nation’s premier portrait competition. 

The Craig Ruddy painting titled ‘Two Worlds’ also won the people’s choice award for that year – only the second time this has happened in the competition’s history. 

Mr Gulpilil was recognised in the 1987 Queen’s Birthday Honours List – awarded the Member of the Order of Australia.

A documentary about his life titled ‘My name is Gulpilil’ premiered in March this year, with the actor making his final public appearance at the screening.

Mr Marshall said his thoughts were with Gulpilil’s family and friends and carer Mary Hood. 

Mr Gulpilil has won widespread recognition for his acting work (pictured with his second wife Miriam Ashley in 2006)

Mr Gulpilil has won widespread recognition for his acting work (pictured with his second wife Miriam Ashley in 2006) 

Mr Gilpilil with Hugh Jackman at the film premiere of 'Australia' by director Baz Luhrmann in 2008

Mr Gilpilil with Hugh Jackman at the film premiere of ‘Australia’ by director Baz Luhrmann in 2008

Australian film critic Jason Di Rosso said his work had helped to ‘change the narrative’ of Australia.

‘Sad news that one of Australia’s greatest actors David Gulpilil Ridjimiraril Dalaithngu has died,’ he wrote to Twitter.

‘He possessed immense magnetism, skill & intelligence. In long shot or in close up he commanded the frame. As a storyteller, he also helped change the narrative of this country.’ 

His family have given permission to use his name and image after his death in accordance with his wishes. 

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