Jack Thompson (actor)

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Jack Thompson
Jack Thompson speaks at the media (cropped).jpg
Thompson in 2014
John Hadley Pain

(1940-08-31) 31 August 1940 (age 81)
Years active1968–present
Spouse(s)Leona King

Jack Thompson, AM (born John Hadley Pain; 31 August 1940) is an Australian actor and a major figure of Australian cinema, particularly Australian New Wave. He was educated at University of Queensland, before embarking on his acting career. In 2002, he was made an honorary member of the Australian Cinematographers Society (ACS). He is best known as a lead actor in several acclaimed Australian films, including such classics as The Club (1980), Sunday Too Far Away (1975), The Man from Snowy River (1982) and Petersen (film) (1974). He won Cannes and AFI acting awards for the latter film. He was the recipient of a Living Legend Award at the 2005 Inside Film Awards.


Early life

Born John Hadley Payne [1] in Manly, a suburb of Sydney, Thompson was five years old when his mother died, leaving his father, a merchant seaman, unable to care for him and his brother, David. [2] [3] He was sent to "LakeHouse orphanage" in Narrabeen by his aunt and subsequently adopted by the poet and ABC broadcaster John Thompson [4] and his wife Pat, after which he changed his surname. [5] The film reviewer Peter Thompson is his adopted brother. [6]

Thompson was educated at Sydney Boys High School. [7] He left school at 14, and became a jackaroo in the Northern Territory, as well as taking labouring jobs in New South Wales. [7]



After working in an agricultural lab, Thompson joined the army in 1960 so that he could earn a science degree. He enrolled at the University of Queensland in 1963 and transferred to an arts degree, [8] [9] performing in theatre at night, including the Twelfth Night Theatre and UQ Dramatic Society [10] in Brisbane.

He appeared on stage in The Devils in 1968. [11]

Early television appearances

Thompson decided to take acting seriously, giving himself twelve months to make a go of it. [12] His TV career began with the soap opera Motel (1968), and guest appearances on Riptide , Woobinda, Animal Doctor , Skippy , The Rovers , Division 4 , Homicide and Matlock Police . He also appeared in a documentary short Personnel, or People? (1969), directed by Donald Crombie. Thompson made his film debut in That Lady from Peking (1968). He played the lead in a TV movie Silo 15 (shot in 1969, released 1971).


Thompson took the lead role in spy drama series Spyforce (1971–73), playing the role of Erskine who did missions in World War II. [13]

Thompson also had a key support role in the film Wake in Fright (1971). He continued to guest star on shows such as Over There , Matlock Police (again), Ryan , Boney and Elephant Boy .

Thompson received excellent reviews for his performance in one of the stories in Libido (1973); his segment was written by David Williamson.

He starred in a TV movie Linehaul (1973), playing a truckie, and guest starred on The Evil Touch and Homicide again; he also appeared in Marijuana: Possession and the Law (1974). [14] [15]

Film stardom

Thompson became an Australian film star playing the title role in Petersen (1974), written by Williamson and directed by Tim Burstall. The film was a success at the box office. [16] He did a TV movie Human Target (1974) then starred in another highly acclaimed Australian film, Sunday Too Far Away (1975) playing a shearer.

Thompson played the title role in Scobie Malone (1975), based on the Jon Cleary novel Helga's Web . It was produced by American Casey Robinson who said "Jack Thompson is a great part of my reason to become involved in this venture. I have no doubt whatsoever that when this film is seen overseas he'll be turned instantly into an international star. There aren't many male actors like him around any more. There's something there that reminds me very much of Bogart." [17] The film was a failure at the box office. [18]

He did an episode of Armchair Theatre shot in Australia, "Tully". [19]

Thompson had a support role in Caddie (1976), directed by Crombie, which was a big success. [20]

Thompson had become nationally famous playing "macho" type roles. "I think it reflects its time so accurately," he said later. "There was a preoccupation with the macho Australian male, it's a thing that had to be examined or purged in film." [12]

Character actor

Thompson then deliberately decided to take character parts, out of a fear of typecasting and "also an understanding that unless I could get out of that target area, then I wouldn't be allowed to be seen as an actor." [12]

He guest starred in an episode of Luke's Kingdom and played the second lead in Mad Dog Morgan (1976) with Dennis Hopper. He took some time off to work on a script with his brother then had a key support role in The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978). He supported imported stars Karen Black and Keir Dullea in a TV movie shot in Australia, Because He's My Friend (1978).

Thompson returned to acting after another break to play the lead role in a sex comedy, The Journalist (1979). "I haven't made any films since then because I haven't liked the parts I've been offered, and also I've been too busy promoting the Australian film industry overseas", said Thompson at the time. [21] The film became a notorious flop. He worked on a script with his brother called Welcome Stranger. [12]

He was offered a role in Breaker Morant (1980), directed by Bruce Beresford - the part of Private Hancock. Thompson turned it down, Beresford rewrote the script and offered him the part again, and Thompson accepted. Then filming was delayed. John Hargreaves who was to play the lawyer became unavailable; Thompson took that part and Bryan Brown played Hancock. [12] The film was a considerable success. Thompson won Best Supporting Actor at Cannes. [22]

Thompson supported US stars William Holden and Rick Schroeder in The Earthling (1980) then was top billed in The Club (1980), directed by Beresford from a play by Williamson. [23]

"You get awfully fed up with the public image that you must live up to," he said in an interview around this time. "I just want to continue becoming a part of the Australian film industry, not for materialistic reasons but because I enjoy it. I not only want to act, but produce and possibly direct". [12]

Thompson went to New Zealand to make Bad Blood (1982) playing killer Stanley Graham, then had a support role in The Man from Snowy River (1982), playing Clancy of the Overflow.

International career

Thompson went overseas to support Ingrid Bergman in A Woman Called Golda (1982). He was Lee Remick's husband in a remake of The Letter (1982) and played a British POW in Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (1983) with David Bowie and Tom Conti.

Back in Australia Thompsons starred in a mini series about wharfies in the Depression, Waterfront (1983). He went to Europe to star in a swashbuckler for Paul Verhoeven, Flesh + Blood (1985), then returned to Australia to star in Burke and Wills (1985). This film was a box office disappointment.

Thompson supported Linda Evans and Jason Robards in a TV mini series The Last Frontier (1986) which was a huge ratings success. In the US he had a role in Kojak: The Price of Justice (1987) then returned home to play an ASIO officer in Ground Zero (1987).

Thompson was a love interest for Stefanie Powers in Beryl Markham: A Shadow on the Sun (1988) on US TV and had the lead in an Australian TV movie, The Riddle of the Stinson (1989), playing Bernard O'Reilly.

He co-starred with Raquel Welch in Trouble in Paradise (1989) for US TV then did a mini series in New Zealand, The Rainbow Warrior Conspiracy (1989).

He did a US TV movie After the Shock (1990) and had a support part in Turtle Beach (1992) and Wind (1992).

Character actor

Thompson began to increasingly work as a character actor in the US with roles in Ruby Cairo (1993), directed by Graeme Clifford, and A Far Off Place (1994).

He returned to Australia to play Russell Crowe's father in The Sum of Us (1994) then did A Woman of Independent Means (1995) in the US and Flight of the Albatross (1995) in New Zealand.

He had a support role in Broken Arrow (1996), did The Thorn Birds: The Missing Years (1996) back home and Last Dance (1996) for Beresford in the US.

Thompson starred in the Australian TV movie McLeod's Daughters (1996). He was Alicia Silverstone's father in Excess Baggage (1997), then did Under the Lighthouse Dancing (1997) in Australia. He appeared in the Clint Eastwood-directed Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997) as Sonny Seiler, the attorney of Kevin Spacey's character, Jim Williams. (Seiler himself appeared in the movie as the judge in Williams' trial.)

Back in Australia Thompson provided a voice for The Magic Pudding (2000) and appeared in Yolngu Boy (2001). He had a support part in the new version of South Pacific (2001), the mini series based on My Brother Jack (2001), Original Sin (2001), Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002), The Assassination of Richard Nixon (2004), and Oyster Farmer (2005).

Thompson had a key role in two films directed by Brett Leonard: the Marvel Comics based Man-Thing (2005) and Feed (2006), the latter written by and starring his son.

Thompson had support roles in The Good German (2006), Bastard Boys (2007), December Boys (2007), Leatherheads (2008), Ten Empty (2008), Australia (2008), Mao's Last Dancer (2009) for Beresford, The Karenskys (2009), Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2010), Rake (2010), Blinder (2013), The Great Gatsby (2013), Mystery Road (2013), Around the Block (2013), Bonnie & Clyde (2013) for Beresford, Devil's Playground (2014), Ruben Guthrie (2015), The Light Between Oceans (2016), Don't Tell (2017), Blue World Order (2017) and Swinging Safari (2018).

He has also acted in television miniseries and appeared as the host of the Channel 7 factual series Find My Family .

Other appearances

Thompson was the first nude male centrefold in Cleo in 1972. [24] He has also appeared in television commercials, including as the face of the Bank of Melbourne for a decade, [25] and for Claytons. Thompson is featured in a series of recordings of Australian poetry, reciting poems by Henry Lawson, Banjo Paterson, C. J. Dennis, Patrick Joseph Hartigan (aka John O'Brien) and John O'Grady. (see Discography below). [26] Interviewed in the Sydney Morning Herald he explains his love of poetry, noting that 'Poetry is sometimes seen as too arty and perhaps not a suitable interest for blokes.' [27]

Personal life

Thompson married Beverley Hackett in 1963 and the five-year marriage produced his son Patrick Thompson. He met Leona King and her sister Bunkie in 1969, and entered into a 15-year polyamorous relationship with them. Leona was 20 and Bunkie was 15 when the relationship began. [28] [29] Bunkie left the relationship in 1985, and is estranged from her sister. [30] Leona remained with Thompson, and gave birth to his second son, Billy. [31]

Thompson featured in the first episode of the Australian version of Who Do You Think You Are? , which was televised on 13 January 2008 on SBS, with Thompson discovering that his great-grandfather was Captain Thomas Pain, and his great-great uncle was Alfred Lee, a prominent figure in Sydney society, who donated the journal of Joseph Banks, from Captain Cook's navigation to Australia in the 1770s, to the Mitchell Library in Sydney. [32] Thompson used to own Hotel Gearin in Katoomba, Blue Mountains. He sold the hotel in June 2011. [33]



1969Personnel, or People?
1971 Wake in Fright Dick
1973 Libido KenSegment: "The Family Man"
1974Marijuana: Possession and the Law
1974 'Jock' Petersen Tony Petersen
1975 Sunday Too Far Away Foley
1975 Scobie Malone Scobie Malone
1975 That Lady from Peking Flunky
1976 Caddie Ted
1976 Mad Dog Morgan Detective Manwaring
1976Jeremy and TeapotNarratorShort film
1978 The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith Reverend Neville
1979 The Journalist Simon Morris
1980 Breaker Morant Major J.F. Thomas
1980 The Earthling Ross Daley
1980 The Club Laurie Holden
1982 The Man from Snowy River Clancy
1982 Bad Blood Stan Graham
1983It's a LivingPassenger
1983 Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence Group Capt. Hicksley
1985 Flesh and Blood Hawkwood
1985 Burke & Wills Robert O'Hara Burke
1986 Short Circuit Party Guest
1987 Ground Zero Trebilcock
1992 Turtle Beach Ralph
1992 Wind Jack Neville
1993 A Far Off Place John Ricketts
1993 Ruby Cairo Ed
1994 The Sum of Us Harry Mitchell
1994ResistanceMr. Wilson
1995Der Flug des AlbatrosMike
1996 Broken Arrow Chairman, Joint Chief of Staff
1996 Last Dance The Governor
1997 Excess Baggage Alexander
1997 Under the Lighthouse Dancing Harry
1997 Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil Sonny Seiler
1999Feeling SexyMagazine Vendor (uncredited)
2000 The Magic Pudding Buncle (voice)
2001 Yolngu Boy Policeman
2001 Original Sin Alan Jordan
2002 Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones Cliegg Lars
2004 The Assassination of Richard Nixon Jack Jones
2004 Oyster Farmer Skippy
2005 Man-Thing Frederic Schist
2005 Feed Richard
2006Tryst CosmosStorytellerShort film
2006 The Good German Congressman Breimer
2007The ManualProfessor GreyShort film
2007 December Boys Bandy
2008 Ten Empty Bobby Thompson
2008 Leatherheads Harvey
2008 Australia Kipling Flynn
2009 Mao's Last Dancer Judge Woodrow Seals
2010 Don't Be Afraid of the Dark Harris
2011Oakie's Outback AdventuresOrpheus
2011The Telegram ManBill WilliamsShort film
2011The Forgotten MenPublicanShort film
2013 Around the Block Mr. O'Donnell
2013 Mystery Road Charley Murray
2013 Blinder Coach Chang
2013 The Great Gatsby Nick Carraway's Doctor, Walter Perkins
2016 Blue World Order Harris
2016 The Light Between Oceans Ralph Addicott
2017 Don't Tell Bob Myers
2018 Swinging Safari Mayor


1968 Motel Bill BurkeEpisode: "1.132"
Episode: "1.134"
1969 Riptide Wally
Episode: "Hagan's Kingdom"
Episode: "Flight of the Curlew"
1970Woobinda, Animal DoctorLennyEpisode: "Lenny"
1970 Skippy Stefan ImardEpisode: "High Fashion"
1970 The Rovers Kenneth Baker
Episode: "Wright's Peak"
Episode: "A Place of My Own"
1970 Homicide Jack Skinner
Kevin Ford
Episode: "The Doll"
Episode: "All Correct"
1970 Division 4 Charlie PennEpisode: "A Trip to the City"
1971-1973 Spyforce Erskine42 episodes
1972Over ThereCorporal Harry LoganEpisode: "The Lord Sends the Food and the Devil Sends the Cook"
1972Behind the LegendCharles Kingsford-Smith (1972)TV series
1972 Matlock Police Ron CookEpisode: "Cook's Endeavor"
1973 Matlock Police RobboEpisode: "Squaring Off"
1973 Linehaul Dave MorganTV movie
1973 Boney Jack
Red Kelly
Episode: "Boney and the Strangler"
Episode: "Boney and the Kelly Gang"
1973 Ryan John Mitchell
Brian Duncan
Episode: "But When She Was Bad"
Episode: "Where Thunder Sleeps"
1973Elephant BoyChuck RyderEpisode: "Conservation Man"
1973 Homicide Ray EnrightEpisode: "Mother Superior"
1973 The Evil Touch Hammer
Episode "George"
Episode: "Scared to Death"
1974 The Evil Touch StockmanEpisode: "Kadaitcha Country"
1974 Human Target AndersonTV movie
1974 Homicide Det. Sgt Jack BeckEpisode: "Time and Tide"
1975Armchair CinemaVic ParkesEpisode: "Tully"
1978 Because He's My Friend GeoffTV movie
1982A Shifting DreamingTV movie
1982 A Woman Called Golda ArielTV movie
1982The LetterRobert CrosbieTV movie
1984 Waterfront Maxey WoodburyTV miniseries
1986 The Last Frontier Nick StenningTV movie
1987 The Riddle of the Stinson Bernard O'ReillyTV movie
1987 Kojak: The Price of Justice Aubrey DuboseTV movie
1988Beryl Markham: A Shadow on the SunTom Campbell BlackTV movie
1989 The Rainbow Warrior Conspiracy IrvineTV movie
1989 Trouble in Paradise JakeTV movie
1990After the ShockFiremanTV movie
1994The Dwelling PlaceRichardTV miniseries
1994GirlVictor MartinTV movie
1995 A Woman of Independent Means Sam GarnerTV miniseries
1996 The Thorn Birds: The Missing Years The JudgeTV movie
1996 McLeod's Daughters Jack McLeodTV movie
2001 My Brother Jack Bernard BrewsterTV movie
2001 South Pacific Capt. George BrackettTV movie
2007 Bastard Boys Tony TullyTV movie
2009The KarenskysMax KarenskyTV movie
2012 Rake Mr Justice BeesdonEpisode: "R vs. Fenton"
2013 Camp Jack JessupEpisode: "Harvest Moon"
2014 Devil's Playground Cardinal Constantine NevilleTV miniseries


Thompson's plaque at the Australian Film Walk of Fame, the Ritz Cinema, Randwick, Sydney Film Walk of Fame Ritz Cinema Sydney 021.JPG
Thompson's plaque at the Australian Film Walk of Fame, the Ritz Cinema, Randwick, Sydney

Thompson also served as an UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador.


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