Oscar Directors: Beresford, Bruce–Background, Career, Awards, Filmography

October 7, 2020

Bruce Beresford Career Summary:

Occupational Inheritance: No

Social Class: Middle class; father sold electrical goods

Nationality: Australia

Childhood: shorts

Education: BA, English, University of Sydney, grad in 1964; aged 24.

Training: moved to England for film work (BFI)

First Film: The Adventures of Barry McKenzie, 1972; age 32

Breakthrough: Don’s Party, 1976, aged 36 (before that, career at low ebb)

First Oscar Nomination: Breaker Morant, 1980; age 40

Gap between First Film and First Nom: 8 years

Other Nominations: No

Disaster: King David, 1985; aged 45

Oscar Awards: Driving Miss Daisy, 1989, Best Picture; aged 50 (but he was not nominated)

Genre (specialties):

Collaborators: editor

Last Film:

Career Shape: Up and Down; mostly down after 1980


Career Output: about 30

Career Span: 1972-present (almost 50 years)

Marriage: novelist



Death: NA

Bruce Beresford (August 16, 1940) is an Australian film director who has made more than 30 feature films over a 50-year career. Notable films he has directed include Breaker Morant (1980), Tender Mercies (1983), Crimes of the Heart (1986) and Driving Miss Daisy (1989).

Beresford was born in Paddington, Sydney, the son of Lona (née Warr) and Leslie Beresford, who sold electrical goods.

He grew up in the then outer-western suburb of Toongabbie, and went to The King’s School. He made several short films in his teens including The Hunter (1959).

He completed a Bachelor of Arts majoring in English at the University of Sydney, where he graduated in 1964.

While at university he made the short film The Devil to Pay (1962) starring John Bell and Ron Blair, It Droppeth as the Gentle Rain (1963) co-directed by Albie Thoms and starring Germaine Greer, Clement Meadmore (1963) with Bell and King-size Woman

Beresford then moved to England in search of film work. He could not break into the British film scene, so he answered an ad for editing job in Nigeria, where he worked for two years, in Enugu.

He then returned to England and worked for the British Film Institute as a producer of short films by first-time directors, including Magritte: The False Mirror (1970) and Paradigm (1970).

Beresford directed the documentary Lichtenstein in London (1968) about Roy Lichtenstein, and Extravaganza (1968), Barbara Hepworth at the Tate (1970), The Cinema of Raymond Fark (1970), and Arts of Village India (1972).

Beresford returned to Australia to make his first feature, The Adventures of Barry McKenzie (1972), which he also wrote with Barry Humphries. The film, produced by Phillip Adams, was a box office success in England and Australia, but Beresford later said making the film was a “mistake” because reviews were so bad that he had trouble finding other work.

Beresford directed documentary for TV, The Wreck of the Batavia (1973) and did some other TV films, Poor Fella Me (1973), and Monster or Miracle? Sydney Opera House (1973). These were financed by Reg Grundy who also financed Beresford’s second feature as director, Barry McKenzie Holds His Own (1974), a sequel to Barry McKenzie.

Beresford went to England to direct and co-write a comedy, Side by Side (1975) starring Humphries and Terry-Thomas; it was little seen.

Beresford says his career was at a low ebb when Phillip Adams “saved my life” by offering him directing acclaimed version of David Williamson’s play Don’s Party (1976).

Beresford directed an adaptation of The Getting of Wisdom (1977), also produced by Adams.

Beresford signed a contract with the South Australian Film Corporation for whom he wrote and directed thriller, Money Movers (1979), box office disappointment. He did some uncredited directing on the SAFC’s Blue Fin (1978).

He then co-wrote and directed Breaker Morant (1980), a notable success at the box office and earned Beresford an Oscar nomination. It was widely seen in Hollywood and Beresford began to receive U.S. offers.

Beresford directed The Club (1980), from another Williamson play, and Puberty Blues (1981).

Beresford received an offer from EMI Films to direct Horton Foote’s Tender Mercies (1983). Star Robert Duvall won a Best Actor Oscar for his performance and Beresford earned a Best Director nomination.

He followed it with King David (1985) starring Richard Gere which was a notable box office failure.

Beresford returned to Australia to write and direct The Fringe Dwellers (1986). In the US he directed Crimes of the Heart (1986) from the play by Beth Henley, did a segment of the film Aria (1987), and did the comedy thriller Her Alibi (1989) with Tom Selleck.

Beresford directed Driving Miss Daisy (1989) with Morgan Freeman and Jessica Tandy, from a play by Alfred Uhry. It won the Best Picture Oscar, though Beresford was not nominated as director. The film was a commercial and critical success.

Asked if he minded not even being nominated for the Best Director Oscar for Driving Miss Daisy, Beresford said: “No, not at all. I didn’t think it was that well directed. It was very well written. When the writing’s that good, you’ve really just got to set the camera up and photograph it.”

He directed Mister Johnson (1990) in Nigeria, with Edward Woodward; Black Robe (1991), Australian-Canadian film based on the novel by Brian Moore; Rich in Love (1992), co-written by Uhry; A Good Man in Africa (1994) with Sean Connery from a novel by William Boyd, which in 2015 Beresford called his worst film; Silent Fall (1994), which was nominated for the Golden Bear at Berlin Film Fest; and Last Dance (1996) with Sharon Stone.

He wrote but did not direct Curse of the Starving Class (1994).

Beresford returned to Australia to direct Paradise Road (1997), a commercial disappointment. He directed a documentary, Sydney: A Story of a City (1999), then had a hit with the thriller Double Jeopardy (1999).

Beresford made Bride of the Wind (2001); Evelyn (2002) with Pierce Brosnan; and And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself (2003) with Antonio Banderas.

He spent years looking for financing for various projects before making The Contract (2006) with Freeman. He followed it with TV film Orpheus (2006) and returned to Australia to make Mao’s Last Dancer (2009).

Beresford’s later credits include Peace, Love & Misunderstanding (2011) with Jane Fonda, the documentary H.H. Dalai Lama: Essence of Mahayana Buddhism (2011), the mini series Bonnie & Clyde (2013), Mr. Church (2016) with Eddie Murphy, an episode of the remake of Roots (2017), the TV movie Flint (2017) and the Australian film Ladies in Black (2018).

Beresford has also directed operas and theatre productions. In 2016, he directed Benjamin Britten’s opera Albert Herring for the Queensland Conservatorium of Music, in a production conducted by Nicholas Cleobury.

He often works with film editor Mark Warner.

In 2012, he directed production of Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s opera Die tote Stadt for Opera Australia.

In 2018, he directed the Australian premiere of Rossini’s Otello for Melbourne Opera

In August 2007, he published a memoir, “Josh Hartnett Definitely Wants To Do This… True Stories From A Life in the Screen Trade”

Beresford is married to the novelist Virginia Duigan, sister of John Duigan. He now works both in Australia and the US.

Beresford attended the University of Sydney with critic and docu maker Clive James, art critic and aficionado Robert Hughes, activist and author Germaine Greer, journalist Bob Ellis, poet Les Murray, and writer Mungo McCallum. His contemporary and friend, actor and theatre director John Bell, shared a house and also did some film acting. Beresford remains close friends with Australian comedian, satirist and character actor Barry Humphries, best known for his on-stage/TV alter ego Dame Edna Everage, and his family.


The Adventures of Barry McKenzie (1972)
Barry McKenzie Holds His Own (1974)
Side by Side (1975)
Don’s Party (1976)
The Getting of Wisdom (1978)
Money Movers (1978)
Breaker Morant (1980)
The Club (1980)
Puberty Blues (1981)
Tender Mercies (1983)
King David (1985)
The Fringe Dwellers (1986)
Crimes of the Heart (1986)
Aria (1987)
Her Alibi (1989)
Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
Mister Johnson (1990)
Black Robe (1991)
Rich in Love (1992)
A Good Man in Africa (1994)
Silent Fall (1994)
Last Dance (1996)
Paradise Road (1997)
Sydney – A Story of a City (1999)
Double Jeopardy (1999)
Bride of the Wind (2001) (a. k. a. Die Windsbraut)
Evelyn (2002)
And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself (2003) (TV)
The Contract (2006)
Mao’s Last Dancer (2009)
Peace, Love & Misunderstanding (2011)
Bonnie & Clyde (2013) (TV)
Mr. Church (2016)
Roots (2016) (TV)
Flint (2017) (TV)
Ladies in Black (2018)