Armstrong, Gillian: Director Career (My Brilliant Career, Mrs. Soffel, Little Women)

Gillian Armstrong was born in Melbourne in 1950. She discovered her passion for film at Swinburne Art School, graduating in 1971.

After a year in Sydney as an assistant editor, she was one of twelve, along with Phillip Noyce and Chris Noonan, selected for the inaugural year of the AFTRS (Australian Film TV and Radio School).

Her graduation films, “Satdee Night,” “Gretel,” and “100 a Day,” won numerous awards and were selected for the Sydney Film Festival and Grenoble International Festival of Short Films in 1974.

Gillian became an integral part of Australia’s new wave of film in the 1970s.

In 1975, Gillian directed Smokes and Lollies, the first in a series of films portraying the coming of age of three Adelaide girls.

Fourteens Good, Eighteens Better, followed in 1980, then Bingo, Braces and Bridesmaids (1988), and the award-winning Not Fourteen Again (1996

In 1979, Gillian became the first woman in Australia to direct a feature, My Brilliant Career.  Starring Judy Davis and Sam Neill, this film won seven AFI Awards, including Best Director and Best Film, and was selected for the Cannes Film Festival.

In 1982, Starstruck, a musical with Jo Kennedy, broke more molds as one of Australia’s first pop/rock musicals.

In 1984, Armstrong made her first American film, Mrs. Soffel, starring Mel Gibson and Diane Keaton, produced by Edgar Scherick and Scott Rudin. It was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actress and a Golden Berlin Bear in 1985.

After 1986’s HBO concert special Hard to Handle on Bob Dylan, Armstrong directed High Tide, starring Judy Davis and a young Claudia Karvan. It won Best Film at the Houston Film Festival, the Grand Prix at the International de Creteil, and Best Actress (Judy Davis) at the New York Film Critics Circle.

The Last Days of Chez Nous was nominated for eleven AFI Awards including Best Film and Best Director, and three Film Critics Circle of Australia Awards.

Little Women followed, with Claire Danes, Kirsten Dunst, Christian Bale and Winona Ryder, garnering three Oscar nominations including Best Actress (Winona Ryder). It has become an American classic, screened annually at Christmas.

Oscar and Lucinda, starring Ralph Fiennes and Cate Blanchett in one of her first screen roles, won five AFI Awards and one Academy Award nomination.

In 2001, Charlotte Grey, starring Cate Blanchett and Billy Crudup, won the 2002 Las Vegas Critics Society Award for Best Actress.

In 2006 Gillian directed the feature documentary Unfolding Florence: The Many Lives of Florence Broadhurst . It was nominated for three AFI Awards including Best Documentary, it won Best Documentary Screenplay at the AWGIES, and was the only Australian film selected for Sundance in 2006.

In 1993 she received an A.M. for distinguished services to the Australian Film Industry. She has been awarded the Dorothy Arzner Directing Award at the Los Angeles Women in Film Crystal Awards, the Chauvel Award for her contribution to the Australian Film Industry, and the Women in Hollywood Icon Award in recognition of her contribution to the film industry.