Year of Living Dangerously: Peter Weir’s Political Thriller, Starring Mel Gibson, Sigourney Weaver, and Linda Hunt in Oscar Role

MGM/UA (Freddie Fields Production, Australia)

Directed by Peter Weir, this superbly made, highly enjoyable political thriller concerns an Australian journalist (Mel Gibson, at his most appealing) in Indonesia in 1965, during a period of political turmoil, when the government of Sukarno collapsed.

Combining adventure, political intrigue, and romance, the film features three strong performances by Gibson, Sigourney Weaver, as a British embassy diplomat, and particularly Linda Hunt, as Billy Kwan, an Indonesian man who initially admire but then gets disillusioned by Sukarno.

The screenplay by Weir, David Williamson and C.J. Koch, takes considerable liberties with the source material, Koch’s novel, in an effort to make a “Casablanca”-like film for modern audiences.

Oscar Alert

Winning the Supporting Actress Award, Linda Hunt became the first and only performer to win an Oscar for playing a member of the opposite sex. When Hunt said in her Oscar acceptance speech, “the sky’s the limit,” she meant it literally.

In 1983, Linda Hunt competed for the Supporting Actress Oscar with Cher, who played Meryl Streep’s lesbian roommate in “Silkwood,” Glenn Close as a modern wife who encourages her husband (Kevin Kline) to impregnate their best friend in “The Big Chill,” Amy Irving, as the girl who falls in love with Streisand as a boy in “Yentl,” and Alfre Woodard in what was the only traditional role in “Cross Creek.”

End Note

Hunt’s record was broken in 2007, when Cate Blanchett received a Supporting Actress nomination for embodying one facet of Bob Dylan in Todd Haynes’ innovative deconstructive biopicture, “I’m Not There.”