George Ogilvie was one of Australia’s foremost directors. He founded the State Theatre Company in South Australia and moved with ease between screen and stage (working in theatre, opera and ballet) as well as enjoying a spell as an actor and mime in the UK.
He gained cult status co-directing (with George Miller) the 1985 Mel Gibson cinema blockbuster Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome in a career that also saw him direct his compatriot Joan Sutherland for Australian Opera (now Opera Australia) and contribute to the Australian Ballet’s Coppelia, enduringly choreographed by London-born Peggy van Praagh. A performance by the company was broadcast live to UK cinemas as recently as 2017.
Born an identical twin in Goulburn, New South Wales to a baker-father, he began his acting career with Canberra Rep before moving to England in 1952 to work in regional rep. He returned to Australia in 1955 to join the Australian Theatre Trust’s inaugural company and began directing with Melbourne’s Union Theatre Repertory Company.
After studying with Jacques Lecoq in Paris, in the UK he enjoyed minor success as a mime in the Braham Murray-directed late-night revue Chaganog at the Edinburgh Festival and London’s Vaudeville and St Martin’s Theatre in 1964.
The following year he joined the newly constituted Melbourne Theatre Company as associate director before taking leadership of the Adelaide-based State Theatre Company of South Australia in 1972.
Pursuing a freelance career from the 1980s, he was a prominent director for Australian television and on film he helmed Russell Crowe’s 1990 screen debut, The Crossing. One of his last screen appearances was alongside Crowe in 2014’s The Water Diviner.
Later theatre credits included directing Nick Enright’s A Man with Five Children (2002) and David Auburn’s Tony award and Pulitzer prize-winning Proof (2003) for the Sydney Theatre Company.
He also taught at Australia’s National Institute of Dramatic Arts and the Actors Centre in Sydney.
Appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 1983, he published an autobiography, Simple Gifts: A Life in Theatre, in 2006.
George Buchan Ogilvie was born on March 5, 1931 and died on April 5, aged 89.