When Matilda Brown, daughter of Australian acting royalty Rachel Ward and Bryan Brown, told her parents she wanted to act, she wasn't. Today, more than 25 years later, Rachel Ward and Bryan Brown tell Susan Chenery why they were There was a connection very quickly. She thinks he's a hard taskmaster; he describes her as untamed. After 25 years of marriage, Rachel Ward and Bryan Brown are still a combustible couple.
- Series in the family way
- Kindred spirits: Rachel Ward & Bryan Brown
I was mortified of the view of women, of this character. That it was their only interest. For a short time, I dated David Kennedy. We met when I was 21 and modelling in New York. He was sensitive and gentle, which was attractive.
Double or nothing
David was very young when his father Robert F. Kennedy died, and it had an enormous impact on him. He had a drug addiction and was a troubled soul. He didn't have the arrogance of the other Kennedys because he was lost and struggling. The most important thing a man can do is to make me laugh, and Bryan Brown did that from the moment we met on the set of The Thorn Birds in He had a real sense of fun, and was very certain of himself without being arrogant. He also had a great body. Our first kiss was on screen and we took it from there.
Because shooting the mini-series took a long time, by the end of it we knew each other extremely well. He proposed one night after a huge fight. I had taught him to play gin rummy and he kept beating me. I threw the cards on the floor and it was all over. My decision to accept was made on the turn of a sixpence. At times you have to follow your instincts, hold your nose, and jump. We've been married for 31 years and the reason it works is because I don't let Bryan get away with any shit.
Our roles are equal. I also bring in an income, and we worked out a balance to raise Rosie, 29, Matilda, 27 and Joe, We also split the chores. I could never be married to a man who I felt was not taking his share of duties. Bryan is also sensitive and emotional.
He is infinitely interested in humanity and has amazing control of his instinctual masculine urges. You might see photographs of Cornwell Manor, the huge estate on the edge of the Cotswolds where Ward grew up with her younger sister and brother, Tracy and Alexander. You would discover that Tracy is a fascinating character, too: About Brown, you might discover that he was working for an insurance company when he got involved with amateur theatre in the '60s; that he plucked up the courage to quit his job and go to England, where he landed at the National Theatre.
You'd find a list of his parts in a squadron of iconic Australian films - the latest as a dying father in Beautiful Kate - and as the archetypal laconic Aussie in international releases. You could read about his work developing and producing Australian films, including Beautiful Kate, as founder of New Town Films. And you'd learn that he married his bride in in a little church in Oxfordshire, transported her to the northern beaches and fathered her three children - Rose, 24, Matilda, 22, and Joe, Advertisement But none of that will tell you what beguiling company Ward and Brown make.
Sit with them on the veranda of their year-old sandstone and sea-green-shuttered Balmain home - scattered with weathered antique tables, squatters' chairs, sofas draped with old quilts, a mounted deer skull and horns - and you might long to become a part of this family and its substantial, richly textured life.
With Brown, there's an odd shock of the familiar, like catching up with an old friend and realising time is slipping away. Williams boots, he's older and greyer than you might imagine but also more handsome. At 62, he says he's surfing more than ever - up the north coast past Kempsey or at local beaches, often with Joe. Her speech is all rounded vowels and fruity language and she has a disconcerting habit of looking away as she talks, down over the top of her glasses to the floorboards or across to the stretch of green that runs down to the harbour.
Kindred spirits: Rachel Ward & Bryan Brown | Australian Women's Weekly
Her attention snaps back, though, when an unexpected visitor strolls onto the veranda. It's Sam Neill, apologising for the interruption and man-hugging Brown. The actor comes bearing a gift for his old friends - a framed caricature of Brown by Herald artist John Shakespeare, published earlier this year.
Look what he gave me," says Brown, holding it up for his wife to see.
Rachel Ward: What I know about men
For locals, the couple are part of the furniture - you might spot them queuing for coffee at Bertoni, getting groceries in Woolies. Ward, who was filmed on this veranda for a video in support of Patrice Newell's Climate Change Coalition before the last election, often grabs her bike from a shed just inside the front gate and pedals up to Balmain shopping village. They share, he says, "alleged artistic sensibilities" and discuss projects, films they've seen. At Balmain, he says, they host "tremendously great social occasions" attended by a roll-call of luminaries - British actor Richard E.
Ward would come to be a saviour of sorts for Campbell, an actor who became a New York nightclub owner in the '80s. Moving back to Sydney five years ago with her young daughter, Campbell struggled to adjust. Ward invited her to lunch, went out of her way to introduce her to people. I cannot say enough how much I appreciate that. Every second Friday for the past few years, Ward and a composer friend have left the city for what she calls an "adventure trip" - kayaking, cycling or hiking see box, page What's so extraordinary about Sydney is that in half an hour you can be in some incredible national park.
In an article for The Spectator Australia, published last November, she wrote of lakes, snow-capped mountains and glacial river valleys.
And, uncharacteristically, of the shopping: All indications are, that one way or another, Ward has been bowling Brown over since they met on The Thorn Birds set. But the pair's great love affair has been famously fiery - "not just ups and downs but volcanos and tsunamis", declares Waterstreet.Rachel Ward and her husband Bryan Brown
A newcomer might find the couple's jousting discomfiting, as during this exchange about the process of writing the Beautiful Kate script: He's always in a position of rightness. What I do is I give my opinion. I go, 'For me, it's not there yet.
While Ward is candid - she once described Brown as "a good root" - he lets only a few personal details slip: That as a child, he had such dreadful stage fright in an eisteddfod that three times he got up on stage, opened his mouth and nothing came out.
No doubt there are times Brown would prefer that nothing came out of his wife's mouth.
Lounging on a sofa with her brown boots slung up over the arm, she's talking now about England and how she has come to embrace her privilege, in the most English sense of that word, rather than shunning it as she once did. She's also talking about her father, Peter, and his death early last year. I don't want anything but it is extraordinary that you can have a family of that many [Ward also has two half-brothers] and the eldest brother was left everything.