Describing himself as a “Sydney suburban boy shaped entirely by the western suburbs” and a “confident bloke”, Bryan Brown is more than a local hero – he’s a fair dinkum national treasure.
In a career spanning over four decades he has appeared in Australian classics like Newsfront (1978), The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978) and Breaker Morant (1980), as well as beloved TV mini-series A Town Like Alice (1981) and The Thorn Birds (1983). Brown has also maintained an international presence – notably teaching Tom Cruise how to mix drinks in Cocktail (1988).
He also has fifteen credits as a producer, including Dead Heart (1996), Dirty Deeds (2002), Beautiful Kate (2009) and most recently the baby boomer drama Palm Beach (2019), in which he also stars.
Directed by his wife Rachel Ward, Palm Beach focuses on a group of longtime friends who gather to celebrate a milestone birthday. The event isn’t without emotional fireworks of course, as personalities clash, tensions begin to mount, and old secrets are laid bare. Brown calls it a mix of The Big Chill and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
“Palm Beach is a film that exposes how, despite having everything one could wish for, our humanness continues to trip us up,” says Rachel Ward. “It has lots of fun setting up the idyllic, only to dismantle it, come perilously close to destroying it and, finally, to arrive at a fleeting moment of complete happiness before the tables are inevitably turned again.”
Brown succinctly adds: “Paradise doesn’t exist, life exists. Doesn’t matter where you are.”
The film boasts a distinguished ensemble cast that includes Sam Neill, Greta Scacchi, Jacqueline McKenzie and Richard E. Grant – a combination that Brown calls ‘harmonious’.
“The movie is very much about life, as much as it’s about struggle. The actors are very alive and they’ve got to keep that humour and that energy in the scenes where it’s demanded…”
The iconic Sydney location (which viewers will recognise as the setting for Home and Away) is also very much a character in the film, and Brown explains why it was the perfect backdrop for the story. “The more the screenplay developed, the more it became a Palm Beach story – and it had to be Palm Beach. The more wonderful and exotic it was, then the more we had to have the opposing struggles of these people.”