Australia's best-known Aboriginal actor, was jailed yesterday for assaulting his wife.
Despite being fêted by Hollywood and starring in a dozen films including Walkabout, Crocodile Dundee and the 2008 blockbuster Australia, Gulpilil lived in a corrugated iron shack in a remote community in the Northern Territory. He is known to be a heavy drinker, and was in "a state of extreme inebriation" when he threw a broom at his wife, Miriam Ashley, breaking her arm, a court in Darwin heard.
The 58-year-old, who is also an acclaimed dancer and storyteller, will serve at least five months of a one-year sentence. He was ordered to begin an alcohol rehabilitation programme as a condition of early release.
Gulpilil, who was brought up among his Yolngu people in the Arnhem Land region, and who learnt to speak English only after his first film appearance, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault. Ms Ashley was reconciled with him and regretted reporting the incident to police, the court was told.
While in his teens, Gulpilil was cast in the 1971 film Walkabout by the British director Nicolas Roeg, who was visiting Arnhem Land to scout for locations and was struck by his talent as a tribal dancer. The movie made Gulpilil an instant celebrity, and he was flown to London, where, wearing a traditional loincloth and holding a spear, he was presented to the Queen.
He made several more films, but it was the 1986 hit Crocodile Dundee, in which he starred with Paul Hogan, that really thrust Gulpilil into the international spotlight. He was awarded the Order of Australia for services to the arts in 1987, and subsequently appeared in critically acclaimed films including Philip Noyce's Rabbit Proof Fence, about the "stolen generations" of indigenous children.
But the charismatic actor, who was born under a tree and still hunts crocodiles, always had trouble bestriding the two worlds represented by Hollywood and Arnhem Land. In recent years, he has twice been prosecuted for drink-driving. He has also been convicted previously of domestic violence.
Yesterday in court he looked thin and bedraggled. The magistrate, John Lowndes, said that while his crime could "not be excused in any way" it was "sad to have to sentence a person who had made such a valuable contribution".
Independent News Service