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David Gulpilil death: Actor’s generosity led to him struggling financially

How Indigenous actor David Gulpilil’s generosity to family and friends left him struggling financially before he died from lung cancer – despite starring in some of Australia’s most acclaimed films










David Gulpilil suffered financial hardship in the years before his death, after giving away most of his money to members of his family and the community.

The Indigenous actor and artist died at his home in Murray Bridge, South Australia, on Monday at the age of 68, following a battle with lung cancer.

Despite starring in iconic Australian films such as Storm Boy, Charlie’s Country, Ten Canoes, Rabbit-Proof Fence, Crocodile Dundee and The Tracker, Gulpilil was never a wealthy man because he would often donate his earnings to others.

Indigenous actor and artist David Gulpilil suffered financial hardship in the years before his death, after giving away most of his money to members of his family and the community. (Gulpilil’s family has given permission for his name and image to continue to be used after his death, in accordance with his wishes)

In an extract from Derek Rielly’s new book, titled Gulpilil, he explained how the actor was always ‘crying poor’.

‘He’ll come in and he’ll give away all the money he made on a film, sometimes pretty good money. He’ll give it all away. And everyone expected him to,’ Mr Rielly wrote.

He also revealed how drinking took a toll on Gulpilil in the last decade of his life.

Gulpilil was sentenced to a year in jail in 2011 after breaking his wife Miriam Ashley’s arm with a broom in a drunken fight.

Generous: Despite starring in iconic Australian films such as Storm Boy, Ten Canoes, Rabbit-Proof Fence, Crocodile Dundee and The Tracker, Gulpilil was never a wealthy man because he would often donate his earnings to others. Pictured: Gulpilil and his wife, Miriam Ashley

Generous: Despite starring in iconic Australian films such as Storm Boy, Ten Canoes, Rabbit-Proof Fence, Crocodile Dundee and The Tracker, Gulpilil was never a wealthy man because he would often donate his earnings to others. Pictured: Gulpilil and his wife, Miriam Ashley

Dutch-Australian film director Rolf de Heer visited him in jail and promised him a role in his new film.

Following his release, Gulpilil gave up drinking and played the lead role in the 2013 film Charlie’s Country.

Gulpilil, who won global fame for his performance in Crocodile Dundee, died at his home in Murray Bridge on Monday.

The multi-talented performer was immortalised in an Archibald Prize-winning portrait in 2004 and once danced for The Queen.

His daughter Phoebe Marson announced two years ago that her father had been diagnosed with the aggressive cancer and he would soon ‘go to the Dreamtime’.

'He'll come in and he'll give away all the money he made on a film, sometimes pretty good money. He'll give it all away. And everyone expected him to,' author Derek Rielly wrote in his book Gulpilil. Pictured: Gulpilil with fellow Australian actor Cate Blanchett in 2009

‘He’ll come in and he’ll give away all the money he made on a film, sometimes pretty good money. He’ll give it all away. And everyone expected him to,’ author Derek Rielly wrote in his book Gulpilil. Pictured: Gulpilil with fellow Australian actor Cate Blanchett in 2009

Gulpilil received an Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards nomination for best supporting actor for his 2002 turn in ‘Rabbit-Proof Fence’ directed by Phillip Noyce.

The film follows the story of three Aboriginal girls who in 1931 were taken from their communities and resettled at the Moore River Native Settlement north of Perth, as they escape and make their way back to their families.

Gulpilil played an Aboriginal tracker enlisted by white law enforcement to help find the girls.

And that same year he also won the AACTA Award for best lead actor for his title role in The Tracker directed by Rolf de Heer which he would later call his best work.

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