Rachel Ward

Rachel Ward

This scion of an aristocratic British family left school at 16 to pursue a career as a fashion model. With her lustrous brown hair, expressive eyes and slightly exotic features (no typical English rose she), Ward was soon in demand appearing on magazine covers and eventually moving into making appearances in TV commercials. It was perhaps inevitable that she would segue to acting, making her film debut in the forgettable thriller "Night School" (1981). Legend has it that Burt Reynolds spotted her photograph in an advertisement in Time magazine and pursued her for the role of a doomed prostitute in "Sharkey's Machine" (also 1981). That role, unfortunately, led Hollywood to typecast the beauty who essayed a series of femmes fatales in fare like "Against All Odds" (1984) and "After Dark, My Sweet" (1990). Ward became an international star, however, with her turn as the headstrong Meggie in "The Thorn Birds." While not a technically brilliant performer (like say Meryl Streep), she still managed to acquit herself, taking the character from young adulthood into old age, and she had a palpable chemistry with her two leading men, Richard Chamberlain (as the priest) and Bryan Brown (as her wayward spouse). Indeed, she and Brown became an off-screen couple and married in 1983. Relocating to Australia, Ward concentrated on her marriage and raising a family, taking only the occasional acting role. She and Brown reunited on screen for the underrated Australian period drama "The Good Wife/The Umbrella Woman" (1987), in which she essayed a sexually frustrated Australian female who pursues disastrous relationships with a series of unsatisfying men. In 1991, Ward was one of a quartet caught up in murder in the based-on-fact CBS miniseries "And the Sea Will Tell." She was slightly miscast as Queen Isabella in "Christopher Columbus: The Discovery" (1992) and wasted in a cameo appearance as the heroine's unbalanced mother in "Wide Sargasso Sea" (1993). Around this time, Ward returned to college and did post-graduate studies in communications in Sydney, eventually channeling her interest in writing into making short films. Her first, "Overdose" grew out of a project for one of her children's primary school mentoring programs. The seven-minute film landed a berth at Sydney's Tropfest film festival and led to a secondary career as a filmmaker. Her second short, the love story "Blindman's Bluff" (1999), was screened at the St Kilda Film Festival and her third, "The Big House" (2000), was selected for the shorts program at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival.Although she was enjoying success behind the camera, Ward did not abandon acting. She acted in the luridly titled (and somewhat ludicrous) TV-movie "My Stepson, My Lover" (USA Network, 1997), but was seen to better effect as a 19th-century farm wife in the heartwarming "Seasons of Love" (CBS, 1999). In 2000, she and Brown reteamed as former lovers caught up in a love triangle in a post-nuclear war world in the Showtime miniseries remake of "On the Beach."