VETERAN Australian stage actor Bille Brown has died after a short battle with bowel cancer.Brown, 61, a lifelong friend of Academy Award winner Geoffrey Rush, was one of the first actors to join the Queensland Theatre Company (QTC).
He died on Sunday at Brisbane's Holy Spirit Northside Hospital in Chermside, two days after his birthday, and surrounded by friends. He was hospitalised a week ago.
QTC artistic director Wesley Enoch described Brown on Sunday evening as a distinguished individual and a superb actor, forging the way for so many and most certainly putting Queensland on the map.
His work with the QTC spanned four decades, following his first main stage production in 1971, Wrong Side of the Moon.
He was cast in 29 productions and produced four of his own written works.
In recognising his contribution and support for the arts in Queensland, The Bille Brown Studio was officially opened in 2002.
It is now home to QTCs Greenhouse program, a space for emerging artists, new works, ideas and constant debate.
"The artistic community of Queensland and Australia has lost a true gentleman. We are part of Bille's legacy," Mr Enoch said. "Every actor, playwright, director, stage manager, designer, musician and all the teams who work in theatre in Queensland owe Bille a huge debt.
"He brought a sense of adventure, love and respect. His talent and love survives in us all."
The Biloela-born actor worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company for a number of years between 1976 and 1996 and toured throughout Europe with them.
His film work includes roles in The Chronicles of Narnia (2010), The Dish (2000) and Oscar and Lucinda (1997).
Queensland Arts Minister Ros Bates said Brown's death was a tremendous loss for the arts and audiences alike. "I would like to express my deepest sympathies to Mr Brown's family, friends and fellow artists who worked beside him over more than four decades as an actor, writer and director," Ms Bates said.
She said Brown had left an impressive legacy of major roles in dozens of productions for every leading theatre company in Australia and New York, as well as in the UK, where he worked for the Royal Shakespeare Company.
He was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia in 2011 for his service to the performing arts as an actor and playwright.
He was also made an honorary Queensland Doctorate of Letters from the University of Queensland.
Born: 1/11/1952, Biloela, Queensland, Australia
Died: 1/13/2013, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Billie Brown’s western – actor:Wild Boys (TV) – 2011 (Booth)