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Tony Barry, the veteran Australian film and television actor who starred in cult Kiwi comedy Goodbye Pork Pie and had a long-running role in the television drama series The Time of Our Lives, has died. He was 81.
Barry’s friend, the New Zealand filmmaker Gaylene Preston, wrote on Facebook that the actor had died in Murwillumbah, Australia after a long illness. “He was one of a kind. A fierce fighter for the underdog, working for indigenous rights and as part of rehabilitation [programs] in the justice system and for the environment,” Preston wrote.
“Tony Barry gone – lovely man, terrific actor and hero of mine. Sad today,” tweeted Sam Neill who starred with Barry in Michael Blakemore’s Country Life.
Born on Aug. 28, 1941, in Queensland, Australia, Barry made his screen debut in 1968 in the television series Skippy: the Bush Kangaroo, which he followed with appearances in various Australian TV shows including The Box and Matlock Police.
He made his feature debut in Kevin James Dobson’s 1977 period drama The Mango Tree and in the following years racked up over 160 film and television credits. His most notable film roles include the Ken Hannam drama Break of Day (1976), Terry Bourke’s Little Boy Lost (1978), Phillip Noyce’s critically acclaimed Newsfront (1979), John Laing’s Beyond Reasonable Doubt (1980) and Dušan Makavejev’s The Coca-Cola Kid (1985), Park Chan-wook’s Lady Vengeance (2005) and Baz Luhrmann’s sprawling epic Australia (2008).
Barry’s most memorable role came in Geoff Murphy’s 1981 Kiwi comedy Goodbye Pork Pie. In the film, Barry starred as John, a man whose girlfriend leaves him and flies home to Invercargill, and so he decides to drive all the way south from Auckland to talk to her in his now iconic yellow Mini 1000.
Goodbye Pork Pie became an important milestone in New Zealand cinema, becoming the first locally-made film that became a large-scale success. The film’s success and cultural impact in New Zealand bestowed Barry with “honorary Kiwi” status and he became the only Australian to feature on an NZ postage stamp. The film was remade in 2016 as Pork Pie, with Dean O’Gorman playing John.
Barry’s most notable recent television role came in the Australian Broadcasting Corp. drama The Time of Our Lives. He starred as Ray Tivolli in the series, but in 2013 mid-way through production he suffered a health crisis, losing his left leg after a decade-long battle with melanoma. The real-life amputation was written into the series with Ray losing his leg after an accident, with Barry shown in recovery and learning how to walk again.
“I was able to talk to the producers and scriptwriters about what losing a leg means in terms of (basic things like) Ray getting into the shower,” Barry told News.com.au.
He also starred in the Australian television series Harrow and The End.
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