George Ogilvie, Co-Director of 'Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome,' Dies at 89

'Mad Max Thunderdome' (1985) Still — Photofest — H 2020
Warner Bros./Photofest

Russell Crowe, whom he guided in his film debut, called him "a gifted teacher in art, theater and life."

George Ogilvie, who co-directed the 1985 action film Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome with George Miller and guided Russell Crowe in his big-screen debut, has died. He was 89.

Ogilvie died Sunday of cardiac arrest at the Braidwood Hospital in New South Wales, his niece Heather Ogilvie told The Hollywood Reporter. He had been suffering from emphysema for years.

It was in the 1990 Australian romantic drama The Crossing that Crowe, then 26, first appeared on a film screen.

Ogilvie recalled Crowe arriving late to his audition, disheveled and out of breath. "He was desperate, but from the moment he walked in he knew he belonged there," he said in 2016.

"He was a force. He worked hard, but he did expect everyone around him to work hard as well, there was no give and take. None of the crew liked him, thought he was an arrogant little pisspot."

Ogilvie also was instrumental in the growing popularity of the miniseries in Australia, directing an episode of the 1983 political drama The Dismissal and the 1984 historical cricket series Bodyline, both produced by Miller and Byron Kennedy.

In the 1980s, Miller gave into temptation and began crafting a third film in his acclaimed Mad Max series. His producing partner Kennedy had died at 33 in a 1983 helicopter crash, and Miller needed to "do something just to get over the shock and grief of all that."

As a result, Ogilvie, his colleague and mentor, stepped in as co-director on Beyond Thunderdome. It was his first feature.

"And it, in a way of all the films, it's the one I have most affection for of the [first] three films," Miller said in an oral history.

Thunderdome starred Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence, Frank Thring and Tina Turner, whose power ballad "We Don't Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)" received both Golden Globe and Grammy nominations.

Ogilvie also directed the 1987 miniseries The Shiralee, starring Bryan Brown and Noni Hazlehurst, and 11 episodes of the cop drama Blue Heelers.

His other features were Short Changed (1986) and The Place at the Coast (1987).

Crowe called Ogilvie in a tweet "a gifted teacher in art, theatre and life" and said it was was "a deep privilege to have known" him.

"There is still a resonance daily in my life from the things he taught me. Ah precious Mr Ogilvie, this is a sad moment indeed.  The Shiralee, Short Changed, The Crossing. Brilliant man."

Ogilvie was born a twin to Scottish parents on March 5, 1931, in Goulburn, New South Wales.

At age 20, he and his mother set sail for England. Determined to break through as a theater actor, he ended up at a family theatrical company called Jimmy James, where he learned his craft in front of an audience each night.

"I have never forgotten the fact that for me, creativity — in terms of entertainment or performing or whatever — is a family affair, has always been, whether it's in my family or in the family I found in England," he said in 2006. "And ever since then as an actor and a director, I think I've searched for family."

While in Europe, he studied mime under French stage coach Jacques Lecoq.

Upon his return to Australia, he was urged by noted theater directors Walt Cherry and John Sumner to consider directing. He was reluctant to forgo the acting career but "began to understand and realize that everything that I'd learned, both in music and dance and in the theater, seemed to come together as a director, and I began to enjoy it."

Sumner persuaded him to become associate director of the Melbourne Theater Company. Ogilvie directed 23 plays and received three Melbourne Theater Critics Awards before transitioning to artistic director of the South Australian Theatre Company.

In the mid-1970s, Ogilvie had a spiritual awakening, studied Siddha Yoga and flew to an Indian ashram where he meditated for one month. Upon his return, he began a pilgrimage to Israel, camping next to the Sea of Galilee.

In 1979, the New South Welshman was approached by British ballet dancer and teacher Peggy van Praagh to direct a revival of the 19th century comic ballet Coppélia for the Australian Ballet Company. He returned to the show's 2016 revival as an adviser.

Appointed a member of the Order of Australia in 1983 for services to the theater and performing arts, he received the Byron Kennedy Award in 1988 from the Australian Film Institute for services to the film industry. In 2006, he published his autobiography, Simple Gifts — A Life in the Theatre.

His final film credit was a bit part in The Water Diviner (2014), a drama directed by Crowe.