Bille Brown, AM (born 1952) is an Australian Shakespearean actor and acclaimed writer of plays.
Brown was born in Biloela, Queensland and studied drama at the University of Queensland where he received and Honorary Doctorate of Letters. He began his career at Queensland Theatre Company, working alongside Geoffrey Rush.
He also appeared with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford and London, in England.
Bille Brown has also appeared in movies, including: Fierce Creatures (as "Neville"), The Dish (as "the Prime Minister"), Oscar and Lucinda (as "Percy Smith") and Singularity.
Bille Brown has been a visiting Professor at the State University of New York at New Paltz, and has also appeared on stage at Broadway in New York.
In 1996 he directed the Australian stage production of Over the Top with Jim which exceeded box office expectations.
Brown began his career as an actor with Queensland Theatre Company in the early 1970s.
Bille's career took him abroad to Britain where he joined the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), and was the first Australian commissioned to write and perform in their own play The Swan Down Gloves. The show opened the Barbican Theatre (RSC's Home theatre from 1982 2002) and had a royal command performance. As a member of the RSC (between 1976 1982, 86 88 and 94 96) Bille toured with their productions throughout Europe, playing Paris, Vienna, Berlin and Munich. He also appeared in the RSC's premiere production of The Wizard of Oz in the gender-bending roles of The Wicked Witch of the West and Miss Gulch.
Whilst working in the United Kingdom Bille also performed in the West End, at The Aldwych and Haymarket theatres, the Chichester Festival Theatre, English National Opera and Dublin Theatre Festival. Whilst performing onstage at Stratford he was spotted by John Cleese who cast him in Fierce Creatures, the sequel to A Fish Called Wanda.
In New York City, Brown made his Broadway debut as an actor in Michael Frayn's Wild Honey with Ian McKellen directed by Christopher Morahan in 1986, and as a playwright with his adaptation of a benefit performance of A Christmas Carol in 1985, featuring Helen Hayes, Len Cariou as Scrooge, MacIntyre Dixon, Celeste Holm, Raul Julia, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Harold Scott, Carole Shelley, and Fritz Weaver, directed by W. Stuart McDowell. He was also an Artist-in-residence at the State University of New York in 1982.
Although Bille had performed in some productions for the Queensland Theatre Company (and even written some plays) during the 1980s, he finally returned to Australia to live permanently in 1996 and had huge success with his role as Count Almaviva in Beaumarchais' The Marriage of Figaro, with Geoffrey Rush, which opened the new Optus Playhouse in Brisbane in September 1998. In 1999 he also had major success in Sydney and subsequently throughout Australia as Oscar Wilde in the Belvoir St production of David Hare's The Judas Kiss. The same year he accepted an offer to be Adjunct Professor in the School of English, Media Studies and Art History at The University of Queensland and has given workshops and master classes for drama students.
In 2009 Bille wrote and performed in Queensland Theatre Company's The School of Arts. The play follows the story of the old 'College Players' who toured Shakespeare through Queensland in the late 1960s. Geoffrey Rush has said of Bille's play The School of Arts, "A great work from a great Queensland man of the theatre".
Bille Brown was awarded an AM (Member of the Order of Australia) in the Australia Day Honours' List 2011.
Bille has performed in numerous films and his credits include
- At World's End
- Dying Breed
- Black and White
- The Man Who Sued God
- The Beach
- Walk the Talk
- The Dish
- Oscar and Lucinda
- Fierce Creatures
- Killer Elite
- The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
- Miss Fisher's Murder Mystery
- Wild Boys
- Three Acts of Murder
- White Collar Blue
- Indiana Jones Chronicles
- Bad Cop Bad Cop
- The Farm
- All Saints
- A Difficult Woman
- Big Sky
- The Kennedys
Bille has had an outstanding career on stage and has performed for many leading Australian Theatre companies including Queensland Theatre Company, Sydney Theatre Company, Bell Shakespeare Company, Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne Theatre Company, Company B, State Theatre Company of South Australia, Marian St Theatre, La Boite and the Old Tote Theatre at the Sydney Opera House.
During the Queensland Theatre Company's night-time performance, at the Albert Park Amphitheatre, in Brisbane, of William Shakespeare's play, "Much Ado About Nothing" (which had been reset in Messina over eight days during July, 1936), an airliner flew over the amphitheatre. Bille Brown, who was alone on stage at the time in the character of Benedick, stopped his soliloquy in mid-sentence and walked to the edge of the stage and looked up at the airliner. He then looked directly at the audience and said "reassuringly": It's okay, it's one of ours Alitalia!.
During a performance of David Hare's The Judas Kiss about Oscar Wilde, a fierce thunder storm drowned out the play, the roof of the theatre opened and hail dropped in Wilde's glass. Brown as Wilde, one of his career defining roles, spoke to the audience. The God's have spoken about this particular performace. He is playing Bruscon, the insane actor in the Thomas Bernhard's Der TheatreMacher in Melbourne & Sydney. In the final scene of that play the roof opens and rain pours in drenching the Living National Treasure - Life imitating Art imitating Life... and so on
Brown as Wilde