Five places that made me: Actor John Jarratt


My favourite view on the planet is from the front of our house in Wongawilli, my childhood village, sitting on the swing that Dad built (of course) and looking down the hill over the rusty tin roofs of the miners' cottages, across the flat, past the gently rolling, emerald green dairy farms to Dapto, three miles away. Beyond that, you can see Lake Illawarra, then the piece de resistance, the Pacific Ocean.


When I was 12, my dad got a job in the Snowy Mountains at Island Bend, near Perisher. In the mornings, I loved looking out and seeing everything covered in snow; fluffy powder drifting out of the clouds like God had ripped open a giant pillow. This is such a magnificent early memory. I couldn't believe the silence: no wind, just millions of big fluffy snowflakes. In an instant, my siblings and I would be outside in the freezing cold, in our pyjamas and bare feet, not feeling a thing except the sting of snowballs ricocheting off our cheeks and foreheads.


I made the big move from the country to Sydney in early February, 1971, having been accepted into the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA). On my first day, it was hot so I wore board shorts, a T-shirt and a pair of thongs. Everyone else was dressed to the nines, one even wore a full fur. I'd never met a homosexual before, and I realised that, for the first time in my life, I was a minority. I was a straight boy from the bush, in what seemed to be a room full of sophisticated gays of both sexes.


In 1975, I had the privilege of working with the great director Peter Weir on the film, Picnic At Hanging Rock. Hanging Rock itself is extraordinary. You can feel the ancient spirit of the place; it's the same kind of feeling I get from Uluru. I was too young to know it at the time, but Peter was the best director I have ever worked with. I don't have many regrets, but one is that I've never had the opportunity to work with him again. He taught me subtlety. I will always feel a strong connection to Hanging Rock.



Ah, the tropics. My wife, Rosa, and I holidayed there in 2012. Off to lunch at Horseshoe Bay, back for a swim at Arcadia and dinner at Peppers in Nelly Bay, looking over the warm Coral Sea subtly lit by a yellow moon, God's lantern in the sky. The next day we drove down a rugged track in  a 4WD Mercedes to Florence Bay, a beautiful beach between Horseshoe and Arcadia that had somehow been saved from development, an untouched piece of paradise. If Sydney was close to Magnetic Island my life would be near perfect.


In 1975, Rosa, who is Italian, and I visited Venice. We found this quaint Renaissance boutique hotel overlooking the Grand Canal. We opened the shutters to see six crowded Gondolas tied together. Two tenors from the Milan Opera were on board singing. We looked back to our beautifully appointed little room, then looked at each other. Doesn't get more romantic than that. In 2013, back together with Rosa after a 27-year break in our relationship, we went to Venice for the film festival. It was a completion of a romantic circle.

John Jarratt's directorial debut, StalkHer opens in cinemas nationally on August 27. See His autobiography, Bastard From The Bush, will be released on October 1, through The Five Mile Press.