Longtime girlfriend Kate Agnew (since 1994)
Eliza Jane (born October 10, 2003),
Millie (born November ?, 2008)
"The thinking woman's crumpet", "Australia’s sexiest man alive",
"the funniest guys on the planet" (Hugh Jackman).
COUNTRY OF PERMANENT RESIDENCE: Australia, Sydney
"I’m just an actor who’s been in some successful movies. The concept of a star is I have a hard time defining".
"I wonder whether we've seen everything he can do".
Jessica Hobbs, director
Pedagogical Poem or "Where is the key?"
There is a suburb under the name Marrickville on the western outskirts of Sydney. It is an usual town: a lot of shops, small restaurants, a railway station... Long since here used to settle
Greek emigrants. Besides in its centre, near the building of a town hall, there is the biggest
bronze monument of Australia - a four-meter Winged Victory - the monument to victims of the World War I. Probably that's all, except for the most important (for us) thing: just here on the 21st of September,1965, in an unknown to anybody working-class family of Bill and Kath Wenham was born a boy named Dave. It was a model Catholic family and by the time of David's appearance in the house of his parents there was no room to swing a cat. To tell the truth, the eldest son, Peter, became adult to that time, but except him Bill and Kath Wenham had a whole blooming flower-bed: Helen, Anne, Carmel, Kathy and Maree.
The seventh child in a poor pious family! It was no danger for David to become molly-coddle and favourite! However, when little Dave went each evening to his bed, located, for lack of other
place, on the kitchen floor, he couldn't think, he had a difficult childhood! What he had enough - that was a general attention! You could try not to pay attention to this restless redheaded miracle!
Dave was a really disaster! (despite of a rather harmless nickname, Daisy, which he has got from one of the sisters). No, he hadn't anything bad in his mind, only he liked to tell stories and liked to have laughing people around him. It wasn't his fault that Catholic teachers from Christian Brothers School in Lewisham didn't find in his jokes anything amusing. There was no such face
which intolerable boy couldn't make, there was no such man, which he could not mimic.
Well, he made it out of place and out of time…But it all depends! The class roared with laughter gratefully! For that success one could suffer: to be sent out of the class, to stand in a corner, to get a thrashing. For a long time the parents and the teachers suffered from the question: where is the key to him?
Finally, wisdom overcame and for the energy of a mischief-maker was found a use!
It would be interesting to know if that unknown teacher, which legalized David's parody sessions as encouragement for his good behavior, and the father, which began to buy for the son the theatrical subscriptions as a gift on Christmas and on a birthday knew, what service they had done to the culture? Not likely!
It was important for them to keep the boy busy. Wenham's family never had not only actors, even theatre fans! And nobody thought where the puppet show of little Dave was leading. The scenic career of our hero began at the age of six with the performances of self-made dolls! An excellent beginning!
Genius is 99% perspiration... or "Things greatest of all in beginnings are smal"
While little Dave devoted himself to ordinary school performances, his mum Kath kept quiet.
But when the time came to find his way in life, and her adored boy refused to give up his toys, the wise woman panicked: "Where are you going, Dave?" Nearly the same was told him in NIDA (National Institute of Drama Art) - in one of the best actor's educational institution of Australia.
More difficulties - more the result! It is a point of resilient and pliant Dave! He will find plusses even in such situation! Not taken in NIDA? There are plenty of others educational institutions, University of Western Sydney, for example, which has organized Drama school
at Theatre of Nepean just that year. Need money for the study? Will the young and vigorous man really not earn a fair wage? You can sell insurance policies or call bingo in bingo interiors and even participate in bowling competitions: not for fee, but for food.
The young student spent all free time in a small tin shed, where, accompanied with the same fancies, did what he liked to do most of all: rehearsing, rehearsing and rehearsing.
The conditions were Spartans (excuse me for the pun). "...What it did was force us to use what we had within us... and I think it made us more resilient and I think it exercised our imagination in a really wonderful way." So, according to the David's theory, the failure in NIDA has made him a good actor. It was noticed very soon at theatre, but, alas, not so soon at cinema. This way wasn't covered with roses and very many trials expected him on it.
The first trial - to hell with the inborn bashfulness! From the very beginning David was possessed by his keenness on theatre till selflessness: had he in the name of art to shave a head - no problem, had he to pierce his ear - no problem, had he to strip to the skin on the stage - it's OK... But don't tell Mum and Dad, or they will be very upset. Succeeded!
The second trial - to hell with the pride! A slender, red-haired young lad with the boyish delicate features was not welcome on screen. Casting agents looked through his pictures doubtfully:
suited only for episodes. David didn't scorn any job in order to be nearer to the theatre, to breathe that surprising unique atmosphere, which excited him. Mother Kath only shook her head
disapprovingly: a wounded soldier, a hotel guard, a bank-teller, Frank # 2... Do you mean this is a career? Passed!
The third trial, the most difficult - to hell with the success! You have to go further, without looking back and stopping! Theatrical directors were the first, who noticed David. No wonder! Was it fortune or result of his painstaking work, but David was lucky to work in the most popular theatrical companies with the best directors, such as Neil Armfield from Belvour Street Theatre. To his 30th anniversary he had a service record made him the envy of any of young actors: Laerts in “Hamlet” and Alonso in "Tempest", Cleante in "Tartuffe". The critics started to talk about his many-sided talent: 1991 he frightened the audience as a terrible sadist Brett Spargue in the play "The Boys", and three years later he touched the same audience in the role of the twelve-years boy, who was trying to get to know a true sense of life ("That Eye The Sky").
But the film industry attracted David intuitively and irrepressible more and more. He tried to conquer this bastion fully armed with his unpretentious charm and growing acting technique. At last, the white flag was hung out! Once directors decided to pay attention to the guy with unusual red hair and sky-blue eyes, and it turned out, that they didn't lose! In 1997 David with a sinking with pride heart brought to his parents' home and erected on their mantelpiece a weighty crystal polyhedron - the most prestigious actor's award in the country - the award of the Australian Institute of Film (AFI). He has got it for his role in the television drama series Simone De Beauvoir's Babies. Dusting a trophy, Mum Kath sadly sighed: "You would better sell the insurances, sonny!" She still didn't believe, she still didn't know... David's trials were coming to the end. His hour has come...
Features of national fishing, or "Everything comes to him who waits"
His hour has come... Better to say, his year has come, the year of his international and national triumph. An interesting paradox: the glory came, when he grew a beard! A ginger stubble hid
a touching fragility and a children's expression of simplicity. And his outstanding talent began to sparkle with new deep nuances. First was Brett Spargue with his freezing glance. "The Boys"
threw a bomb into native and international cinemas, as in the case with theatres six years earlier. Then was something, for what shy David couldn't find an explanation. All the years of a hard work, tens of roles didn't bring him such a result, which has hooked a sloppy and slack fisherman from a Pearl Bay! All women starting with granddaughters until grandmothers stuck to TV-screens and were watching with unheard-off interest a development of the plot in a TV series "SeaChange". It is astonishing, that all Australian ladies joined the fans of charming blameless Diver Dan. Not spoiled with their attention before, David had to become acquainted with all the amenities of sexual psychosis. How many times he tried in his fright to prove his innocence: "It’s nothing to do with me! It’s only my job, ladies!" It was useless! You had to weigh it before! It is a magic strength of art: the audience is always right! Were you able to deceive it one time - you have to bear your cress for ever!
After "The Boys" people feared to step up to him! After "SeaChange" he was labeled as the "Australian's sexiest man alive" and moreover, for slow-witted, - "the thinking woman's crumpet". What has he not done afterwards! What roles has he not had! Priests, transvestites, drug addicts, freaks, - nothing could help and anything will hardly help. Mother Kath lost a gift of speech. That is to say, she never mentioned the insurance company any more. She had only to be astonished at amazing wisdom of her adorable son, who didn't show any signs of degradation, which is always accompanying a success. Moreover he never tried to exploit a happy image of Diver Dan! He had neither time nor desire for that.
Nevertheless, the Christian Brothers School in Lewisham has given a firm foundation to its pupil. Even when it is considered that the most part of the school time this pupil spent out of the class.
Immunity to star fever, or "Sorry, guys, I have to be at Christmas Parties"
"I never wanted to become a public figure. All I wanted to do was become an actor, work in theatre, come out and have a beer and be anonymous", he will say later. Poor David! Or cunning? However, it quite could be so. The most amazing in this story is the fact that David despite of all his talents and diligence is sincerely sure that his success was caused by the incredible luck. Whatever one may say, the glory has fallen on him like a snow on an Australian and just at that time when one stopped to wait. However, compliant David has seen in it an important advantage: "I'm glad this success is happening to me now, when I'm more prepared for it. I'm more realistic about how tenuous it is, the fact that everything can disappear tomorrow". It was said 1999. The fans were still embracing their TV-sets in hope Diver Dan will be back from the Galapagos, where he had sailed at the end of the fifteenth series. (The fans have been waiting for his coming back for several years - a rare case in the history of the TV-serials).
On the Hawaii was finished a shooting of his first international film: "Molokai: The story of Father Damien”. (The film, which David, with his Catholic education and a compassionate heart, remembers with a great enthusiasm). At that time with a huge success a world famous Parisian hit "Art" with his participation was on a stage of Sydney's Theatre Royal. (There was a severe competition among Australian actors because of roles in this play). But David was philosophically reflecting on a transience of the fame, stumping journalists with his untypical
The time has come for the journalists to puzzle over the problem, where is his key? All their attempts to make of David a glamour figure failed, coming into conflict with David's good breeding and his stubbornness. He was able to tell for hours about his work, about his looking for every character all around and in himself, about his vast dialogues with characters, in which he tries to catch their individual characteristic, about his nervousness and suffering as long as he feels, he transforms into other people completely! But if you want to make it worst of all you have to ask David about his private life, about his attitude to his popularity and his status as a "sex-symbol". Or you have only to ask if he is eager to get the "Oscar" in the future! You would never find the most boring and bromide man!
Anyhow in one thing Wenham was right: his success was indeed tenuous. It was tenuous compared to that what was coming: a staggeringly successful "Bank", which has been shot like the other movie "The Boys" in a team with the best friends - Robert Connolly and Rowan Woods. It was coming a startling Johnny Spit from "Gettin' Square" with a great number of prestigious awards. It was coming a team-work with such famous people of the World cinema as Baz Luhrmann ("Moulin Rouge") and Milcho Manchevski ("Dust"). It was coming a prominent Faramir from a legendary Peter Jackson's trilogy "The Lord of the Rings" and a super successful attack on the Hollywood with a super cash film "Van Helsing", thanks to those roles the fan’s movement has got a global scale and finally has come to Russia!!!
Hollywood!!! A key to a world glory! A sweet dream for everybody, who considers himself as an actor! As they say, all roads go to Hollywood! It is a bad actor, who isn't dreaming of Hollywood! Especially the actor, which twelve years had only unimportant roles in unpretending Australian movies and suddenly became world-famed…
Let’s talk about his strangeness. From all potential candidates for the own Star in the Hollywood avenue David was the most unpractical, intractable and short-sighted. Whether it was his world success or the sudden approached fatherhood (at the age of 38), but international fans of this charming and talented actor some years were looking vainly for his name on the posters of the Hollywood's premieres. An actor, who has built a reputation of a broad specialist, who could play ABSOLUTELY any role, from an episode to a leading role, from attractive heroes to effeminates persons, from furious villains to amusing cranks, from handsome men to frights, cowboys, monks, lovers, transvestites, real men, killers, poets, scientists, rascals, madmen, saints, losers, leaders, swindlers, rapists, knights, cutthroat, - in short, ANY ROLE, - this actor
behaved unpredictable and even abusively for Hollywood. He preferred to stay in a native Sydney, to be shot in Australian movies, which budget could be distinguished only under a microscope, and to play on a stage of the Melbourne Theatre Company ("The Wild West", "Cyrano de Bergerac").
What was it? A challenge? A revolt? The obstinate Australian built himself up? "They thought that I was absolutely foolish, they could not understand this solution at all", he added later.
Meanwhile he has explained so often clearly: "I try to be a good person. It’s as simple as that. A lot of the time, I don't succeed at all. I'm as messed up as the next person. It is a strange business... It's easy to be consumed by the madness that is Hollywood" And once more: "The one thing I suppose I'm pretty good at is saying no. Which is hard to actors. Even in the early days, when nobody really knew me, I was prepared to say no to projects I didn't consider worthwhile". And here he said everything in clear: "In that particular case it was. It was to do a play, and that was three years ago in Melbourne. I'd agreed to do a play in Melbourne which was a stage production of Sam Sheppard's play True West and I was in the subscription season and then an offer did come my way from overseas, and no, I couldn't - I couldn't turn down what I'd agreed to do to go to America". A typically Russian fine gesture, isn't it? Like an old good Russian joke! A Russian actor was offered a role in a Hollywood film destined in advance to "Oscar". The actor has scratched his head and answered: "No, sorry, guys, I can't at the moment, it's December, and I have to be at Christmas Parties".
Wait for me and... "I’ll be back!"
At first sight very much in Wenham's career seems to be illogical and chaotic: as if the fate plays him like a shuttlecock, throwing here and there. First he plays in a deep serious film, then in a light film "for popcorn", sometimes in a low budget project, sometimes in a mega budget,
first theatre, then TV, sometimes melodrama, sometimes action, famous directors and little known debutants. But nobody from David's acquaintances can say it is light-mindedness.
“For all his diffidence, the accidental actor has had a judicious, measured career” – said about him director Robert Connolly. “I am not driven by the dollar, but by projects which stimulate me… invite me to be completely involved. I need a character to fascinate and intrigue me” – explained David this idea. A little later he added: “I’m an actor. My job is to entertain. But I have a conscience, so I am attracted to work that appeals to me along specific lines, namely Three Dollars, The Bank, The Boys. But my primary motivation isn’t to preach, it’s to entertain. Along the way, if I can affect people’s opinions, that’s fabulous”.
“That’s not to say that I won’t in the future. Hollywood’s a big place and they make all sorts of different movies. Some movies I’m attracted to; a lot of the movies I’m not. But there are some terrifically talented people over there that I’d love to work with”. Thank God! How encouragingly it sounds for the Russian fans, which are bound in the vice of the native distribution aligned only with Hollywood’s production! Now with a great relief and hope we can say – David Wenham comes back to the world screen. And this return should be triumphal! In spring 2007 in cinemas over the world has started the most long-awaited Hollywood’s blockbuster of the year – a screen version of the graphic novel by Frank Miller – “300”.
David plays in it almost the most important role: a warrior, a friend of the king Leonidas, a hero, wounded in the battle by Thermopylae, a narrator and, moreover, an only survived! Of course you would agree, it was very fortunate in case of sequel’s shooting?
An effective appearance, as always a deep emotional subdued play without effort and narcissism and, of course, a heroic entourage… Prepare for Glory, David! This time it would be very, very serious!
But Wenham still abides by his actor’s credo. In April 2007 in North Australia started a shooting of the mightiest project in a history of the world cinema with the splendid Baz Luhrmann
(“Romeo and Juliet”, “Moulin Rouge”) at the head and with no less splendid star staff: Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman. And if their theatrical characters are planned for years, a universal Wenham, who was at last appreciated at his true value by Luhrmann (and it must be said from the third time, taking into account his test for the first Luhrman’s film and an episodic role in the second one). Now Wenham is playing a principal villain to spite his Spartans feats of arms. But how has said a certain Josh Tyler from Cinema Blend: “I’m happy to see David Wenham in just about anything…the more Wenham the better”. We only have to join this splendid slogan! The more Wenham the better!!! Haven’t we convinced you yet?
And all of it is about him… or "Thirty years later"
David Wenham has passed a long and difficult way to the top of world glory. He has made it by fair and honorable means, which an actor could permit himself: he relied only on his gift and diligence; he always worked for the art and not for his pocket’s filling, he didn't walk over somebody’s head, he didn’t boast of his sex appeal, didn’t abuse his fans’ enthusiasm. That's why his way was so long.
Finally everything has cleared up. David is the most popular actor and came to be in great demand in his homeland (we hope the same soon for Hollywood). He has a good reputation as an actor of a great range, who never repeats himself in a choice of roles, he has a name of a deep, many-sided, solid actor, which is able to generate a stunning energy and this almost effortless,
he has a reputation of an actor, who is able to play subtle emotional shades, a name of a careful observer of the slightest details in a human behavior, a reputation of a blameless professional, which is in earnest about his work.
But there is still something, what journalists have named "Wenham's factor". Psychologists name it charisma, which stimulates peoples’ interest in an actor's person. "David has the ability to project a powerful intensity in an extremely economical way, without an excess of action. All that intensity he has goes into the empty space around him. So you are aware of an absence, something you cannot get to. This is what is fascinating about him. He is in that space", Adam Cullen, the author of the famous David’s portrait, which got the most prestigious Australian Art Award Archibald in 2000 said about him. "We're all ordinary people in the end, but there's something extra about him", director Paul Cox, with whom David had worked during the filming of "Molokai", said.
Journalists felt it better than someone else. No, Wenham doesn't behave like a celestial. He is an absolutely normal person. He adores walks, good restaurants, dancing clubs and fashionable clothing stores, he supports like a teenager his beloved "Sydney Swans" ( true fans can appreciate his ardor). He has traveled all around the world (except its sixth part - Russia). He has countless number of friends in the four corners of the earth. If we could sum up all about David we can get a citation, which is attributed to Hugh Jackman: "David Wenham is the most amusing guy on a planet!"
But journalists resigned themselves a long ago with the fact, that Wenham’s almost childish, moral purity strikes a special sublime keynote of articles about him. It is impossible to write about David otherwise: he is always friendly, modest, considerate towards anyone without except, he is held in respect as a passionate upholder of the development of the native culture, is engaged in charity and public work. Many years David represents a Catholic Mission Wayside Chapel, which helps homeless people in Sydney. On the 13th of March 2002 David joined a very respected in Australia society "Ancient Forest Guardian", which members (among them well-known musicians, actors, writers, scientists) support actively a preservation of the environment.
There is a mass of organizations, which David cooperates with, among them - Fred Hollows Foundation, Amnesty International Australia, Wielangta Forest in Tasmania, The Australia-East Timor Association.
On the 25th of May 2006 in a building of the Melbourne Town Hall took place a solemn ceremony covered by mass media. The Australian Catholic University decorated the actor David Wenham with the highest award - the Honorary Doctorate in recognizing of his outstanding contribution to art and decision of public problems. We can only try to guess, what thought this guy in a strange ceremonial dress in the middle of a high hall, listening to the panegyric of vice-rector ACU Peter Sheehan, which was enumerating of David's services to the native art. Certainly he was proud, but through his well-known modesty was very excited and turned over in his mind the words of his greeting speech learned by heart. It cannot be, that in these thoughts didn't come over other if only obscure remembrances. For sure in his mind flashed a half-forgotten wry face of the man on the verge of a nervous breakdown - the face of a poor teacher from the School of Christian Brothers in Lewisham: "David Wenham, you intolerable boy, what are you growing into?! Get out of here!"
Much water has flowered under the bridges since then.
What his true fans know about David:
♦ David is known through his pure decency and good manners, so in his interviews you can’t find by your best wishes:
any platitude or scabrousness;
any allusion to intimate relations or anything with regard to his private life in general and his sexual life in particular;
any disrespectful word against anybody! Even through this "anybody" deserves richly a negative opinion;
any gossip or foul things of his colleagues and acquaintances.
♦ David is touchingly devoted to his family, infinitely loves his parents, regarding them as his main teachers and judges.
♦ Among his most beloved films David always names "Molokai. The story of Father Damien", "The Boys", "The Bank", "Gettin' Square", and "Three Dollars", in his opinion these movies touch upon very deep problems of the modern society and are important milestones in his career.
♦ He identifies himself with the hero of the films "Stiff" and "Brush Off" Murray Whelan, David has noticed many times that he has much in common with Murray.
♦ David works with many well-known Australian actors, what is naturally. There are Hugo Weaving, Richard Roxburgh, Frances O'Connor, Toni Collette, Geoffrey Rush, Susie Porter, Guy Pearce, Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman.
♦ David is a well-educated and many-sided person and he reads a lot, and often reads several books at once, he is respectful to domestic literature.
♦ David has many-sided musical interests, there are among them both domestic and foreign composers. In July 2001 he took part in a Margaret Throsby”s radio show on ABC Classic FM. All the participants had to give lists of their favourite classics. Here we have David's list:
Alan John, music to the film "The Bank" (closing titles);
J.S.Bach, prelude to suite # 1;
E.Morricone, "Cinema Paradiso", a soundtrack;
Keith Jarret, "Heartland";
and, oh yes, friends! Sergei Rachmaninov, adagio from Symphony # 2 in mi-minor!
♦ Painting is also one from the David's many-sided interests. In October 2006 David exhibited his picture under the name "The spring song of whales" to a charitable auction. Proceeds from sale went to a National Breast Cancer Foundation. David told he had been inspired for the painting with his good friend from America. Speaking to him on the phone from Malibu beach, she was delighted with a scene, which she just has seen: a loving couple of whales had jumped out from the sea in front of her. The subject seemed splendid to David and he began to paint. The picture was sold for 1600 Australian dollars. They went for the above named purpose.
♦ David is a well-known football fan, what, besides all, provoked him to test himself in a journalistic genre. In 2004 in Internet was published David's advertisement for a support of his favourite football team "Sydney’s Swans".
♦ David is known as a lover of small human pleasures, he hates physical exercises, but likes tasty meals in good small restaurants and pizzerias, and he adores a national cuisine.
♦ David practically has no bad habits; he doesn't smoke and drinks alcohol very reasonably.
♦ David has a tattoo on his right shoulder. He has made it together with Paul Cox, the director of the film "Molokai. The Story of Father Damien" "Because of ideological reasons" in 1999 in memory of a film shooting. Cox describes this tattoo so:"A turtle is the Hawaiian symbol of peace and earth and all that, to remind us of very tricky days, become a companion for life. I would be the last person to get a tattoo.So is David. But when we meet, we always bring the tattoos together, let them greet one another".
♦ David travels a lot all over the world and is very happy that his job gives him such an opportunity. It is well known, that David regularly visits America, England, Germany, New Zealand, and, besides, was seen in Canada, Mexico, Cuba, Morocco, Japan, Czechia, Macedonia, and Portugal. Unfortunately in this list cannot be included Russia! Friends! We must work in this direction!
♦ David has got his namesake, David Wenham, well known in a certain circle, which is a Theologian professor of Oxford University, the author of suitable for his occupation books, for example, "Jesus' parables" etc.
♦ The address to write to David:
William Morris Endeavor Entertainment
9601 Wilshire Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
PO Box 1509
Darlinghurst, NSW 1300
All data are taken from David's numerous interviews and publications devoted to him. We intimately thank a sites Wenham-Wonderland and Desiccated Coconut whose materials have been used.
All material was collected and prepared by Neil in 2007.