12 years ago one of Australian greatest film makers did a screening for what would be his last film.

Peter Weir and I have a minor thing in common. We share the same birthday (though in 1944), along with Kenny Rogers (1938) and Joe Strummer (1952). Seems like a small group, but I am only counting the talented people… and me.

October 2011 Peter Weir attended a screening followed by a Q&A of The Way Back (2010) at The Nova cinema in Carlton. I took the opportunity to meet the five time academy award nominated, BFI winning director of such brilliant films as The Cars that Ate Paris, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Gallipoli, Witness, Dead Poets Society and The Truman Show. Why wouldn’t you. The film was a harsh tale, based on the true accounts of people that managed to survive the 6,400km walk to freedom from Soviet Gulags. In the audience were people who had done the very thing, or experienced something similar.

meeting Peter Weir
meeting Peter Weir

Though maybe not Peter Weir at his best, it was still an effecting film, and the Q&A afterwards just reinforced the ordeal that these folks went through.

Even at the time Peter explained how hard it was to get his sort of film made these days. All that the major studios want is to make tent-poll pictures.
At the time Peter was talking about the likes of the Harry Potter franchise. The first Iron Man film was only two year old when The Way Back was made, so there was only an inkling of the direction cinema was going to go in. as Martin Scorsese how well he things that has helped cinema.

As a result, the evening had a bitter sweet feeling to it. Yes a very good film from a great film maker, but he was already signaling that this was likely to be his last film. Around a decade later Peter made it official, just after an honorary Academy Award, he made the retirement official.

There are other folks born on the same day as us, Jack Weston (1924), Princess Margaret (1930), Melvin Van Peebles (1932), and dozens of other names, but Peter seemed to be one of the best know names. I asked him about the date, and said how we shared the same day. Bit of an odd question admittedly, and Peter response was “I have had a lot of great evening on that date”. Pretty much all you could say, while staying polite.