Rachel Ward is a UK born Australian actress, screenwriter and film and television director. She left school to pursue modelling and appeared on covers of ‘Vogue’, ‘Cosmopolitan’ and ‘Harper's & Queen’. She also featured in television commercials like Revlon's ‘Scoundrel Girl’ and Lincoln Mercury ‘Cougar Girl’. She garnered nomination for ‘New Star of the Year’ award at the Golden Globe for playing Dominoe in the film ‘Sharky's Machine’. Her real breakthrough came when she portrayed Meggie Cleary in the television miniseries ‘The Thorn Birds’; it fetched her, her second Golden Globe nomination. Moving on, Rachel Ward featured in several big and small screen productions including in feature films like ‘The Umbrella Woman’ and ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’; and television films like ‘On the Beach’. The latter earned her yet another Golden Globe nomination. She directed and wrote the short films ‘Blindman's Bluff’ and ‘The Big House’ and bagged several awards for the latter. Her directorial works include the film ‘Martha's New Coat’ and ‘Beautiful Kate’.
Childhood & Early Life
Rachel Ward was born on September 12, 1957, in Cornwell, Oxfordshire, England to the Hon. Peter Alistair Ward and his first wife Claire Leonora (née Baring). Her younger sister, Tracy Louise Ward, Duchess of Beaufort, is an environmental activist and former actress. Ward also has one brother and two half-brothers.
Her great-grandfather William Humble Ward, 2nd Earl of Dudley, served as fourth Governor-General of Australia and her grandfather William Humble Eric Ward, 3rd Earl of Dudley, MC TD was a British Conservative Party politician. Her maternal grandfather, Giles Baring, was a first-class English cricketer.
She studied at Hatherop Castle School in Hatherop, Gloucestershire and thereafter attended Byam Shaw School of Art in London. However, at age 16, she left the art school to become a fashion and photography model. Years later she earned Graduate Diploma of Communications (1995) and a Graduate Certificate in Writing (1996) from University of Technology, Sydney, Australia.
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Rachel Ward’s modelling pursuits include appearing on covers of ‘Vogue’, ‘Cosmopolitan’ and ‘Harper's & Queen’. In 1977, she relocated to the US where she featured in television commercials like Revlon's ‘Scoundrel Girl’ and Lincoln Mercury ‘Cougar Girl’. A couple of years later she appeared in the made-for-TV film ‘Christmas Lilies of the Field’.
Her feature film debut happened with starring role of Eleanor Adjai in the American erotic slasher film ‘Night School’, in 1981. Same year she featured as Dominoe in the American drama-thriller film ‘Sharky's Machine’ that earned her a Golden Globe Award nomination for ‘New Star of the Year’.
She starred with Steve Martin in 1982 neo-noir comedy-mystery film ‘Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid’. Her real breakthrough came the following year when she played adult version of Meggie Cleary, starring opposite Richard Chamberlain in the American television miniseries ‘The Thorn Birds’. It aired on ABC from March 27 to 30 in 1983 and became a huge success. It is counted as the second highest-rated miniseries of all time in the US after ‘Roots’.
Rachel Ward not only earned widespread recognition for her role in ‘The Thorn Birds’ but also a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film. She credits acting coach Sandra Seacat to a great extent for aiding her in getting the work and for her successful performance in it. During the five-month shooting schedule of the show, Ward also underwent a makeover program with Seacat.
She got introduced to her future husband Australian actor, Bryan Brown, on the set of ‘The Thorn Birds’, in 1983. After meeting Ward, Brown is known to have read her palm and predicted that she would become mother of three. In the series, Brown played Luke O'Neill, husband of Ward's character.
She was voted by the US audiences as one of the ten most beautiful women of the world in 1983. Moving on she starred in several films including ‘The Final Terror’ (1983); ‘Against All Odds’ (1984); ‘The Umbrella Woman’ (1987), where she again worked with Brown; and ‘After Dark, My Sweet’ (1990).
Her remarkable performance as Moira Davidson starring with Brown and Armand Assante in the made-for-television film ‘On the Beach’ (2000) earned her Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film in 2001.
She wrote and directed the October 18, 2001, released short drama film ‘The Big House’. The film won the Australian Film Institute award for Best Short Fiction Film and Best Australian Film at Flickerfest in 2001 and the Film Critics Circle of Australia award for Best Short in 2002.
The 2003 film ‘Martha's New Coat’ directed by Rachel Ward also won the Film Critics Circle of Australia award apart from the 2003 ATOM Award.
She was made a Member of the Order of Australia, in 2005.
Her first feature-length film as director was the Australian drama ‘Beautiful Kate’ that premiered at the Sydney Film Festival in June 2009 and had a limited release across Australia on August 6, 2009. The film starred Ben Mendelsohn, Rachel Griffiths and Brown among others and its script was adapted by Ward from an eponymous 1982 novel by Newton Thornburg.
Other directorial ventures of Ward include the TV series documentary ‘Knot at Home Project’ (2006) and the television film ‘An Accidental Soldier’ (2013).
Family & Personal Life
Rachel Ward met David Kennedy, son of Robert F. Kennedy, in a Manhattan disco in 1979 and briefly dated him.
She married Australian actor, Bryan Brown on April 16, 1983. They are blessed with three children, Rose, Matilda and Joseph. Matilda is an actress, writer and director.