Tony Barry, is one of Australia’s (no intertextual reference intended), best known and longest working actors. Tony’s acting career has spanned over 68 years, that’s 40 years of being an employed actor. His credits most recently include; Australia, The Ballad of Betty and Joe, and Solo to name a few. Other commendable performances in Pleasance, All Saints, Black Jack, Ned, Water Rats and the list scrolls on.
Tony has an amazing presence. His kind eyes appear to observe only the good in any situation/individual. However, he is direct and will only tell you his honest opinion. The man doesn’t sugar coat anyone’s ability within any subject matter. You won’t get the frills, puffs and accessories with this man – only honesty. Another quality of Tony’s I admire is his modesty. You can shower him with compliments and praise and the only response (with a little variation) is a sincere ‘thank you’. It’s pleasantly frustrating!
If all the above doesn’t paint a clear enough painting for you, let me continue by mentioning that he radiates a calm and collected energy every time I see him. It makes me wonder if his brain ever runs at a frazzled and frantic pace of hundred miles an hour. If it does, it never shows.
Since I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside Tony and to have been under his tuition a number of times, it’s an absolute pleasure to say that I couldn’t think of a more suitable Australian actor to share his knowledge on life, the craft, and his experiences.
Describe yourself in 3 words:
I’m still learning.
What is your life motto? Sometimes the most profound gifts come with shitty wrapping paper around them.
When did you start pursuing your career, and how long did it take to become successful? I started to pursue my career to entertain and work in Feature Films in my early twenties, and I am now still working at 67 – after 55 Feature Films and 40 years of television and some interesting stage work. I am grateful that I have been successful on two counts: firstly, I am still alive after doing myself disservice for twenty years with drug & alcohol abuse and secondly, I am still working in a variety of mediums of privilege.
How many hours did you dedicate to pursuing your dream? If success is 5% inspiration and 95% perspiration, then a lot!
Describe how difficult the business really is? 95% of people who call themselves professional actors are unemployed at any given time.
The mistake that taught you an extremely valuable lesson?
While working on Mother & Son, I was unable to stop corpsing (laughing), and Henri Szeps, appreciating my dilemma, in the spirit of professional comradeship, said to me “Don’t rehearse the mistake,” I am forever grateful. Works in life too!
The best piece of advice you have been given to date? Always be aware of the consequences of your actions.
The piece of advice that you weren’t? Still waiting!
In your mind, is formal training essential? I guess it must be if you’ve had it, I didn’t so it wasn’t for me.
What are some steps emerging talent can take to start/further their career? Go out busking. This will let you know if you are on the right track. It will also build up your self-esteem, self-confidence and your ability to project and interact with a passing audience who haven’t paid to come & see you, but if you’re good enough they may just throw something in your hat. It will also build up your understanding of what ‘works’ for an audience. You can take any piece of work on to the street if you believe it!
What kept you going when you felt like giving up? I like to eat! Show Biz ain’t for quitters. If you can’t keep at it, you ain’t got it!!
Do you believe that ‘making it’ is about luck and being in the right place at the right time? I think ‘making it’ is different things to different people, but I also think working hard and taking each opportunity as it comes and making something out of it, will create your own luck.
What do you think the role of the artist in society is? I believe the artists, poets, writers, musicians, actors and film-makers are the new-age healers, the spiritual warriors and goddesses and our time is upon us. I believe we must use our gifts and skills to inspire motivate and spiritually nourish our fellow citizens. Using our perceptions, our story-telling and our generosity we can guide our society through this upcoming period of fear and uncertainty so that they may blossom into humane, compassionate and productive citizens forged through new opportunities to contribute and not compete with each other. Us old buggers f***ed it up and it’s up to you young idealistic ones to fix it up! I wish you well!
How should the artist employ their gifts today, to help guide society through the transition from fear of loss, into positive action to reshape and nourish the “new” society?
I believe we should be looking for opportunities to make a difference to our society, not just more product to present to it.
As an actor, do you want to be involved in the creation of more products, or do you want to make a difference? I work to make a difference with every chance I get.… how am I doing ?