Bruce Beresford gives Chiltern a dose of wisdom 

Australian film director Bruce Beresford’s initial affection for Chiltern’s most cherished resident, Henry Handel Richardson, began when he was 12.

The internationally renowned director of some 30 movies, including Driving Miss Daisy, Mao’s Last Dancer and Puberty Blues, picked up The Getting of Wisdom at a Sydney second-hand book shop.

The young Beresford was taken with the 1910 coming-of-age novel, written by Ethel Florence Richardson using Henry Handel as a pseudonym.

“I thought, ‘gosh, that’s a good book’,” he said.

“I thought ‘when I get to be a film director, I’m going to make a film about it’. And I did.”

In Chiltern for the first time since he was there to research the film in 1974, Beresford last night was the guest speaker at the annual Henry Handel Richardson oration.

He took over as patron of Henry Handel Richardson Society of Australia after the death of former patron Elizabeth Murdoch in late 2012.

He had just flown back from the US where he was filming the TV movie Bonnie and Clyde, starring Emile Hirsch and Holliday Grainger.

Beresford told The Border Mail ahead of his speech he planned to tell of his “ordeal” making The Getting of Wisdom in 1977.

The film company that funded the movie had insisted that it be written and directed by a woman.

“They said ‘a lout like you can’t direct a sensitive film like the The Getting of Wisdom’,” Beresford said.

“I said, ‘well I came up with the script’.”

The company told Beresford they wanted Gillian Armstrong, the director of Little Women and Oscar and Lucinda, to direct the film.

“I said, ‘fine, as long as when Gillian Armstrong writes a script with only men in it, you get me to direct it’,” he said.

“They all baulked at that and nothing more was said.”

At 14, Beresford found Richardson’s The Fortunes of Richard Mahony as well.

He later wrote both a television series and feature film script of the book, neither of which have ever been made.

The society’s vice-president, Chiltern’s Graeme Charles said they were ecstatic to have the director speak at the 44th picnic commemorating the birthday of the much-revered former resident.

“It’s a coup to get someone of his standing to come to Chiltern,” he said.

The event was held at the Lake View Homestead where Richardson lived for 18 months between 1876 and 1877.

Beresford also introduced a screening of The Getting of Wisdom at the Star Theatre.

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