She Played Meggie in "The Thorn Birds." See Rachel Ward Now at 64.
The actor-turned-director starred in the miniseries nearly 40 years ago.
One of the most popular miniseries of all time is The Thorn Birds, which originally aired in 1983. The series is an adaptation of the beloved Australian novel of the same name by Colleen McCullough, and, like the novel, transfixed fans. But, while the TV adaptation received a number of accolades, being part of The Thorn Birds made star Rachel Ward want to change careers.
Ward played Meggie Cleary in the miniseries, which follows the Cleary family across several decades of the 20th century. These days, she still acts occasionally but prefers to work behind the scenes in movies and TV. Read on to find out more about Ward's life today and how The Thorn Birds changed her career trajectory.
Her acting career has slowed down.
Ward was a model and an actor prior to The Thorn Birds, and she continued acting throughout the 1980s and '90s, including in the movies Against All Odds and How to Get Ahead in Advertising. But, by the 2000s, she stopped acting as frequently as she had been. Her most recent roles were in 2016's The Death and Life of Otto Bloom and voicing a character in 2018's Peter Rabbit. Prior to those, she appeared in the 2007 series Rain Shadow.
She lost confidence after The Thorn Birds.
While The Thorn Birds was well-received, Ward received negative reviews for her portrayal of Meggie. (She did receive a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Miniseries or Television Film, however.) Appearing on a panel for the Television Critics Association in 2012, Ward explained that those poor reviews made her lose confidence as an actor.
"When I got slaughtered, I really took it to heart. I never really got my confidence back after that," she said, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Ward continued, "As an actress, obviously you need a bit of talent. I think you need enormous guts to have a go at it … I think you need self-confidence, which I didn't have. I feel honored to have been part of [The Thorn Birds], but I didn't want to repeat the experience."
Today, she's mainly a director and writer.
Ward has written two feature films: 2009's Beautiful Kate and 2019's Palm Beach, both of which she also directed. Additionally, she directed the TV movie An Accidental Soldier and episodes of the Australian series Rake, My Place, The Straits, and Devil's Playground.
Ward spoke about her style as a director in an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald in 2019. "I'm not flamboyant. Here, if you can't see the filmmaking, then no one believes or trusts the art," she said. "I like the camera to get out of the way. And I'm also a sucker for beauty. This film [Palm Beach] reflects my interest in the domestic and the feminine, and the interiors I like that are full of color and texture. In Australia we are embarrassed by stylishness. We only have two aesthetics: drab or kitsch and I am neither."
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She's also a mom and grandmother.
Ward married actor Bryan Brown, who she met on the set of The Thorn Birds, in 1983.
"I consider myself extremely lucky, actually," Ward once said of her husband, according to The Sydney Morning Herald. "I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. But when those clouds [of lust and romance] cleared, I discovered that he was a wonderful, decent human being. An honorable man."
The couple have three children, Rose, Matilda, and Joseph Brown. Matilda, who is also an actor, appeared in Palm Beach. As reported by the Daily Mail, as of 2019, Ward and Brown are also grandparents following the birth of Matilda's baby.