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Guy Pearce

Hugh Jackman

David Wenham Biography

Home > Actors > W > Wenham, David > Biography

Birth Name: David Wenham
Born: 09/21/1965
Birth Place: Marrickville, New South Wales, AU

The youngest of seven, Wenham was born Sept. 21, 1965, and raised in Sydney, Australia. His talent for crowd-pleasing showed itself during childhood when he earned somewhat of a class clown reputation for making up funny characters at school, and was known to put on living room shows for his family at home. With their blessing, Wenham went on to pursue acting at the University of Western Sydney's Nepean Theatre School. He began his acting career on the popular primetime serial, "Sons and Daughters," and quickly achieved the status of working actor with stints on many popular Australian television series; from "A Country Practice" to "Police Rescue" throughout the 1990s. On stage, Wenham gave a well-received turn in the searing play "The Boys" and starred as a dangerous pyromaniac in "Cosi" - a role he was asked to reprise in the 1996 film adaptation. He further began to receive attention for recreating his sociopathic character in Rowan Woods' film adaptation of "The Boys" (1997), earning nominations for several prizes including the Australian Film Institute Award for his brilliant turn as the troubled, nasty and dysfunctional parolee.

Wenham became a reluctant sex symbol in 1998 when he was cast in the Australian Broadcasting Company's weekly series "SeaChange," as the scruffy, beach-dwelling 'Diver Dan' who comes to romance a female judge (Sigrid Thornton) over the course of 26 episodes. His work on the series insured the actor many magazine covers and a nomination for an Australian Film Institute Award. Wenham chose to leave the series after one season, and instead accepted the lead role in the biopic, "Molokai: The Story of Father Damien" (1999), portraying a Belgian priest who spent his life at a leper colony in Hawaii. That film helped introduce Wenham to overseas audiences, who probably failed to recognize his next international turn as a transvestite playwright in Baz Luhrmann's kaleidoscopic masterpiece, "Moulin Rouge!" (2001). The actor's chameleonic quality made him further difficult to recognize in follow-up roles as a straying Jewish spouse in "Russian Doll" (2001), a cowboy-turned-soldier in the indie "Dust" (2001), and a swaggering international photojournalist in the romantic comedy, "Better Than Sex" (2001), for which he earned a nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Lead Role from the Australian Film Institute.

From these largely art house offerings Wenham moved into the mainstream with "The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course" (2002), appearing opposite real-life wildlife expert Steve Irwin. He scored an international breakthrough later that year when he was cast as Faramir, Ithilien captor of Frodo, Sam and Gollum, in the second of director Peter Jackson's J.R.R. Tolkien trilogy, "Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" (2002). Naturally it was a major career boost to have a supporting role in a critically loved film that was nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award and brought in a staggering $900 million at the box office, so Wenham reprised his role the following year in "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" (2003), which topped the billion dollar mark and again dominated the Oscar nominations, winning Best Picture. In the shadow of that career mark but a testament to Wenham's versatility, that same year he gave a critically acclaimed performance in an Australian stage production of Sam Shepard's "True West" and co-starred with Sam Worthington and Gary Sweet as ex-cons trying to stay out of trouble in the Australian gangster comedy "Gettin' Square" (2003).

Back in big-budget Hollywood, Wenham's profile continued to rise with his co-starring role alongside Hugh Jackman as his dedicated friar sidekick in the vampire actioner "Van Helsing" (2004), which was a crowd pleaser; albeit not a critical one. Wenham's next two features brought him back home, where he had a small role as a brutal and arrogant lawman in John Hillcoat's award-winning, gritty Western "The Proposition" (2005), alongside Guy Pearce and Ray Winstone. Taking the lead, he gave a subtle and moving performance as an honest everyman faced with supporting a wife and child after losing his job in "Three Dollars" (2005). Wenham hit the gym for a grueling training program and was next seen as a leather-clad ancient Spartan warrior in "300" (2007), an adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novel about the famed Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. The historic actioner was an international blockbuster that proved Wenham's place in Hollywood. However that did not mean the actor would not jump at the chance to return home to co-star in a rare villainous role alongside Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman in "Australia" (2008), Baz Luhrmann's sweeping World War II epic that left U.S. critics lukewarm but was a smash hit in its titular nation. Wenham continued his run of period offerings with his role as a henchman of famed Chicago bank robber John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) in Michael Mann's "Public Enemies" (2009). Going further back in time, Wenham co-starred in "Pope Joan" (2009), based on the little-known story of a medieval-era female pope in which the fetching actor played her lover.