|Quigley Down Under|
Theatrical release poster by Steven Chorney
|Directed by||Simon Wincer|
|Produced by||Stanley O'Toole|
|Written by||John Hill|
|Music by||Basil Poledouris|
|Edited by||Peter Burgess|
|17 October 1990|
Matthew Quigley is an American cowboy with a specially modified rifle with which he can shoot accurately at extraordinary distances. Seeing a newspaper advertisement that asks for a man with his special talent, he answers using just four words: "M. Quigley 900 yards", written on a copy of the advertisement that is punctured by six closely spaced bullet holes.
When he arrives in Australia, he gets into a fight with employees of the man who hired him as they try to force "Crazy Cora" onto their wagon. After he identifies himself, he is taken to the station of Elliot Marston, who informs Quigley his sharpshooting skills will be used to eradicate the increasingly elusive Aborigines. Quigley turns down the offer and throws Marston out of his own house. When the aborigine manservant knocks Quigley over the head, Marston's men beat him and Cora unconscious and dump them in the outback with no water and little chance of survival. However, they are rescued by Aborigines.
Cora now reveals that she comes from Texas. When her home was attacked by Comanches, she hid in the cellar and accidentally suffocated her child while trying to prevent him from crying. Her husband had then put her alone on a ship to Australia. Now Cora consistently calls Quigley by her husband’s name (Roy), much to his annoyance.
When Marston's men attack the Aborigines who helped them, Quigley kills three. Escaping on a single horse, they encounter more of the men driving Aborigines over a cliff. Quigley drives them off with his deadly shooting and Cora rescues an orphaned baby she finds among the dead Aborigines. Leaving Cora and the infant in the desert with food and water, Quigley rides alone to a nearby town. There he obtains new ammunition from a local German gunsmith, who hates Marston for his murdering ways. Quigley learns as well that he has become a legendary hero among the Aborigines.
Marston's men are also in town and recognize Quigley's horse. When they attack, cornering him in a burning building, he escapes through a skylight and kills all but one of them. The injured survivor is sent back to say Quigley will be following. But first Quigley returns to Cora and the baby, which she has just saved from an attack by dingoes. Then too she had tried to stop the child crying, but at last told him to make as much noise as he liked as she killed the animals using a revolver that Quigley had left for her. Back in town, she gives the baby to Aborigines living there after Quigley tells her that the child has 'a right to happiness'.
Next morning, Quigley rides away to confront Marston at his station. At first he shoots the defenders from his location in the hills but is eventually shot in the leg and captured by Marston's last two men. Marston, who has noticed that Quigley only ever carries a rifle, decides to give him a lesson in the "quick-draw" style of gunfighting. However, Marston is beaten to the draw by Quigley, who also shoots the two remaining men. As Marston lies dying, Quigley refers to an earlier conversation, telling him, "I said I never had much use for [a revolver]; I never said I didn't know how to use it."
Marston's servant comes out of the house and gives Quigley his rifle back, then walks away from the ranch, stripping off his western-style clothing as he goes. An army troop now arrives to arrest Quigley, until they notice the surrounding hills are lined with Aborigines and decide to withdraw. Later Quigley and Cora book a passage back to America in the name of Cora’s husband, since Quigley is still wanted. On the wharf she reminds him that he once told her that she had to say two words before he could make love to her. Smiling broadly, she calls him "Matthew Quigley" and the two embrace for the first time.
- Tom Selleck as Matthew Quigley
- Laura San Giacomo as Crazy Cora
- Alan Rickman as Elliott Marston
- Chris Haywood as Major Ashley-Pitt
- Ron Haddrick as Grimmelman
- Tony Bonner as Dobkin
- Jerome Ehlers as Coogan
- Conor McDermottroe as Hobb
- Roger Ward as Brophy
- Ben Mendelsohn as O'Flynn
- Steve Dodd as Kunkurra
- Karen Davitt as Slattern
- Kylie Foster as Slattern
- William Zappa as Reilly
- Jonathan Sweet as Sergeant Thomas
- Ollie Hall as Carver
John Hill first began writing Quigley Down Under in 1974. He was inspired by a Los Angeles Times article about the genocide of the aborigines in 19th-century Australia. Although Westerns were in decline in the 1970s Hill said that the script "opened a lot of doors for me," and led to other assignments.
The script was first optioned in 1979 by producer Mort Engelberg for Steve McQueen, with whom he teamed on The Hunter; however McQueen died of cancer shortly after completing The Hunter. The script was bought by CBS Theatrical Films where it was attached to director Rick Rosenthal. It then went to Warner Bros with Tom Selleck to star and Lewis Gilbert to direct around 1987. Warner Bros had the script for three years but then dropped their option. The script then became the subject of bidding between Pathe Entertainment, Disney and Warner Bros. It sold to Pathe for $250,000 which Hill said "is pretty good, when you consider that for 15 years I'd been making money optioning and rewriting that screenplay."
Pathe's then head of production, Alan Ladd Jr, agreed to commit a $20 million budget. Selleck agreed to star and the director was an Australian, Simon Wincer.
Wincer felt a good story had been ruined by numerous rewrites from people who knew little about Australian history, so he brought on Ian Jones as writer. They went back to the original draft, re-set it from the 1880s to the 1860s and made it more historically accurate.
The firearm used by Quigley (Selleck) is a custom 13.5 pound (6 kg), single-shot, 1874 Sharps Rifle, with a 34-inch (860 mm) barrel. The rifle used for filming was a replica manufactured for the film by the Shiloh Rifle Manufacturing Company of Big Timber, Montana. In 2002 Selleck donated the rifle, along with six other firearms from his other films, to the National Rifle Association, as part of the NRA's exhibit "Real Guns of Reel Heroes" at the National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, Virginia.
Although several scenes of the story depict violence and cruelty toward and involving animals, a film spokesperson explained that no animal was harmed, and special effects were used. For example, Quigley and Cora are reduced to consuming "grub worms" (actually blobs of dough) for survival. A pack of dingoes attacks Cora, and she finally saves herself by shooting the animals. Those animals were specially trained, and were actually "playing" for that scene, which was later enhanced by visual and sound effects. Several scenes involve falling horses; they were performed by specially-trained animals and were not hurt. When a horse falls off a cliff, the "horse" was a mechanical creation. The film's producer stated that a veterinarian was on the set whenever animals were being used in filming.
Critical responses were mixed, with Quigley having a 60% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Roger Ebert gave the film two-and-a-half out of four stars, arguing that it was a flawed but respectable neo-western, and particularly praising San Giacomo's performance: "[T]his may be the movie that proves her staying power. [...] She has an authority, a depth of presence, that is attractive, and her voice is deep and musical."
The film, however, was not a financial success in theaters, roughly recouping its budget.
Awards and nominations
|London Film Critics' Circle Award||British Actor of the Year||Alan Rickman||Won|
|Motion Picture Sound Editors Award||Best Sound Editing - Foreign Feature||Tim Chau||Won|
|Political Film Society Award||Human Rights||Nominated|
- Greg Kerr, "Quigley", Australian Film 1978-1992, Oxford Uni Press, 1993 p323
- A Long, Dusty Trail for Selleck and Aussie Western Movies: John Hill's script for `Quigley Down Under' endured a 15-year journey before hitting the big screen. BROESKE, PAT H. Los Angeles Times 19 Oct 1990: 12.
- Persico Newhouse, Joyce J. "'Perfect Hero' Selleck Takes Aim at Action". Times Union. 18 October 1990.
- Scott Murray, "Simon Wincer: Trusting His Instincts", Cinema Papers, November 1989 pp. 6–12, 78
- Sharp, Eric. "Shooting Star - Antique Black-Powder Rifle Still Scene-Stealer". Detroit Free Press. 18 June 2006.
- Names and Faces: "On Target". Orlando Sentinel. 6 August 1989.
- "Tom Selleck Donates Seven Guns To NRA National Firearms Museum". National Rifle Association
- GreatSouthCoast website
- AHA Film website Archived 22 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
- Quigley Down Under at Rotten Tomatoes
- "Quigley Down Under". Chicago Sun-Times.
- Harnden, Toby (13 March 2011). "Dead Men Risen: The snipers' story". The Daily Telegraph. London.