Home » Rachel Ward: “You’ve got to be fierce!”

Rachel Ward: “You’ve got to be fierce!”

28 Aug 2019 | BY Shelley Lee - @ShelleyLee_

Rachel Ward director Palm Beach

Rachel Ward is in a good place. She’s celebrating the birth of her first grandchild and the release of Palm Beach which she’s both directed and co-written. But, as she tells The FIERCE, she had to fight to restart her career after making the call to get away from the male gaze.


Palm Beach is the second feature film from the English-born Australian director who turns 62 in September. A decade ago her first feature offering Beautiful Kate became a festival darling, her other credits include The Big House, Martha’s New Coat and television series Rake, Devil’s Playground and The Straits. Despite these runs on the board, it took a long, tough battle and a little luck to score her next gig.



“I was six years between my last job and doing Palm Beach. That was not being choosy. That was just I could not get a job.” she told The FIERCE , “It’s a cutthroat business, and it’s incredibly competitive“ she explains, “There’s a small pot of money. And there’s a lot of people after it. We [women] have to fight very hard for it.”


Her former career as a fashion model saw Ward grace the covers of Vogue and Cosmopolitan, from there she became a Golden Globe-nominated Hollywood actress. In 1983 she was voted by audiences in the United States as one of the world’s 10 most beautiful women. The same year she starred as Meggie Cleary in The Thorn Birds. It was on the set of that miniseries she met her husband, fellow actor Bryan Brown with whom she moved to Australia.


Brown co-produced Palm Beach  and leads the male cast as Frank, a recently retired entrepreneur struggling with his new unemployed status. Matilda Brown, one of the couple’s three children, also stars in the ensemble cast alongside Sam Neill, Jacqueline McKenzie, Richard E. Grant, Greta Scacchi and Heather Mitchell.


When the chance to direct and co-write Palm Beach eventually arrived, Ward was determined to recruit a raft of other women to lead her crew.  “Once I got to that position, and I only got to it by, really, because my husband offered me the job, I went, ‘Whoa. Now is my opportunity to go to bring heads of department, female heads of department with me’.”


The on-set dynamics were very different to those of the movies she was a part of in the‘80s where as leading lady she would often be the only woman sight.

Watch Ward speak about about her treatment on those film sets, being trapped in the male gaze, how with a three-day-old baby she started retraining for an off-camera career, and why she’s grateful to have a feminist bloke like Bryan.


Palm Beach (M) is now out in cinemas.