submitted by DAILY TELEGRAPH on 14.12.2006
By Sarrah Le Marquand
December 12, 2006. p. 7.
Daily Telegraph, Sydney.
The man who catapulted Mel Gibson to fame and has worked with everyone from Jack Nicholson to Robin Williams said Steve Irwin had the potential to be one of our greatest actors.
Just a month before he died, Irwin flew to Sydney to record a role in the animated penguin blockbuster Happy Feet, directed by George Miller.
The Crocodile Hunter had originally provided the voice of an albatross, a scene which was not used when Miller decided it was too repetitive. Eager to ensure Irwin featured in the final product, Miller asked him to sign on for another role – as an elephant seal which speaks with a broad Australian accent.
"Like everything he did, he just put his heart and soul into it – I'll never forget that day," Miller said yesterday. "He could have been a really great actor. Not that his personality was acting – he was always the same – but he knew how to turn himself into another character. Once he got into it I could work with him just like I would with Hugh Jackman or Jack Nicholson or Hugo Weaving."
Having travelled to Antarctica, Irwin was particularly passionate about the environmental message in Happy Feet.
"He thought the film was very important because it was about conservation," Miller said. "He was the genuine article. It wasn't just a pose, he was fiercely for the planet and all its creatures."
"I like to say Australia died the day he died because he was a truly authentic Australian, unlike anyone we've seen since Chips Rafferty."
Happy Feet - which opens here on Boxing Day – has made more than $US130 million ($A166 million) since opening in the US last month.
Teacher, journalist, poet and author, Sydney NSW Australia
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