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Born in the Australian town of Griffith, New South Wales, Phillip Noyce was a teenager when he was introduced to independent short films, or "underground cinema," which opened his eyes to the possibility of making films himself. In 1973, he was selected to attend the Australian National Film School where he made Castor and Pollux, a 50–minute documentary.
His first professional film was the 50–minute docudrama God Knows Why, But It Works (1975). This helped pave the way for his first feature, the road movie Backroads (1977). He next directed and co–wrote Newsfront (1978), which won top honors (including Best Film, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay) at the Australian Film Institute Awards. It was the first Australian film to screen at the New York Film Festival.
Heatwave, co–written and directed by Mr. Noyce and starring Judy Davis, was chosen to screen at the Directors Fortnight of the 1982 Cannes International Film Festival. His subsequent films as director included Dead Calm, starring Nicole Kidman, Sam Neill, and Billy Zane; Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger, both starring Harrison Ford and James Earl Jones; and the murder mystery The Bone Collector, starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie.
In 2002, two films directed by Mr. Noyce were released worldwide near–simultaneously. These were The Quiet American, starring Michael Caine (who was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance); and Rabbit–Proof Fence, which dramatized and brought to the world's attention a true Australian story (and won Best Film at the Australian Film Institute Awards). Together, the two films garnered him several Best Director honors, including from the National Board of Review and the London Film Critics Circle.
His television credits as director include segments of the Australian miniseries The Dismissal and The Cowra Breakout. More recently, Mr. Noyce directed the pilot episodes for the American series Tru Calling and Brotherhood.
In early 2006 he was honored by the Australian Screen Directors Association with a Lifetime Achievement Award. His next feature project as director is Dirt Music, based on Australian author Tim Winton's novel of the same name.