The Way Back
As a young girl, Linda Jean Bruno had an experience that would foretell her destiny. Her family owned a restaurant in Australia and she took the opportunity to entertain those who came there for sustenance. When the restaurant was chosen as a location shoot for the feature film Proof, she got a front row seat to watch Russell Crowe (Oscar-Award winner for Best Actor in 2001’s A Beautiful Mind) and Hugo Weaving (Award-Winning Actor and star of The Lord of the Rings and Matrix franchises) perform for the camera. Bearing witness to greatness so close, it was inevitable that Linda Jean would pursue the path (literally so in the case of Russell Crowe as both he and Bruno appeared in the Australian megahit TV show Neighbours). She relates, “I used to use the restaurant as my own platform to entertain others with small skits. Now it was being used as a real set to create scenes for an iconic Australian movie. This opened my eyes at a very young age to the mechanics of the film industry; I knew that was where I wanted to be. Years later I would be a part of this machine, acting on set and recognizing how I had willed myself into this place which fascinated me as a young girl.”
Since this first exposure to the magic of acting and the production realm, Actress Linda Jean Bruno has been recognized many times for her ability to present darkness and comedy with equal intensity and style. Whether it be via indie films (as a high end prostitute in the award-winning The Last Supper of the Damned), her ubiquitous role as the “Twirl Girl” for Cadbury chocolates, appearing on Australia’s longest running TV program Neighbours, or in the comedy web series Subclass 417, she has run the spectrum of personality types and characters. The often undefinable trait referred to as “It” is more accurately defined as “presence.” Some Actors simply have the ability to intrigue an audience, to command attention with a subtlety and simplicity that has no clear definition, it simply exists. While this attribute has often been used to describe Linda Jean Bruno, it’s one which she has been honing since her earliest exposure and aspirations. This malleable quality has taken numerous different forms in her career and continues to do so as she is seen across nearly every type of entertainment medium.
As a young version of Shirl (the wife in a married couple who makes a Shakespearean gesture to maintain their love as it currently exists), Bruno is haunting in The Way Back, figuratively and literally. If you’ve ever wondered what a darker version of The Notebook would look like, you’ve found it. The story itself however is drastically different and harsher. The critical acclaim which the film received vets it as a production unique unto itself and recognized for exceptionalism. The San Francisco International Film Festival, Flickerfest, and the St. Kilda Film Festival all recognized The Way Back with awards to announce their enthusiastic support of this disturbing tale of enduring love.
Norm and Shirl are a couple facing the cruel fact that the human body (and mind) is not as perennial as romance. As they age, they make a final commitment to each other that seems almost unthinkably tragic. During the process, a vision of Shirl (played by Bruno) at a younger age visits Norm. Fans of Australian TV and Netflix hit series Wilfred (starring Elijah Wood and Jason Gann) will recognize Gann as the Orderly who supplies the elderly couple with the drugs they use to attempt suicide. The Way Back, with its twisted ending, received accolades including a win at the San Francisco International Film Festival, nominations at the Golden Gate Award Narrative Short, and more.
With all her international fame, recognition, appearances in award-winning films, universally loved TV programs, and advertisements, Bruno admits that fame is relative…particularly so for her. Her appearance as the Sicilian waitress who is the object of John Safran’s affection in the series John Safran vs. God was celebrated as the manifestation of all things feminine. The series won the AACTA award for Best Comedy Series and Outstanding Achievement in Craft in Television as well as being nominated for a Logie for Most Outstanding Comedy Program. Even with the praise she experienced for her work on the series, she concedes, “My mother is a significant figure in the Italian community and has been an integral part of forming the Italian culinary scene. The problem with this is that while we were shooting, these older Italian men would recognise me as Teresa’s daughter and stop me mid-scene asking, ‘Hey aren’t you Teresa’s daughter? Look Tony, it’s Teresa’s daughter!’ Because they were not Actors, they would continue to talk to me even after I would kindly warn them ‘Oh, we are actually shooting.’ Looking back, it’s funny, but at the time I was mortified! Lesson learned; there’s always someone more famous.”
Author: Kelly King