Mel Gibson (And Every Other Australian Celebrity) Actually Not Australian
By Ben Widdicombe Posted Jul 25th 2010 01:00PM
On behalf of my homeland, can we please get one thing perfectly clear? Mel Gibson is not Australian.
In fact, very few of the celebrities you probably think of as Australian were actually born in the land down under. (For that matter, the Men at Work hit 'Land Down Under'? Sung by a Scotsman.)
Even the country's own prime minister is not originally from Australia. In fact, in the following list of ten prominent people and musical acts you probably think of as Aussies, only one can claim to be truly Australian -- and even then, only by a whisker.
Olivia Newton-John, with her clean blonde looks and vowely accent, is considered by many to be the quintessential Australian celebrity. Koala Blue, the business she founded in 1983, sold Australian products and developed into a women's clothing label. In fact, Newton-John was born in the U.K. and lived in Australia relatively briefly, since as a teenager she won a talent competition whose prize was a ticket back to England. Her singing career flourished in Britain, the country she represented in the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest, and later in the '70s she moved to Los Angeles, where she starred as Australian Sandy Olsson in 'Grease.' Australia still regards her as a national treasure, even though the time she spent in the country was minimal.
Nicole Kidman may have spent more years in Australia than Olivia Newton-John, but technically she's as American as Barack Obama. Like the 44th president, she was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, and lived there until she was four years old. All three of her children are American-born, as was her first husband, Tom Cruise. But at least her current spouse, Keith Urban, is Australian, right? Actually, no: Keith was born in New Zealand.
As for the alleged-Aussie grabbing the most headlines today, Mel Gibson, the troubled star was actually born in Peekskill, NY. He moved to Sydney with his family in 1968 when he was 12, and returned to his native America in 1984. But his southern sojourn was long enough to launch his film career with three 'Mad Max' movies (which got perceptibly less Australian as the franchise became a hit in the U.S.) and a critically acclaimed Aussie war drama, 'Galipoli.' As "real Househusband" (and actual Aussie) Simon van Kempen recently told PopEater, Australia is in no hurry to claim the abusive actor as a native son.
Russell Crowe is another quick-tempered actor who people think of as exemplifying an image of Australia. But while he is a naturalized Australian citizen, Crowe, like Keith Urban, is actually a native Kiwi. Crowe bounced back and forth across the Tasman Sea during his early life, launching a music career in New Zealand and acting in Australia, but ultimately finding success in the United States.
Julia Gillard is not exactly a household name, but since she became Australia's first female prime minister on June 24, we're going to count her as a celebrity. Like the other notable names on the list, she was actually born overseas -- in her case, Wales. Unlike in the U.S., being born in another country does not bar a naturalized Australian from becoming the country's leader. Note: She is not Australia's Head of State -- that role belongs to yet another foreigner, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Many of the country's notable musical exports are not exactly "dinky-di" (an Australian expression meaning authentic), either. The Bee Gees started their career in Australia in the 1960s, but the Gibb brothers were originally from England and returned there as soon as they started to become successful. Soft rock duo Air Supply ('All Out Of Love,' 'Even The Nights Are Better') are half English, half Australian. And Colin Hay, the lead singer of Men at Work, whose 1981 mega-hit 'Land Down Under' is still synonymous with Australia, is actually Scottish.
Almost the only famous Aussie who actually qualifies for the title is Hugh Jackman -- and even he is barely Australian. Jackman was born in Sydney to English immigrant parents, and three of his four elder siblings were born in the U.K. But by the standards of Australia's mostly-non-Australian celebrities, that makes him practically carved out of Vegemite.
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