Mark Lee was sipping tea in Turkey when a smiling souvenir seller approached him, giving the Gallipoli star a handful of salvaged First World War bullets.
“Thank you,” the man told Mark, who was astonished to be recognized so far from home. “If it hadn’t been for your film, I wouldn’t have this business today. Australians didn’t come here before that.”
Like so many others, Mark had finally made a pilgrimage to the fabled 1915 battlefield that gave birth to the Anzac legend. Indirectly, many years later, Gallipoli also spawned the celebrated 1981 Aussie war movie that turned Mark and co-star Mel Gibson into household names.
“It was crazy,” Mark recalls, 40 years after the much-loved drama’s first release. “The film became a juggernaut. I was only 23 and talking to the world press in Los Angeles, blathering away. I mean, what did I have to say? It was just massive and therein lay the problem.”
While Mel went on to become a controversial global superstar, Mark’s career followed a successful but lower-profile path on stage and screen in Australia. It wasn’t that Hollywood ignored his undoubted talent and good looks, more that he wasn’t prepared to pursue that goal.
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