John Cornell, filmmaker, actor and director, has died at the age of 80.
He passed away peacefully, ending a 20-year battle with Parkinson’s disease, with his wife, Delvene Delaney, and eldest daughter by his side at his home in Byron Bay.
Born in Kalgoorlie in 1941, he worked at Perth’s Daily News newspaper before becoming a producer on the original A Current Affair in 1971. It was there that he was looking for a satirist to present a regular commentary on current events and came across Paul Hogan, a rigger on the Sydney Harbour Bridge who had been interviewed on the program.
The pair formed a partnership, with Hogan the performer and Cornell as his manager and co-writer, initially working for no fee. They went on to form The Paul Hogan Show for the Seven Network in 1973, including a special, Hogan In London.
By the end of 1976, they had come across to the Nine Network in a three-year deal rumoured to be worth $1.5 million. The Paul Hogan Show continued to be a hit, with Cornell as producer and also appearing on-screen as Hogan’s dim-witted surfie mate, Strop.
Cornell was also an instrumental figure in the formation of Nine mogul Kerry Packer‘s rebel cricket competition, World Series Cricket, which was depicted in the 2012 mini-series Howzat! Kerry Packer’s War.
His partnership with Hogan also led to making Crocodile Dundee. Made in 1986, it is still regarded as the most profitable Australian film ever made and which made Hogan, playing outback bushman Mick Dundee, a hit in Hollywood. The franchise went on to have two sequels.
In a statement issued to media by the family: “After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2001, John concentrated his efforts on philanthropy, supporting his community and worthy environmental, sporting and medical causes.
“A classic Australian character, John Cornell made the lives he touched much richer, not only through donations, but also through his generosity of spirit, humour, humility and honour.
“A true egalitarian, John sought equity and equality, and fought for a fair go.”
John Cornell is survived by his wife, Delvene Delaney, and three daughters.
Source: TV Guide, 6 October 1973. TV Times, 26 February 1977. TV Week, 14 January 1978. Sydney Morning Herald, Nine News, ABC.