Hilary Linstead, Picnic at Hanging Rock Casting Director, and Producer, Dies at 83

Hilary Linstead, casting director, agent and film and stage producer died on Aug. 6 after contracting a form of leukaemia. She was 83.

Described as a “force of nature” by her friends and colleagues, Linstead nurtured and promoted some of Australia’s most famous artistic talents, including directors such as John Bell, Baz Luhrmann, Gillian Armstrong, Jim Sharman, Jane Campion and Neil Armfield, and many writers, designers, composers, cinematographers, choreographers, comedians and performers.

Born in London in 1938, and educated at Cheltenham Ladies College, Linstead went to Australia as a professional actor, as a member of an English touring company. After realizing that acting was not for her, Linstead found her metier as a casting director and worked in an advertising company and at International Casting Services representing actresses. In 1962 she married Leon Stemler.

The turning point in her career came when she joined Liz Mullinar to found M&L Casting Consultants, which became an influential company that cast stage productions such as “Rocky Horror Show” and “Jesus Christ Superstar” and many Australian film classics, including “Picnic at Hanging Rock,” “My Brilliant Career” and “Sunday Too Far Away.”

In 1973 Linstead started the first Australian agency representing writers, directors, composers, choreographers, and cinematographers. She also began producing and an early success was Steve J. Spears play “The Elocution of Benjamin Franklin,” a daring play for the time, with a gay character in the lead.

In 1981, Linstead helped director Gillian Armstrong produce her seminal documentary about teenage girls, “14’s Good, 18’s Better.” A year later she packaged and produced her first feature film, “Heatwave,” directed by Phillip Noyce, followed by “Molly.”

In 1985, the M&L Casting Consultants partnership terminated and Linstead and Viccy Harper partnered to form Hilary Linstead & Associates.

Between 1985 – 1995 Linstead produced several stage productions including the cabaret group “Pardon Me Boys”; the stage production “Buzz”; and served as associate producer on the film “The Castanet Club.” She also produced Dein Perry’s “Tap Dogs,” which has performed in over 500 cities, including off Broadway New York and return seasons in the West End. Her final film “Bootmen,” inspired by “Tap Dogs,” was produced in 1999 and directed by Perry. It collected five AFI Awards including best film.

In 2000 the agency was renamed HLA Management and is managed by one of her mentees Kate Richter. Linstead set off to travel the world and later published “Growing Old Outrageously,” which she co-authored with her travelling companion Elizabeth Davies.

The author Mandy Sayer said: “We will miss Hilary’s no bullshit, straight talking, her curiosity, her intelligence, and enduring warmth. I absolutely adored her.”

Linstead, who died peacefully at home, is survived by her son Duncan, her daughter in law, Juliette and their three children, Scarlett, Paris and Django.

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