Crocodile Dundee Actor David Gulpilil Dead at 68: 'One of the Greatest Artists Australia Has Ever Seen'

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David Gulpilil
David Gulpilil

Don Arnold/WireImage

David Gulpilil Ridjimiraril Dalaithngu has died at age 68 after a four-year battle with lung cancer.

The Crocodile Dundee star was known as a beloved indigenous Australian actor and his legacy was honored in a statement by Premier of South Australia Hon Steven Marshall on Monday.

"It is with great sadness that I share with the people of South Australia the passing of an iconic, once-in-a-generation artist who shaped the history of Australian film and Aboriginal representation on screen," Marshall wrote.

"An actor, dancer, singer, and painter, he was also one of the greatest artists Australia has ever seen," he said.

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CROCODILE DUNDEE, Paul Hogan, Linda Kozlowski, David Gulpilil
CROCODILE DUNDEE, Paul Hogan, Linda Kozlowski, David Gulpilil

Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection

Gupilil, who was a lauded member of the country's film industry, was born into the Mandhalpingu clan of the Yolŋu people and spent much of his years in Murray Bridge, Australia. The actor found fame after appearing in the 1971 film Walkabout as a young boy. The 1976 film Storm Boy made Gulpili a household name, and he went on to play Neville Bell in 1986's Crocodile Dundee.

Other notable films Gulpilil appeared in include Charlie's Country, Rabbit-Proof Fence and The Proposition.

Though he found universal success in acting and a variety of other creative endeavors, Gulpili's life was not without hardship, according to Marshall. "He encountered racism and discrimination and lived with the pressures of the divide between his traditional lifestyle and public profile," Marshall's statement on Monday read.

In the good moments, Gulpilil's gratitude, perseverance and achievement were celebrated throughout his career. "Diagnosed with lung cancer in 2017, he was never expected to survive until the end of shooting, let alone the premiere, and yet it was no surprise to anyone that he was front and centre on opening night, where he would receive his final standing ovation," Marshall wrote.

In 2019, while considered "gravely ill," Gulpilil was awarded the National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) Lifetime Achievement Award. "Never forget me. While I am here, I will never forget you," he said while accepting the honor at the time.

Gulpilil is survived by his son, Jamie Gulpilil.

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