Paul Eenhoorn, the Australian actor best known for his acclaimed late-in-life starring turns in the indie darlings This Is Martin Bonner and Land Ho!, has died. He was 73.
Eenhoorn died in his sleep of an apparent heart attack on Monday in his home in Tacoma, Washington, his wife, Stephanie, told The Hollywood Reporter.
He was going to start on a movie in Seattle with the filmmaking Silver brothers, director Kahlil Silver and writer Shogi Silver, later that day.
After relocating to the U.S. and the Seattle area in 1999, Eenhoorn portrayed the lead detective in Zoo (2007), a controversial documentary about a man who died after engaging in anal sex with a horse. The film premiered at Sundance and screened in the Directors’ Fortnight section at Cannes.
As Kael, he led a group of medieval soldiers in Warrior’s End (2009), and in In the Company of Women (2015), he was memorable as an older academic who is escorted around town one night by a sophisticated ladies man (Shogi Silver, who also wrote the film that was helmed by his brother).
In This Is Martin Bonner (2013), written and directed by Chad Hartigan, Eenhoorn played the title character, a loner who starts over in Reno, Nevada, becomes an outreach counselor at a penitentiary and takes a newly released prisoner (Richmond Arquette) under his wing.
“At the time I shot that, I was pretty much depressed,” Eenhoorn recalled in a 2014 interview. “I don’t know if it was a performance or just me being me on the day.”
In his THR review from Sundance, David Rooney wrote that “Eenhoorn conveys a whole complicated history without actually saying a lot, hinting that Martin’s patience and inner fortitude may have been hard won.”
Eenhoorn backed up that performance with a nice turn in the disarming adventure comedy Land Ho! (2014), playing the former brother-in-law of a retired surgeon (Earl Lynn Nelson) as the pair journey across Iceland. That movie also bowed at Sundance before it was acquired by Sony Pictures Classics.
Thanks in large part to Eenhoorn, Martin Bonner and Land Ho! captured the prestigious John Cassavetes Award at the Spirit Awards in consecutive years.
Born on Nov. 16, 1948, Paul Marinus Eenhoorn attended Paul Blackburn South High School and Murdoch University in Perth, then studied acting at the Mount Lawley Academy of Performing Arts in his hometown and at The Actors Center in Sydney.
“I’ve been on television since I was about 17,” he told IndieWire in 2013. “I had opportunities, one major opportunity I blew in my 20s. Once I started down this pathway, it was a case of not letting anyone stop me. Not my wife, not my family. It was getting too late to give it a small percentage. I had to give it one hundred percent.”
He came to the U.S. after meeting Stephanie in Sydney.
Eenhoorn’s résumé included the films Max Rules (2004), Keep Your Day Job, Superstar (2009), Coffka (2009), Half Empty (2011), Rogue Saints (2011), Beautiful Brit Baker (2012) and Monarch City (2022). He also served as the model for Dr. Arne Magnusson, the leader of the White Forest, in the video game Half-Life 2.
Rooney noted that in one short scene in Martin Bonner, Eenhoorn “dances alone in his apartment and plays air guitar to an old tape recording of a band he fronted in his youth. The song, ‘Genevieve,’ is an appealingly scrappy garage-rock nugget recorded by Kopyrite, a group Eenhoorn sang with during the late ’60s in Perth. It’s a nice, understated interlude and indicative of the personal stake that gives this modest film its persuasive feel of lived-in authenticity.”
In addition to his wife, survivors include his daughter, Natasha; brother Makk; sister Heather; and granddaughter Miranda.
On Twitter, Hartigan wrote that he was “devastated” to hear about Eenhoorn’s death.
“He put his heart and soul into his role in This Is Martin Bonner and it leapt out of the screen and is the only reason I have a career now,” he wrote. “That his break came so late in life is a huge loss for all the work we never got to see him do.”