Australian producer and businessman dies at 80
CANBERRA, Australia – Australian producer and actor John ‘Strop’ Cornell, also considered a ‘classic Australian character’, has died after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.
Cornell was surrounded by his family, including his wife and TV personality Delvene Delaney and children, when he died at the age of 80 at his home in Byron Bay, South East Australia, in New South Wales.
In a statement, his family paid tribute to the “true egalitarian”.
“A classic Australian character, John Cornell made the lives he touched much richer, not only through donations, but also through his generosity of spirit, humor, humility and honor,” said they stated.
“John looked for fairness and equality and fought for a good start.”
Cornell is best remembered for playing the Single Strop opposite his real mate Paul Hogan, but offscreen he was smart enough to be Hogan’s manager, help design Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket and produce the Dundee Crocodile Movies.
Born in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, on February 2, 1941, Cornell spent most of his childhood in Bunbury. After leaving school, he enrolled in study pharmacy but became a junior journalist on a reputable Australian news channel.
He worked for the newspaper in London before returning to Australia and becoming a member of the Nine Network A topical matter producer. Meanwhile, Cornell met his lifelong friend and collaborator, Hogan.
“I immediately saw talent in Hogan,” Cornell said in 1986.
“I was struck by its originality. I think he is the most talented artist in this country; he is in a way the equivalent of a versatile cricketer.
Cornell became Hogan’s manager. When Hogan had his own show in 1973, Cornell played Strop, the stupid roommate with the eternal surf life cap and jutting jaw.
Cornell also managed several cricketers, including bowler Dennis Lillee, who wanted to be highly paid professional sportsmen like tennis players and golfers.
This prompted Cornell to pitch the idea for a new cricket league, funded by commercial TV shows, to Nine boss Kerry Packer.
In 1977, Cornell JP Promotions and Nine hired 35 top cricketers to play in a series of six “super tests” between Australia and the rest of the world.
“The public will see the best cricket ever, and the players themselves believe the ideas will give the game a tremendous boost,” said Cornell in May 1977.
Cornell, who had been married twice before, married Paul Hogan’s Show resident beauty Delaney on New Years Eve 1977.
However, Strop’s role was fading, and in 1980 Cornell and Hogan announced an “out-of-court settlement” whereby Cornell would leave The Paul Hogan Show, though the duo continued to work closely offscreen.
Cornell and Delaney then moved to Byron Bay on the north coast of New South Wales, helping to make it a Mecca for the rich and famous.
In 1984, Cornell helped negotiate a deal with the Australian Tourism Commission for Hogan to star in the blockbuster “Shrimp on the Barbie” commercials to promote Australia in the US and beyond.
The ads have helped build Hogan’s international profile. Then in 1986 came the successful hit, Crocodile Dundee, directed by Peter Faiman. Cornell was the producer and one of the screenwriters.
The budget of A $ 8.8million ($ 6.49million) was significant for an Australian film at the time, but several hundred of Cornell and Hogan’s friends, including Kerry Packer and cricketers Dennis Lillee , Greg Chappell and Rod Marsh, invested the money.
Cornell and Hogan were the biggest individual investors, although Cornell acknowledged that “the number one rule in movies is never to invest in your own movie.”
Cornell accurately predicted that before the film’s release, “Crocodile Dundee will be a huge hit and surpass any other Australian movie ever made.”
In the month before its US release in October 1986, Hogan and Cornell conducted over 300 promotional interviews in a month.
Crocodile Dundee became the second highest grossing release in the United States that year, after Top Gun. Cornell, Hogan, and Ken Shadie received Oscar nominations for Best Original Screenplay.
Part of Crocodile Dundee’s success was based on its lack of sex and violence. Cornell said he wanted to produce a wellness film “that would appeal to men and women ages six to 65”.
“Being rich, I’m my own boss,” Cornell said in 1986.
“I can have fun. I don’t have to answer anyone. I have the freedom.
Two successful sequels followed, but they didn’t reach the heights of the original.
In 1990, Cornell was the witness when Hogan married Linda Kozlowski, his Crocodile Dundee co-star, in Byron Bay.
That same year, Cornell and Delaney built the Byron Bay Beach Hotel Resort, which they sold in 2007 for A $ 65 million ($ 47.91 million).
The Cornell company bought the Brunswick Hotel, near Brunswick Heads, in 1990. In 2013, his friend, TV director David Gyngell, bought half a share for A $ 5.25 million (3 , $ 87 million).
the Australian Tax Office and the Australian Crime Commission began investigating Hogan and Cornell for alleged tax evasion in 2004, suing the couple for allegedly A $ 150 million ($ 110 million) in unpaid taxes dating back to the 1980s.
The Australian Crime Commission dropped its investigation in 2010, and Cornell and Hogan settled their dispute with the Australian Taxation Office in 2012.
Cornell, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in his 60s, began a treatment called deep brain stimulation in 2009.
He claimed in 2010 that he was able to walk up to two kilometers and felt like “a magic wand had been passed over me”.
Cornell and Delaney had two daughters, Allira and Liana. Cornell also had a daughter, Melissa, from a previous marriage.
Edited by Saptak Datta and Ritaban Misra