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Rachel Ward and Bryan Brown | Source: Getty images
Rachel Ward and Bryan Brown | Source: Getty images

Rachel Ward Had Instant Chemistry with Co-star Husband of 39 Years While Playing Incompatible Couple

Esther NJeri
Mar 13, 2022
01:20 P.M.

While it is not uncommon for Hollywood stars to find love on set, the irony of Rachel Ward and Bryan Brown's meeting is intriguing. They connected while playing an incompatible couple in the raunchy miniseries "The Thorn Birds."

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"Better Man" actor Bryan Brown and his wife, "Twisted" actress Rachel Ward, have had successful careers in film, spanning decades. Brown had appeared in films like "Along Came Polly" and "On The Beach" while Ward has been in "Hotel Colonial" and "Fortress."

However, their appearance as love interests, Luke O'Neill and Meggie Cleary on the early 80s ABC TV miniseries "The Thorn Birds" will remain most memorable for them.

Actors and now real-life partners Rachel Ward and Bryan Brown on the set of the 1983 TV series "The Thorn Birds" | Source: Getty Images

Actors and now real-life partners Rachel Ward and Bryan Brown on the set of the 1983 TV series "The Thorn Birds" | Source: Getty Images

The show chronicled the tortured romance between an ambitious Catholic priest (Richard Chamberlain), his spirited ward (Rachel Ward), and the ranch hand, Luke (Bryan Brown), with whom she sought solace.

A Cunning Aussie Bloke

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Although Luke's motives were more mercenary than romantic, Brown and Ward's real-life chemistry was off the charts. Ward recalls the first time she saw him as a moment of fundamental recognition. Asked what attracted her to her future husband, she mused, as DailyMail reports:

"There's not much thought goes into it. I fancied him. You know, that was about it."

The "Blackbeard" actress also joked about being the one that possibly made the first move. She referred to Brown as "slow as a wet week" and "took forever" to make his intentions with her known.

Actress Rachel Ward and Australian actor Bryan Brown at their wedding at Ward's father's estate; Cornwell Manor, near Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire. | Source: Getty Images

Actress Rachel Ward and Australian actor Bryan Brown at their wedding at Ward's father's estate; Cornwell Manor, near Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire. | Source: Getty Images

Brown tried to redeem himself by saying he was a "cunning Aussie bloke" and was trying to take his time to get to know her. And while we'll never know for sure who was being truthful on the matter, what is apparent is that theirs was an undeniable case of love at first sight.

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For a man that often admitted to being worried about commitment, it did not take Brown a long time to realize he had met "the one." They got married nine months later at Ward's childhood home, Cornwell Manor, a magnificent Georgian mansion in Oxfordshire.

Ward Found a Husband but Lost a Career

Chamberlain, who plays Father Ralph, thought that Ward loved him. See, their characters were supposed to be in love. However, the twist was that Ward was falling in love with Brown in real-time. Chamberlain mused:

"Well, if I may, Rachel was falling in love with Bryan, but we're playing people who fall in love, and so she was glowing with love, and I thought it was me! It was fabulous. 'God. She's really into me.'"

Actor Richard Chamberlain with actress Rachel Ward at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 22, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. | Source: Getty Images

Actor Richard Chamberlain with actress Rachel Ward at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 22, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. | Source: Getty Images

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He recounted his sentiments when Larry King asked if acting in the love scenes had been complex. He disclosed how easy it had been because of how attracted his character had been to Ward's.

Chamberlain reminisced: "I mean, Rachel Ward, this beautiful, beautiful creature in "The Thorn Birds," the love scenes were wonderful to do because I was Father Ralph, and she was gorgeous. And I was in love with her."

Upon its release in 1983, "The Thorn Birds" became an instant hit, cementing its spot as the second highest-rated miniseries of all time. Decades later, it still garners new followings with its rebroadcasts.

Actor Bryan Brown poses with his wife, director Rachel Ward at the Dendy Opera Quays on May 14, 2009 in Sydney, Australia | Source: Getty Images

Actor Bryan Brown poses with his wife, director Rachel Ward at the Dendy Opera Quays on May 14, 2009 in Sydney, Australia | Source: Getty Images

As would be expected, the stars got a massive boost from the ratings, with Chamberlain securing a new status as the reigning king of TV series and Brown launching a successful career in Hollywood. His newly-gained popularity saw him appear in "Cocktail" and "Gorillas In the Mist."

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For Ward, the show brought more bad than good news. The show's excoriating reviews highly criticized her for her performance, making her feel insecure. She opened up about it, as The Hollywood Reporter writes:

"When I got slaughtered, I really took it to heart. I never really got my confidence back after that."

Rachel Ward and Bryan Brown on December 2, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. | Source: Getty Images

Rachel Ward and Bryan Brown on December 2, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. | Source: Getty Images

In turn, Wade chose to move behind the cameras and has since produced numerous films, including "The Straits," "Rake," "My Place," Beautiful Kate," "Two Twisted," and "Martha's New Coat," to name a few.

It is worth noting that before appearing on "The Thorn Birds," Ward had been a Golden Globe nominee, a UK Vogue cover model, and was voted one among the ten most beautiful women in the world.

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A Marriage That Has Stood the Test of Time

Despite a flop in her career, Ward has something beautiful to show for her time on "The Thorn Birds." She left the show with a husband, whom she has been married to for close to four decades.

Bryan Brown and Rachel Ward at The Star on December 5, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. | Source: Getty Images

Bryan Brown and Rachel Ward at The Star on December 5, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. | Source: Getty Images

Even though she is of an English upbringing, Ward fully embraced her husband's roots, and soon after their marriage, they decided they did not want to live in Hollywood. They packed their bags and left for Australia.

And because Brown's career is mainly in Australia, Ward often accommodated her work and domestic life around her husband's schedules. In retrospect, she remains grateful for her choice of husband and home. She said:

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"If I'd married an American and lived in Hollywood, I'd probably be on my third husband by now. My marriage and family are important to me, but they aren't the be-all and end-all either."

Actor Bryan Brown with Rachel Ward at Sydney Town Hall on May 08, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. | Source: Getty Images

Actor Bryan Brown with Rachel Ward at Sydney Town Hall on May 08, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. | Source: Getty Images

While Brown also travels extensively for work, the pair has successfully raised their three children, Rose, Matilda, and Joseph. According to Ward, Brown was hell-bent on ensuring his young children spoke with a broad Australian accent.

Their kids are since grown, and Maltida has followed in her father's footsteps, co-starring with him in the Ward-directed film "Palm Beach" and the 2014 short film series "Lessons From The Grave."

Matilda married the love of her life, Scott Gooding, and in 2019, they welcomed their first baby, Zan, making the legendary couple grandparents for the first time. Brown and Ward's son, Joseph, is also an actor known for "Rake" and "Let's Talk About."

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The iconic couple continues to lead their beautiful lives in "The Land Down Under," and Ward loves it. She said of her hometown: "Sydney is a beautiful city, and the country is a most comfortable place to live, although the natives aren't too pleased with my presence."

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