Rachel Ward: “Thorn Birds” Turned Her Into Director

    July 24, 2012
    Amanda Crum

Rachel Ward should have had a very bright acting career ahead of her after starring in one of the most popular and beloved mini-series ever made; instead, she walked away from acting shortly after to go behind the camera.

The mini-series was “The Thorn Birds”, and although I was very young at the time of its debut in 1983, I clearly remember my mother and her best friend making plans to watch it for the entire run and then speaking about it in reverent tones afterward, almost swooning with the romantic overtones. In the 80’s, when Harlequin romance novels and soap operas were at the peak of their popularity, a television movie about unrequited love was just what the people wanted. “The Thorn Birds”, about a woman who comes between a priest (Richard Chamberlain) and his church after they fall in love, was a wildly successful mini-series, coming just behind “Roots” with 35 million viewers for each of the 10 episodes.


Yet, to use the parlance of our time, haters gonna hate. As successful as the series was with people all over the country, several critics panned Ward’s performance. Unfortunately, she hadn’t built up the thick skin one needs in Hollywood and let it influence her in a negative way.

“When I got slaughtered, I really took it to heart,” Ward said. “I never really got my confidence back after that.”

Although she appeared in a few more films and television projects–most notably the Jeff Bridges film “Against All Odds”–she says she feels most confident behind the camera rather than in front of it. She did, however, appear at a Hollywood event this past weekend, where she met up with co-star Chamberlain for the first time in years. The two spoke at a “Pioneers In Television” convention for ABC, during which Chamberlain displayed the charm that made millions of women fall in love with him all those years ago.

“You look more beautiful than ever, by the way,” he told Ward.