Veteran film and TV actor Penne Hackforth-Jones passes away

Actor Penne Hackforth-Jones, a pillar of Australian films and TV for more than 40 years, died in Melbourne on Friday from lung cancer, aged 63.

Her illness was diagnosed in 2012 but she wished to keep the diagnosis private while her father was still alive. She relocated to Melbourne in 2011 to be close to and care for her elderly parents both of whom died recently.

“Penne responded to her own terminal diagnosis with great courage and grace,” said her sisters Jos Hackforth-Jones, Simary Hackforth-Jones and Olivia McNally. “Her health deteriorated in April, but she was able to remain at home because of the wonderful support from her GP, Mercy and Alfred Palliative care units and friends. Her last weeks were peaceful and happy. She died surrounded by flowers and cards from those closest to her and cared for by family and close friends. She was dearly loved by relations and friends and much liked and respected by colleagues and fans. Her sisters will remember her infectious sense of humour and her gentleness, wit and beguiling charm together with the great joy and comfort that she brought our parents at the end of their lives.“ 

There will be a private family service next week followed by a memorial service in Melbourne on May 31.

The tributes are flowing for the highly respected performer who made her screen debut in TV’s Riptide in 1969. “Devastated to hear Penne Hackforth-Jones has left us. Generous and beautiful, she will be greatly missed,” producer Jane Scott posted on Facebook.

“RIP Penelope Hackforth-Jones (actor), Bellbird and many wonderful Australian film and TV productions,” said radio and TV personality Jono Coleman. “Sadly lost so young. I had a big crush on her after GTK on ABC-TV every night after school.”

“A beautiful person with a wonderful voice – worked with Penne for many years at UKTV. Vale Penne – you will be missed,” said Phyllisse Stanton.
“RIP Penne a stunningly beautiful woman, “declared actor Chris Haywood.

Cinematographer Peter James said, “Penne was a true professional actress who always brought a lightness and fun to the set. I loved working with her.”

“I'd often see Penne at the Village and I never stopped to tell her how great an actress she was,” said actor Adam Zwar. “She had such a delicate touch. Funny too, telling Rachel Griffiths' character in Muriel's Wedding: 'You can't come in here and threaten brides. I don't care how unfortunate you are.'”

Born in Connecticut US, she was raised in Australia. After her breakthrough in Riptide she was a regular in series such as Bellbird, GP, A Country Practice and All Saints. Among her numerous film credits were Alvin Purple, Muriel’s Wedding, Paradise Road, Black and White, The Tree and Mao's Last Dancer. 

In 2011 she starred in ABC-TV’s Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries and Foxtel’s Conspiracy 365. Her final screen role was in ABC-TV’s The Doctor Blake Mysteries.

She posted the last entry in her personal blog in April last year, a tribute to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Identifying with the characters, she wrote, “We are all moving in into this shadowland and dealing with it with as much of our better natures as we can muster.”