Jon Blake died of complications from pneumonia on Sunday at the age of 52.
As a young actor he had been dubbed “the next Mel Gibson” after starring in the Australian film The Lighthorsemen. But a serious car accident on the last day of filming in 1986 left him with permanent brain damage and ended a promising career.
Born in New Zealand and trained as a professional boxer, Blake’s first major role was on the soap The Restless Years as ‘Sonny.’
He appeared in a number of other shows and miniseries including A Country Practice and The Slim Dusty Movie.
But he achieved major success with a starring role in Nine’s miniseries ANZACs.
Channel TEN entertainment reporter Angela Bishop tweeted late yesterday afternoon that Blake’s son Dustin “would like to thank all the nurses & volunteers who cared for him over 25 years. RIP”. She had recently profiled the father and son on 6:30 with George Negus. Yesterday on TEN News, she fought back tears as she revealed the news.
Industry stars yesterday paid tribute to Blake.
Peter Phelps, who pulled him from the car trip that claimed Blake’s career, said, “We had formed a really good friendship in the Lighthorsemen, going up to the hills and to the pub together.
“There was always some hope that with the mystery of a brain injury there was a chance. I hope there was no pain.”
Tony Bonner, who worked with Blake on both The Lighthorsemen and ANZACs, said, “He wasn’t just content to be a young actor, he wanted to find something in his characters – to peel another coat of the onion away.
“It’s a blessing of some kind that Jon is not travelling in any more pain. I hope that he is in a peaceful place now.”
Gary Sweet said, “We got on very well… we used to sit around and shoot the breeze, and he was very popular with the ladies.”
Producer Hal McElroy once said, ”I’ve seen it in everything he has done: star quality. I think he’s talented, and I still see it in his face since the accident, that there is something happening there that’s extraordinary and irresistible … to an audience.”
A funeral will be held later this week.