Priscilla actor Bill Hunter gravely ill

Bill Hunter with Toni Collette in Muriel's Wedding." link="/bill-hunter/person/49750/summary.html" target="_blank" loc="right">

There are grave fears for the health of Australian actor Bill Hunter.

The 71-year-old, known for his roles in hit Australian films Muriel's Wedding, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Strictly Ballroom, was admitted to a Melbourne hospice on Monday.

His manager Mark Morrissey said he is "gravely ill" and has inoperable cancer.

Morrissey told AAP that Hunter's family are visiting him at the hospice on a regular basis.

Kriv Stenders, the director of Red Dog, one of the last movies Hunter appeared in, said he didn't appear sick during the shoot in Adelaide last year.

"I had no idea he was that ill, so I'm very sorry for him and his family," he told AAP on Wednesday.

"I literally just got a message from a friend a few moments ago about it, I didn't know."

Stenders said Hunter only came in for a day on the Red Dog shoot to film a cameo.

"I'd never really met him or worked with him before that so you wouldn't say I'm someone who's been a long-time collaborator with him by any means," he said.

"But it was a great day ... and it was so wonderful that he agreed to do the film for us...

"I'm just so thrilled that I got a chance to work with a legend."

Stenders said Hunter was a real character on set and laughed as he tried to recount the day's filming.

"It was the most hilarious actor-director kind of relationship I've ever had," he said.

"He came in and every time I went to say something, or just say, 'that was great', he'd just say, 'oh f*** off, get out of here! Go away!'

"Basically saying I don't need some pip-squeak director telling me that I'm good."

Stenders said working with Hunter was "short and sweet" but very memorable.

"He was such a great sport and did it for us at a moment's notice where he came down to Adelaide and shot the scene," he said.

"Personally I'm very chuffed that he's in the movie and that we've got a slice of Australian screen history in there.

"It's fantastic."

Ballarat-born Hunter's acting career stretches back to 1957, when he appeared as an extra in The Shiralee.

He then went on to appear in more than 100 productions, with the list of his works reading like a history of Australian film and television.

His latest work was portraying horse trainer Bart Cummings in Simon Wincer's The Cup, which is set for release in October while Red Dog is scheduled for an August release.

The Internet Movie Database shows Hunter is also billed alongside Barry Otto and John Waters in the cast of Spider Dance, which is currently in pre-production.

Hunter is known for his frequent characterisations of the archetypal gruff but lovable Australian bloke, which has seen him work alongside the likes of Toni Collette, Nicole Kidman and Hugo Weaving.

He played the scheming, devious father in Muriel's Wedding, the lovable and accepting outback mechanic in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, the meddling judge in Strictly Ballroom, the memorable Major Barton in Gallipoli and the voice of the dreaded dentist in Finding Nemo.

He also appeared in Baz Luhrmann's epic Australia, the comedies Bad Eggs and Crackerjack, and the 1970s bush ranger movies Ned Kelly and Mad Dog Morgan.

His long list of TV credits include The Pacific, Stingers, White Collar Blue, Water Rats, All Saints, Sea Change, Prisoner, The Dismissal, Doctor Who, Skippy and even Dynasty.