Tom Burlinson was born in Toronto, Ontario on 14 February 1956 (St Valentine's Day). His English parents, Anthony T. Burlinson (born 1923, in Greenwich, Middlesex) and Angela Schofield (born 1927, in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk), had migrated to Canada after World War II. The family moved to New Jersey, United States in 1958. In 1962 the family moved to England due to his father's job and a young Burlinson took his North American accent to school. In 1965, his family moved again, this time to Australia. After six months his parents divorced and his mother and two younger sisters returned to England leaving Burlinson with his father and his older sister, Susan.
Burlinson's first public appearance as an actor was as Colonel Pickering in Mosman Primary School's production of My Fair Lady. Moving to Bayview, he attended Pittwater High School on Sydney's Northern Beaches and was the school captain in his final year.
Burlinson's father wanted him to become a lawyer, but because a friend was accepted into the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA), he decided to audition and to his surprise he was accepted into the 1974 class, graduating in 1976. He started appearing on Australian TV in 1977. By the beginning of 1979, he began playing Mickey Pratt in the teen-oriented Australian soap opera The Restless Years, a role which lasted 16 months. In 1978, he appeared as Charlie in the Old Tote Theatre Company production of Da and as Jud Templeton in the play Tribute in 1979. In 1980, he played Hughie in the Anzac Day play The One Day Of The Year. He also featured in the TV police drama Cop Shop in 1980–81 and in Skyways.
In 1981, Burlinson had his career break when he was given the main role in the biggest Australian film production ever, which was to be shot the next year, The Man from Snowy River, as Jim Craig ("The Man"). He had only a few short weeks to learn how to ride a horse and make it look like he had been born in the saddle. He performed all of the stunts, including the iconic cliff ride.
Snowy River was filmed and released in Australia in 1982, quickly becoming the highest-grossing Australian film ever at that time. With a gross of $17 million, over 20 years later it remains the seventh highest grossing Australian film of all time, bringing Burlinson to stardom.
In his next film, Burlinson portrayed horse trainer Tommy Woodcock in Phar Lap: Heart of a Nation. This film was another hit and confirmed Burlinson as a major star in the Australian film industry.
After these two films, Burlinson feared being typecast as an actor only in horse-themed movies. Other than the sequel to Snowy River, he vowed to avoid similarly themed films.
In 1985, Burlinson was cast by Dutch director Paul Verhoeven for a role in his first English-speaking film, the cult film Flesh and Blood.
In 1986, Burlinson played the main role as yuppy windsurfer in the main modern day comedy romance Windrider alongside teen actress Nicole Kidman in her first adult role. The film was a hit both in Australia and the United States.
In 1987, Burlinson was given his first role in a Hollywood film, The Time Guardian, in which he played the main role, Ballard, a visitor from another world, opposite Hollywood stars Dean Stockwell and Carrie Fisher. In 1988 he starred in the long-waited sequel to The Man from Snowy River II, which has the United States' title of Return to Snowy River and the UK title of The Untamed.
From then onwards, Burlinson focused on historical productions, including the highly acclaimed 1988 LWT mini-series Piece of Cake, set in England in 1939 and based on the 1983 novel of the same name by Derek Robinson and Showdown at Williams Creek, set in pioneer North America.
He also does stage work, musicals and concerts as well and assisting charities.
Apart from his acting career, he is also a singer. Because a childhood obsession with Frank Sinatra led Burlinson to compose an ode to one of his favourite singers as he made the most of a 1990 appearance on Ray Martin's Midday Show to nervously debut his singing voice to the Australian public with "The Man In The Hat".
Tina Sinatra used Burlinson's voice as the young Sinatra in a miniseries she was producing on her father's life. With new doors now open to him, Burlinson auditioned for several musicals.
Burlinson returned to the stage in How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying in 1992. He starred with some of Australia's most notable stage performers, Noel Ferrier, June Bronhill and Jackie Love. In 1996 he had stage roles with the Sydney Theatre Company. He starred as Franklin in Merrily We Roll Along and as Ricky in Miracle City.
In 1998, Burlinson created Frank, The Sinatra Story In Song which opened at the Seymour Centre in Sydney before going to other major cities. Sinatra himself died just two weeks before the opening night. From 1998 to 2003 Burlinson toured Australia regularly and also took the show to corporate events.
In 2001 the show's name was changed to Frank - A Life In Song due to the legalities of using the Sinatra name. In 2002 he took the show to his native Toronto.
Burlinson's versatility has also seen him appear on TV's Carols By Candlelight in 1999 and 2002. He had also had a role on ABC doctor drama GP and hosted Animal Hospital.
Burlinson provided Sinatra's singing voice in the 2003 Australian movie The Night We Called It a Day.
Burlinson returned to the world of theatre in April 2004 in the lead role of Leo Bloom in Mel Brooks' musical The Producers. He co-starred with Reg Livermore, Bert Newton and Chloe Dallimore.
In 2007, it was announced that Burlinson was to become a judge on Australia's Got Talent alongside Red Symons and Dannii Minogue. He remained on the show until its third season but was succeeded in its fourth by Kyle Sandilands and Brian McFadden.The Restless Years (1977–79)
Kirby's Company (1977)
Yes. What! (1978)
Glenview High (1978)
Cop Shop (1980–81)
The Man from Snowy River (1982)
Phar Lap: Heart of a Nation (1983)
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1985)
Flesh and Blood (1985)
King Solomon's Mines (1986)
The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (1986)
The Time Guardian (1987)
The Man from Snowy River II (1988)
Piece of Cake (1988)
Showdown at Williams Creek (1990)
The Way to Dusty Death (1996)
The Night We Called It a Day (2003) - voice only
The Cup (2011)