Highly respected Queensland actor and playwright Billie Brown pulled a full house for his final performance - it was just a shame he wasn't there to see it.

Brown, who was much-loved within the acting industry, died of bowel cancer on January 13, just two days after his 61st birthday.

On Monday at Brisbane's Lyric Theatre, family, friends and fellow actors paid tribute to Brown's career and life.

The boy from Biloela, in rural Queensland, worked in major theatres around the world playing kings, prime ministers, poets and even witches.

On screen he appeared in feature films such as Fierce Creatures, Oscar and Lucinda and Killer Elite while on the small screen he was cast in TV programs such as All Saints, Rake and Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries.

Academy Award-winning actor and longtime friend Geoffrey Rush topped-and-tailed Monday's tribute.

Messages of condolences were received from British actors Sir Derek Jacobi, Sir Ian McKellen and playwright David Hare.

Jacobi and Hare recorded video messages while McKellen penned a eulogy which was read to the audience.

Among those in the auditorium was former The Sullivans star Steven Tandy while Logie winner Carol Burns, who played Franky Doyle in Prisoner in the late 70s, was among those who performed on stage.

Rush, who made his professional acting debut with Brown in Wrongside of the Moon in 1971, said he had struggled to come to terms with Brown's death.

"For the past three weeks I have missed him greatly, trying to comprehend his absence, knowing he is no longer here," Rush told the audience.

"I've re-read bundles of letters, blue paper aerograms from decades past.

"I miss his robust voice on the phone, trans-global chats ... hilarious gossip."

"His work was an eternal portrait of this remarkable man."

The tribute was meant to last an hour but ran 30 minutes overtime.

It ended with an uplifting rendition of Monty Python's Always Look On The Bright Side of Life while Brown's face was beamed on a screen just above the stage while the audience whistled and clapped.

It was Rush's second tribute to Brown in one day.

Earlier, he unveiled a portrait of the late thespian in the foyer of the Billie Brown Studio at South Brisbane, on an extended loan.

The Sydney Theatre Company commissioned Ben Quilty to paint the bold portrait last year.

"It's brilliant work from the bold palette of Ben Quilty," Rush said.

"I believe he has snared the full dynamic of how we always remember Bill."

Brown, who was awarded an AM, was also a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company and the first Australian to write and perform in their own play - The Swan Down Gloves.

 

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