Jam! Showbiz Canada (2000)
Collette copes with her celebrity
June 2000 | Written by Bob Thompson
Not much for formality, that Toni Collette. She proved it at the Oscars last spring. Collette gave fellow Australian Oscar nominee Russell Crowe a great big butt slap accompanied by a really loud 'Yahoo!' in the star-studded Shrine Auditorium lobby. The glitzy throng was amazed and a little confused by the aggressive Aussie howdy.

Collette laughs that off as she puts the past behind her. "But I do have to watch my inappropriate self sometimes," says Collette, looking mischievous at the Four Seasons Hotel. Like last month, when she allowed a magazine writer into her home and left a bowl of pot around. Like mentioning that very foul up now to a reporter. "I should have gotten rid of that, you're right, and not mentioned it now," she says putting both hands to her head, pretending to be embarrassed.

A jokester free spirit she might be. But the 31-year-old is also a sought-after and acclaimed actress. She earned an Academy Award nomination for her mom role in The Sixth Sense and a Tony nomination recently for her part as Queenie in the Broadway musical The Wild Party. Presently, Collette is featured in John Singleton's Shaft opposite Samuel L. Jackson. She plays a waitress who is a witness to a murder. She's also co-starred in Velvet Goldmine, Emma and Peter Greenaway's latest film, 81/2 Women, for which she shaved her head for the second time. Her first time was in Tibet on a whim when she had too much to drink.

Collette is a real character. She's also come a long way since her break-out portrayal in the 1993 P.J. Hogan film, Muriel's Wedding. Raised in Sydney, Collette is one of four kids. Her father is a truck driver and her mother works for a courier company. She left school at 16 to enroll in a three-year drama class, then knocked around at odd TV jobs until Muriel's Wedding came calling. Where does she live these days? "Out of a suitcase," she says. "But I feel a little more stable and balanced now, so it doesn't knock me off my perch as much as it might have back in those days," she says of her recent nominations. "I think if any of this had happened any sooner, it wouldn't have worked for me, but against me."

As devil-may-care as she seems, Collette is wise in the ways of the movie industry. She's waiting on Disney to make her an offer she can't refuse after The Sixth Sense blockbuster. She's considering but not committing to some high-profile projects she won't reveal. "In my wildest dreams, I never would have imagined that The Sixth Sense would travel and touch people so deeply," she admits. "I knew we were doing something special, but I had no idea how popular it would be." Nor did she factor in how hard she would work on The Wild Party, her Broadway debut.

"I thought that I was going to work a couple of hours each evening, and be a wonderful lady who lunches," she says of her all-consuming floozy role. "Whether it's unconscious or conscious, I am in preparation for that performance from the moment I wake up." Collette got so into the part, she convinced the producers to let her bare her breasts in the first act. "It was like a gesture," she says. "It shows her vulnerability." It also underscores the fact that Collette takes career chances -- like butt slapping at the Oscars.