The Age (2002)
Australia's shooting star lands in the desert
July 16, 2002 | Written by Garry Maddox
Toni Collette: "I just needed a place of my own and I needed to be still for a while and figure out what normalcy is." Next week the Australian star of Muriel's Wedding, The Sixth Sense and Shaft will start shooting a film in the remote Pilbara region in Western Australia. Toni Collette plays a stranded geologist in Japanese Story, a far cry from the comical Muriel Heslop in Muriel's Wedding, which brought her international acclaim. And the role is just as far from the characters she plays in two films about to reach cinemas - a gutsy gangster's wife in the Australian crime tale Dirty Deeds and a suicidal mother in the British comedy About a Boy. Speaking before the premiere of Dirty Deeds last night, Collette said that in Japanese Story, her character meets an enigmatic Japanese investor who changes her life.

"I'm playing a character who is quite shut down and I end up waking up and appreciating life a bit more," she said. Having lived through well-documented battles with bulimia and panic attacks, Collette liked the fact that director Sue Brooks' film is a meditation on death. "That's something I'm slightly obsessed with," she said. For the Blacktown-raised actor who was nominated for an Oscar for The Sixth Sense and a Tony award for the Broadway show The Wild Party, there is also the mysterious pull of the desert. "I really wanted to get out into the desert," she said. "I've never really spent much time out there. One thing I miss when I'm away from Australia is the light and the space. And I'm certainly going to have a lot of that." Collette said returning to work in Australia was a natural progression. "I was 21 when Muriel's Wedding came out and everything kind of exploded," she said. "I was living out of a suitcase and running around the planet and working and working and working.

"When I wasn't working, I was trying to figure out 'What am I suppose to do? I don't really live anywhere' and having holidays and not really relaxing." Reaching her late 20s, she began reassessing her life. "I'm learning to appreciate simpler things now," she said. "I just needed a place of my own and I needed to be still for a while and figure out what normalcy is." Collette, who plays a tough woman in Dirty Deeds, said: "I'm all for strong female characters."