The Daily Telegraph (2003)
Singing Part
September 25, 2003 | Written by Claire Sutherland
Toni Collette is taking time out from acting to be a musician, reports Claire Sutherland. The world of celluloid is littered with the dented egos of singers who thought they had what it takes to be actors. Step over every Madonna (Swept Away) and there's a Britney (Crossroads). And alongside every Mariah (Glitter), there's a Kylie (Bio-Dome).

Toni Collette, already a respected - indeed Oscar-nominated - actor, is about to swim against the tide. She and new husband David Galafassi of Sydney band Gelbison have just put the finishing touches to a home recording studio at their property two hours south of Sydney and that's where you'll find Collette for the rest of the year. "It's really exciting. I think that's what I'm going to do: take the rest of the year off and focus on it, get it happening because it's been 10 years coming. It's got to happen or I'll burst," Collette says.

Collette has dabbled in music for years but her January marriage threw her full tilt into the industry. She's spent the past few weeks in the back of the Gelbison tour bus. Asked if she's enjoying it, she interrupts. "Being a groupie?" she grins. "It's great, I love it." She finds it hard to categorise her music and the question of what image a record company would stamp on it is a vexed one. "I want to be able to get into the studio and not feel fenced in," she says. "I don't even want to talk about how it's going to be marketed."

Until then, she's got something else to market, the wistful new Australian film Japanese Story. Set and shot in the Pilbara, Collette plays a repressed geologist reluctantly showing a Japanese client around WA's ore-rich region. A drawn-out tale of few words, the stunningly-shot landscape is as much a character as Collette and co-star Gotaro Tsunashima, or Go, as she calls him.

An endearing mix of the new age and old-fashioned pragmatism flows through Collette and is revealed when she talks about how the Pilbara affected her. "I have this theory - you might not think it's true - that when you're in the city you don't really see beyond the next building, everything's kind of blocked and shaped for you. But when you're out there, it's such a vast expanse and I think you open to a certain extent because there's nothing blocking your vision," she says. She meditated and did yoga every day of the eight-week shoot, and, in a region where sustenance usually consists of roadhouse burgers or frozen food, had a personal chef prepare macrobiotic meals for her. "Nothing else could have informed that path for me - not that I wasn't friendly and sociable - but I didn't get drunk with Go, let's put it that way. Maybe one night, in downtown Newman, famous for its topless waitresses."

It's taken 11 years but Collette has carved out a satisfying career for herself. Her first role was opposite Anthony Hopkins in the little gem Spotswood, followed by her breakthrough role of Muriel Heslop in Muriel's Wedding. Her first international film was The Pallbearer, where she befriended Gwyneth Paltrow. The pair then made Emma together, and Collette was off and running. But it wasn't long ago that Collette was thinking seriously about packing it all in.

She hated being a public figure and hated the toll the job took on her. She had survived an eating disorder and was sometimes a reluctant interviewee. "I was like: 'I feel like I've been raped of all my emotional life. I don't feel things for myself, it's always funnelled into some characters somewhere exploding', and I just wanted to keep some things for myself," she says. Now, with a new relationship and the prospect of some time off to experiment with her music, Collette is much happier. The normal life Collette craves is more possible in Australia, and while other actors base themselves in LA, she is happy in the back of the tour bus.