BBC Talking Movies (2004)
Interview with Toni Collette
June 2004 | Written by Laura Metzger
From time to time actresses come into view who donít necessarily get star status but amaze you with their chameleon-like ability to artfully morph from one character to the next. The Australian born Toni Collette is such a woman, and sheís been discussing her career and recent roles with Laura Metzger. First up this year, audiences have seen Toni Collette return to her Australian roots playing a no-nonsense geologist in 'Japanese Story'. Itís a tale of cross-cultural love in the outback thatís earned the actress the Australian equivalent of an Oscar.

After 'Japanese Story', Collette dusted off her dancing shoes to play a woman pretending to be a transvestite in the frothy Hollywood comedy 'Connie & Carla'. Theyíre quite different roles but theyíre in keeping with Colletteís track record of working on everything from period dramas like 'The Hours' to playing very different modern day mothers in both 'The Sixth Sense' and 'About a Boy'.

Laura Metzger: "Itís been almost a decade since your breakout performance in 'Murielís Wedding'. Are you satisfied with the roles youíve been offered since then, or do you think thereís something out there that you havenít been offered, or an area youíd like to explore?"

Toni Collette: "I hope there are areas that will come up that I havenít explored because Iíve got more to do. But Iíve been really lucky. I know that women complain about not having great roles, and that men get all the great roles, and men certainly seem to get paid more for the great roles, but I can only work on films that I believe in, and whether itís a small part or a large part Iím doing it for me as well as for audiences. Iíve got to sleep at night and live with myself. If I did films for the wrong reason, I donít know. I canít live like that. I think when 'Murielís Wedding' came out, I did receive quite a few scripts in a similar vein, a similar character. I guess I was determined at that point to prove I wasnít just Muriel, because I kept getting, 'Címon, give us that Muriel grin'. That used to drive me crazy. I wanted to prove that an actor should be able to do anything. And I somehow seem to have successfully carved out some kind of niche where I can kind of try anything. I havenít been pigeon-holed and I feel really, really lucky because of that."

In the 90s Toni Collette was one of a wave of Australian actors to arrive in Hollywood. There was Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett. Then the new millennium brought Heath Ledger, Hugh Jackman and Naomi Watts.

Laura Metzger: "At the moment Australian actors are kind of hot. Everyone gets all a-buzz about Nicole Kidman and Naomi Watts. Do you envy that?"

Toni Collette: "No."

Laura Metzger: "Do you aspire for kind of big A-list status like Nicole Kidman? Or are you satisfied with precisely what you just said, getting roles that youíre proud of."

Toni Collette: "Iím sure sheís proud of her roles as well. I just like to be challenged and I like to learn from the people Iím working with and the characters that Iím playing. I like my life as it is. I think Iíve gained enough fame. I was very uncomfortable with it initially, and Iím kind of okay with it now. But I really appreciate being able to walk down the street. I wouldnít like to leave the kind of lifestyle that I imagine, I donít want to have bodyguards. I donít want to have nannies. I want to be able to bring my own kids up when we do have them. And I want to be able to go out and be a part of the world. Because it feeds me as a human being. Plus weíre all on our own paths. I donít want to be anybody else."

Laura Metzger: "Youíve starred in a number of Hollywood movies, Iím curious from your perspective as an Australian, do you think Hollywood movies are getting more adventurous, perhaps dealing with more relevant social issues, or do you think thatís still a realm that only the independent film world is exploring?"

Toni Collette: "To tell you the truth, I donít know. Iím not a real film buff. I find most films disappointing, so I donít tend to indulge and go out and see them that often. I do think with independent film thereís an individual with a burning passion to tell a specific story. And with studio films, because there is a greater amount of money invested it's rare that they'll make a film that is truly challenging because it's a business to them and they've got to make back the money that they invest. Theyíre not going to want to talk about cancer. They want to make people happy. And cancer is too confronting."