National Nine News (2004)
Collette finally sheds Muriel
July 29, 2004 | Written by Jonathon Moran
It's taken Toni Collette 10 years to break free from Muriel Heslop and Porpoise Spit. After all, it was her lead role in the iconic 1994 Australian film Muriel's Wedding that launched her Hollywood career. "I think it would have been very easy for me to take the route of just playing those similar roles," Collette said in Sydney this week. "I can't tell you the amount of scripts I received that were basically playing that same character over and over."

Sydney-born Collette is currently on the publicity trail for her latest film, Connie and Carla, in which she stars opposite Nia Vardarlos, of My Big Fat Greek Wedding fame. She made her big screen debut in 1990 in the Australian movie Spotswood alongside Anthony Hopkins and has since starred in numerous features, but none more popular than her endearing portrayal of dorky Muriel. Muriel's Wedding catapulted the then 22-year-old into the spotlight, garnering the first of three Australian Film Institute awards and a Golden Globe nomination in the United States. But despite numerous other roles, and an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress in The Sixth Sense, Collette has only now been able to shed the character.

"I think it has been fairly recent actually, only in the last year or so," she said. "I was just really determined to prove that an actor should be able to do anything and I kind of worked my way out of that box. "It took a while, but it is a great compliment that people thought I was that person so then they really believed the story." For Muriel's Wedding, Collette showed her dedication to the craft by gaining nearly 20 kilograms to play Heslop.

In the film, Heslop spends her days in Porpoise Spit alone in her room, listening to Abba music and fantasising about her wedding day. After stealing money from her local politician father, she embarks on a tropical vacation before agreeing to a marriage of convenience with a South African swimming hopeful desperate for residency. It was a memorable performance by Collette, who began her career with a scholarship to the Australian Theatre for Young People in 1989, before a two-year stint at the National Institute of Dramatic Art led to roles in 24 films.

Copyright AAP 2004