The Australian (2004)
Comedy turn's no drag for fun-filled Toni
July 27, 2004 | Written by Lawrie Zion
For the ever-versatile Toni Collette, playing a man who plays a woman turned out to be anything but a drag. Indeed after her roles in the introspective drama Japanese Story, and The Hours, the Australian actor confesses that playing alongside Nia Vardalos in the upcoming Connie and Carla was something of a relief. "I've been in so many emotionally dark and deep films lately that I needed to go to work and laugh," she told The Australian in Sydney yesterday. "And this was it. I popped my tiara on and I was off."

As one of a pair of women who pretend to be drag queens so that they avoid the clutches of the mob, Collette's Carla also becomes a star in a West Hollywood nightclub. She admits it did not require research to bring her inner drag queen to the surface. "Hello, I'm from Sydney," is her response when asked how she prepared for the role. "All you have to do is walk up Oxford Street on the weekend. It's an art form that I'm familiar with and that I fully respect."

Connie and Carla, which opens in Australia on Thursday next week, is just one of several projects that Collette has in the pipeline. She recently finished shooting In Her Shoes, in which she stars with Cameron Diaz as co-dependent sisters who only get to know their grandmother - played by Shirley Maclaine - after the death of their mother. "I loved Shirley," she confesses. "It was the best job I've had in so long, and (director) Curtis Hanson was a genius." Heading our way in October is The Last Shot, where Collette plays the role of an actor in a movie financed by a man who turns out to be an FBI agent working undercover on a mafia sting. "She is an English bombshell starlet who has been in rehab and is making a comeback. She looks like a porn star and is incredibly narcissistic. I had a great time."