USA Weekend (2005)
Toni Collette
October 02, 2005 | Written by Hilary de Vries
Forget for just a minute the beyond-busy career (two dozen films in 11 years), the Oscar nomination (for "The Sixth Sense") and the fact that she's considered such an astonishingly talented actress that Cameron Diaz, her co-star in the two-hankie drama that opens Friday, "In Her Shoes," calls her "a little scary." When Toni Collette walks into one of Hollywood's hottest hotel bars and doesn't turn a single head -- despite her strawberry-blond hair, heart-stopping, wide-set eyes and fetching Marc Jacobs frock -- she couldn't be happier.

"Look, I'm not even wearing nail polish on my toes," the 32-year-old Sydney native says, kicking off beaded flats to show off her unmanicured tootsies -- and complete disregard for going Hollywood. "Forget it. I would rather be happy."

Collette has plenty to smile about these days. If she's not yet a household name like fellow Aussies Nicole, Naomi and Cate, well, that'll soon change. Oscar drumbeats already have started sounding over her performance in "In Her Shoes," her biggest role to date, in which she plays an unhappy, overweight lawyer who has nothing in common with her troubled, hard-partying sister (Diaz) except shoe size.

"Toni's got that Aussie good nature, but she's also a hot babe," says Diaz, who was impressed by Collette's go-for-broke approach to the role that required her to gain 30 pounds. "I could never do that."

In fact, Collette had a few qualms herself. She has maintained a normal weight since battling an eating disorder several years ago (now she adamantly refuses to starve herself to Hollywood starlet thinness), but she has less-than-fond memories of packing on pounds for a role. For the 1994 movie "Muriel's Wedding," she gained and lost 45 pounds. "I'm 32, not 22, and I won't do anything for a role anymore," she insists, adding that Shoes director Curtis Hanson also wanted her to gain 45 pounds, but she drew the line at 30 and wore a fat suit in certain scenes. Rolling her eyes, Collette complains that the only help she received afterward from the movie studio to take off the weight was a rented elliptical trainer. So she followed a strict diet of no wheat, dairy or white sugar and drank protein shakes for dinner.

When not acting, Collette leads a relatively quiet life in Sydney, where she and her husband of nearly three years, musician Dave Galafassi, are collaborating on an album of "moody pop rock" songs Collette wrote; they've started a band enigmatically called Toni Collette and the Finish. Music, she says, provides her the perfect antidote to her burgeoning stardom. "I'm completely in control," she laughs. "I'm really like the director."

The secret to her glamour? An uncanny talent for playing unglamorous film roles.


Even if the face seems only vaguely familiar, the movie roles certainly are memorable.

Muriel's Wedding (1994)
Rachel Griffiths, left, and Collette do an ABBA tribute in this cult classic.

The Sixth Sense (1999)
Collette played Haley Joel Osment's mother -- and earned an Oscar nod.

About a Boy (2002)
Collette starred as a bohemian mom with Hugh Grant, right.

The Hours (2002)
Collette had a supporting role as an ailing woman in the 1950s.