The Herald Sun (2007)
Away from the Sunshine
February 2007
Toni Collette is spewing, and not because she left the British equivalent of the Oscars empty-handed. "I think it must have been the salmon," Collette says with a groan, slumping into a chair the day after the BAFTAs. "It wasn't alcohol. I had a really early night but I was tossing and turning . . . and then it hit me." Sitting in a London hotel, the Little Miss Sunshine star is bravely trying to live up to the film's tagline -- "everyone pretend to be normal" -- but its clear she's crook. Wondering if it might be morning sickness, I comment most of her recent roles have been motherly. Have they made her clucky? "Yeah. Motherhood. I'm 34, so it's bound to be sooner than later and I'm looking forward to it," she mumbles.

So, is she pregnant? "God no," she says. She hears the clock ticking, though. "I've never had a problem with age before. But I'm 35 this year which is almost 40 which is almost 50," she says. The ever-busy actor wrapped up shooting Australian drama Black Balloon with Gemma Ward last week, hours before boarding the plane to London for the BAFTAs and to present the Brit Award for International Breakthrough Act to Hollywood rock band Orson. Not surprisingly, she is looking forward to a long holiday. "I'm not telling where. Somewhere hot where I can lie down and read and do nothing," she says. The only project on the horizon is a national tour to promote the recently released album Beautiful Awkward Pictures. (Her band Toni Collette and the Finish includes drummer husband Dave Galafassi.)

Once Grammy nominated for the cast recording of The Wild Party, Collette has a surprisingly good voice. So heartened was she by the public response to a recent short tour, she's itching to perform a more extended series of gigs. "I have been writing music for a lot of years. It's a kind of relief to get it out," she says, turning a shade of green and looking like she might need to urgently get something else out. She presses on to reveal she'd like to turn her hand to directing. Acting, she declares, is too exhausting. "I started acting at 17. There is only so much you can do to prick yourself and make yourself feel alert and alive," she says.

"I feel (directing) might rejuvenate me, or something. I think as an actor you're not really in control. I'd like to oversee something in its entirety." A silent movie is her ultimate dream. "I'd love to do that. I think there's so much faff that comes out of our mouths and I think it'd be a real challenge." There's at least one leading man she'd jump at the chance to perform alongside -- Johnny Depp. "I really do think Depp is quite something. I'd love to work with him. I think Kate Winslet is brilliant in my own kind of age bracket," she says.

But Nicole Kidman and Cate Blanchett aren't really on her radar. "If we're in the same room, we have a conversation. But we're not life-long mates or anything," she says. Muriel's Wedding co-star Rachel Griffiths is. "Muriel affected our lives so profoundly, I don't think we're going to ever not be friends," she says.

Collette feels privileged to have walked the red carpet at the BAFTAs with such greats as Dame Judi Dench and Helen Mirren: "I think they're amazing. They're embracing the journey of their lives and not trying to back-pedal the way so many women are. They're not trying to look 19." Sporting a sleek black hairdo, the actor says her own image is constantly evolving: "I have moments of plateau or feeling stuck, but I try to open myself up to life." She preferred the atmosphere of the British awards ceremony to the hype of Hollywood and the Oscars. "I spent time in London in my 20s, so it's nice to come back to celebrate a film I'm so proud of and loved making."

Young Little Miss Sunshine co-star Abi Breslin impressed Collette. "You can't learn to act and I think her performance confirms that," she says. "She's so brilliant and natural and honest. It's not something you can paste on." The unexpectedly strong public reaction to Little Miss Sunshine was a welcome surprise for Collette. (She plays a mother on a lunatic road trip to attend her daughter's beauty pageant.) "When you've had a particularly positive experience shooting a film, it's all the more fantastic when other people embrace it," she says. She feels the best roles she has ever played tend to pick her. "There's no rhyme or reason to choosing roles; if you have a gut reaction and relate to it or if there's an element of the story making me feel alive, I go for it," she says.

Almost as if scripted, the salmon provokes a gut reaction of an entirely different kind and Collette's gone. Beautiful Awkward Pictures is out now. Little Miss Sunshine is released on DVD on Wednesday. Toni Collette and the Finish perform on March 7 at the Peninsula Lounge, Moorooduc, and on March 8 at the Prince of Wales Hotel, St Kilda. Bookings: 132 849.