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Yahoo Movies (2017)
Toni Collette Likes the Recipe In New Fun Mom Dinner
Augusst 04, 2017 | Written by Gwynne Watkins
In the easygoing summer comedy Fun Mom Dinner (now in select theaters and on demand), Toni Collette plays a mother of four young boys whoís totally over the idea of having ďmom friendsĒ - until, of course, a memorable night of misbehavior with some fellow preschool moms (played by Molly Shannon, Kate Aselton, and Bridget Everett) changes her mind. Collette, who has two children, has no such qualms about befriending other moms. But she does have a problem with being pigeonholed as an actress who plays moms. ďIn the past, Iíve done interviews where they just start the interview saying, ĎSo you play a mom,íĒ the Australian actress told Yahoo Movies. ďAnd Iím like, ĎI play a really f***ing complex human who also has a relationship with a couple of kids sheís pushed out.íĒ Indeed, few actresses on earth boast rťsumťs so full of diverse, emotionally complex roles, from the social-outcast title character in her breakout film Murielís Wedding, to her Oscar-nominated performance as Haley Joel Osmentís desperate mother in The Sixth Sense, to the woman trying to keep her family together without losing her mind in Little Miss Sunshine. What drew Collette to Fun Mom Dinner - besides the promise of working with other talented, funny women - is that the story isnít about being a good or bad mother, but about how motherhood changes a personís identity, even when the kids are asleep. During Fun Mom Dinnerís New York City press day, Yahoo Movies chatted with Collette about bonding with her co-stars, exercising with a post-childbirth bladder (as her character does in the film), getting recognized on the subway, and juggling an astounding variety of film and TV projects.

So are you having a whirlwind day in New York?
Itís been very busy. I just flew in very late from London last night and I think Iíve had maybe three and a half hours sleep! Anyway, it has been a long day, but itís so, so wonderful to see all these amazing women that I worked with on the film last year, and to be able to hang out and talk about the experience we had and celebrate it together. Itís a good thing.

Ten years ago, you had two films released; in 2017, the website IMDb says you have 11 projects.
Wow, thatís a lot then!

So do you have a secret identical twin? How does that work?
Cardboard cutouts, and I live in my trailer. [Laughs] No, itís funny because Iím playing this character [in Fun Mom Dinner], and weíre a bunch of women who have kids, everybodyís been talking about ďHow do you balance work and life and kids and all of that stuff?Ē You know, sometimes I really struggle with it, because I love working, and I obviously also love my children. And theyíre the most important thing to me. But I do love working, and if I donít do it I think I am not quite myself, you know? Because itís a big part of me and I get a lot out of it. What you need to know is, not every film is three months long. For instance, this one was three weeks. So it may say thereís a lot of films there, but none of them too extensive in terms of the time I have to commit to it.

I watched a screener of the spy thriller Unlocked (in theaters Sept. 1) the same week I saw Fun Mom Dinner - in that one, you have a buzzcut and use a machine gun. It was a funny contrast.
I like doing lots of different things. I think thatís one of the best parts of my job. And I really try to push myself and not be repetitive. After Murielís Wedding, I remember being offered a character that was kind of similar, and there was just something in my gut that knew not to do it. And Iím so glad, because if Iíd have done that, I think itís so easy to be categorized. And I somehow have managed to dodge that bullet.

It seems like a major challenge for actors to escape that kind of rut. Your career is amazing in that sense Ė I have absolutely no idea what youíll do next.
Me too, thatís the best part about it! [Laughs]

So my favorite thing you do in this whole movie is putting on your sonís pull-up to do a trampoline workout.
Omigod, I forgot about that scene! Thatís so funny! Ha! Yep. Well let me tell you, I can really relate to that. [Laughs] I mean, having had two kids, exercising becomes an issue. Actually I probably needed that little - I call it them nappy, what do you call it, a diaper? - to be able to do it. But yeah, what a weird type of exercise! Itís a real thing people do.

I had never seen it, but Iím guessing if I lived in L.A. Iíd have already taken a class by now.
People really get into it out there, Iíve heard. Someone told me what it was called - I canít remember what it is now, itís a really weird name - and I was like, whatís that? And they described it and I was like, oh yeah, I did that in a movie! [Laughs] But I donít know if I could do it for an hour. God, that would kill me.

Youíve played a lot of mothers - a lot of very different mothers -
Thank you for pointing that out! I love a lot of things about this movie, but one thing I love is that it celebrates who these women are beyond the children in their lives. And in the past, Iíve done interviews where they just start the interview saying, ďSo you play a mom.Ē And Iím like, ďI play a really f***ing complex human who also has a relationship with a couple of kids sheís pushed out.Ē You know? It doesnít define a person. Itís a huge part of any parentís life, but it doesnít define you. And I think thatís one of the things that these women celebrate on their night out in this movie. And I often have said, you donít go into an interview with Jon Hamm and say, ďOh, so Don Draper - you play a father.Ē Itís just such a really sh***y imbalance. And Iím glad that itís addressed in this movie, and that itís about, yes, they are wonderful moms, but they go out and they really connect, not only with each other but with themselves in a way that might have been missing for a long time. Itís good to remember who you are, beyond your first and biggest responsibility.

I also enjoyed your characterís knee-jerk reaction against making ďmom friends.Ē Not sure Iíve ever seen that said outright in a film before.
I loved that she was so upfront about it, that sheís not backwards and coming forwards - she just tells it like it is. I have two kids and theyíre both pretty young, so I donít entirely feel the same way, but I love that sheís so frank about it. I love that sheís like that about pretty much everything in her life. She lives with a lot of male energy, and I think itís rubbed off.

The karaoke song in the film - ď99 Luftballons,Ē in German! - was that your pick?
No, they chose it, but I was very happy about it because I love that song, too. Singing it in German was a slight challenge. I kind of learned it at the last minute. But karaoke can be a bit sloppy anyway. Although I do think Katie and I kind of nailed the German. Weíll have to see what a German audience thinks of that!

We talked about the wide variety of roles youíve played. When fans approach you, whatís the role they most often mention?
It depends where I am. A lot of people love Muriel. The character of Muriel is very dear to a lot of people still, which is so amazing to me. And itís kind of beautiful, you know? I think it goes to show that most people do feel like that on the inside, that they related so intensely to that character. Sometimes if Iím on the subway in New York, it will be Shaft. If I wear my hair a certain way, it will be The Sixth Sense. I lot of people do recognize me from Little Miss Sunshine. Everyoneís so lovely about it, too, I have to say.

Iím a big fan of United States of Tara [the Showtime comedy on which Collette played a woman with multiple identities].
Aww, I loved that show so much.

I felt like with that show, you proved you could literally play anything. Do you feel like that role opened things up for you in film?
I really donít know. That show just in and of itself was such an amazing opportunity for me, or for any actor to have gotten a chance to do that. And I donít think it will ever happen again. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And not only that, everyone involved was just so lovely, and it was such a positive experience on so many levels. You know, Iíve had a lot of really, really good jobs and I really only try to work on projects I believe in, but that particular one was, it was right up there for me. So - but did it open up things after that? After we shot Season 3, I had my son. And yes, to be honest, I havenít stopped working since then, when I think about it! [Laughs] So maybe youíre right in pointing that out. I never put two and two together. I donít know if it came from that show or what, but thatís what has, thatís what tends to have happened now that I look at it, yeah.

It must feel good to have those opportunities just keep increasing exponentially. Maybe it doesnít feel like that, but it looks like that on paper.
I still feel really lucky to get the jobs that Iím offered, I really do, because I know itís a tough industry. I have actor friends who donít get to work that often, or donít get to work on things that they really believe in, and 99 percent of the time I do get to do that. And I just really, really honestly feel so grateful. I still enjoy it and it still challenges me. I still try to work on stuff that pushes me a little bit, because you need to keep growing, you know?

Is there any role thatís still on your wish list? A Bond villain, something like that?
Iím never good at this question, because really, things are sent to me and it either makes sense or it doesnít. I just think characters are more complex than that, and itís hard to say, ďI want to play a character like that.Ē However, last summer I did play a manipulative bitch and Iíve never done that before, and it was really fun! There was so much to play with. And recently, I filmed a movie that really was the hardest job of my life, this [horror] film called Hereditary with a writer-director called Ari Aster. Gabriel Byrne played my husband, and itís an intense one. It surprised me every day. I think if Iíd really contemplated it any more before I started, I might have just run the other way, because every day was just so much more full-on than I even anticipated. So I just had to take it one step at a time. But in a perverse way it was really satisfying, even though it was like twisting myself inside out.

And now we have to bring that around to Fun Mom Dinner! So in comparison, Fun Mom Dinner was likeÖ
It was the most gleeful, joyous, buoyant, satisfying in a completely different way, experience, with like-minded, very creative, smart, savvy, sassy, generous, communicative women. It was just what I needed. I read it, I wanted to have fun, and it couldnít have been more so.