September 20th, 2016       Posted by Frederik       Display Comments

Article courtesy Express: From playing an ugly duckling in Muriel’s Wedding to a terrified mum in The Sixth Sense, Toni Collette is never in danger of being typecast. And her latest role as an FBI agent is as high-risk as ever. Hearing Toni Collette describe her new screen character is rather like hearing her sum up herself. “She’s passionate, hardworking, determined, feisty, smart, focused, grounded and irreverent,” the actress says of the FBI agent she plays in Imperium. Not that Toni, 43, is in the business of bigging herself up. The main common ground between her and Angela Zamparo is, she believes, that they’re both parents. “She is balancing having a family with a career that consumes her,” says the mum to daughter Sage, eight, and son Arlo, five. “I relate to that.” Since Sage came along she has made more than 30 films and a couple of high-profile TV shows (including her Emmy-winning turn in United States Of Tara) so motherhood hasn’t slowed her down. She’s been married to musician Dave Galafassi since 2003. He’s the drummer in her band The Finish. They haven’t played for a while but when it comes to acting Toni says yes to things that stir her, and that happens a lot.

“I have always listened to my gut,” says the Oscar nominee and Golden Globe winner. “I think betraying that would ultimately betray my family,” she adds, meaning she’d be no good mooching around at home. The best thing about being a mum? That’s easy. “Strong cuddles,” Toni gushes. “That and when they feel so comfortable and open with me that they talk from a very real place. It’s intimate and insightful, and often brilliantly entertaining. I melt.” Hard-hitting drama Imperium isn’t something she’s likely to show the kids until they’re older. Gritty and violent, it stars Daniel Radcliffe as an agent who goes undercover to infiltrate a neo-Nazi terrorist gang and Toni as the higher-up who helps him. She was hooked from the moment she read the script. “It’s so suspenseful,” Toni says of a story that’s based in part on the real-life exploits of FBI agent and co-writer Mike German. “I couldn’t stop reading it.” And a drama about home-grown terrorists on American soil really resonated with her. Born in Australia, but working mainly in the States, she believes, “We’re always pointing the finger of blame at others. I love that this explores what is happening in our own back yard. It’s very timely and relevant.”

Research proved intriguing. Toni chatted with Mike German himself. “And I was just so blown away by how easy this dangerous work became to him. It is at times a matter of life and death but he breezily said, ‘You just get used to it.’ With undercover work you have to assume a character. It’s not dissimilar to acting except it’s a lot more dangerous.” As for doing the job for real, that gets a firm “no way, it’s too scary” from Toni. She has played so many diverse characters – the awkward ugly duckling in Muriel’s Wedding, a terrified single parent in The Sixth Sense (her Oscar nomination for best supporting actress), an uptight 1950s neighbour in The Hours, the next door neighbor in About A Boy, a pageant mum in Little Miss Sunshine – you have to wonder which ones are closest to the real her. “Oh God, I don’t know,” she says. “There’s probably a little of me in each. It’s my interpretation, so it’s from me somehow. But I suppose I give myself over more easily, or with no choice at all, with some roles more than others.” She’s an actor, she insists, not a star. “And I prefer it that way. I think when you watch big stars on screen it’s really difficult to look beyond that very familiar persona. As an actor you can play different characters and not be recognized. I know I’ve got parts that other bigger, more famous actors wanted. I think in some cases fame is a hindrance because they’re too identifiable. “I’m not interested in promoting myself or being famous. Don’t get me wrong, I like getting tables at restaurants that have been booked out for months. But I don’t want people to identify with me instead of the character I’m playing.”

Very diplomatically put by the girl from suburban Sydney, whose mum worked in customer services and whose dad was a truck driver. She was born Toni Collette and later added an “e” at the end because she thought it read better. And she began acting, as an amateur at least, when she was 11 – faking appendicitis so convincingly that doctors performed an appendectomy on her. “I’m appalled,” she winces now. “I guess I was always attention-seeking.” After high school she attended a couple of drama schools and broke into Australian TV at age 18 and film a couple of years later. Just two years after that she was starring in Muriel’s Wedding. She gained 40lbs in just seven weeks for the role, then was amused when people thought she’d gone on a huge diet to shed the pounds post-filming. “It became entertaining and quite telling when people wanted to focus on physical weight instead of the story itself, which had such weight in terms of the story and themes.” The film was a hit, put Toni on the international map and earned her a Golden Globe nomination, none of which she anticipated. “It was only my second film and I didn’t even think about an eventual audience,” she recalls. “I was just having a ball.” Then the film opened worldwide. It’s even being adapted into a stage musical in 2017 by Sydney Theatre Company. “I was thrilled that a little Australian film found such wide international appreciation and it is still enjoyed and quoted and referred to today.” The main quote, of course, being, “You’re terrible, Muriel” – which her sister says to her in the film and which people in the street still holler at her 22 years later.

Asked for her career highlights since that role, Toni struggles to hone it down. “I have enjoyed a lot of my jobs. It’s hard to single out one or even six. I’ve been pretty lucky.” She turned down the lead in Bridget Jones’ Diary, made famous by Renée Zellweger, which I wonder if she regrets? “No, no regrets,” she insists. Are there other jobs she wished she’d taken? “Well, maybe a couple. But not Bridget Jones. It wasn’t meant to be.” She was already committed to the stage show The Wild Party in New York and adds, “I was busy on Broadway, darling,” with “darling” sounding like “dahlink” in mock luvvie-ness.Daniel Radcliffe wowed her on Imperium. “He’s wonderful. So talented and smart and sweet. I had a great time with him. He’s the real deal.” As for being a Harry Potter fan, Toni gushes, “Oh yeah, I love Harry Potter. I was excited to meet Daniel and his work in Imperium is so powerful. People will always be surprised because they will forever link him to Potter. It’s inevitable but he handles it beautifully. He’s incredibly patient.” Sage and Arlo love Harry Potter, too. “They are huge fans. But they only visited the set for one weekend and, sadly, they didn’t get to meet Daniel.” Very trim in her forties, Toni likes walking – which she does for an hour or so most mornings to clear her head. She also does high-intensity Tabata workouts, Pilates and yoga. “And there’s trampolining with the kids,” she adds fondly.

Marriage suits her, although it wasn’t on her must-do list. “It was never something I felt I had to do. Women in the States seem to think, ‘I gotta meet a man, I gotta get married.’ I don’t get that. I was getting on with my life and having a great time. I really did not expect to meet my husband and it was probably the best surprise of my life. It is everything – it’s fun, comforting, it makes me feel safe and centred.” As for making the most of a rare day off, Toni says, “It would involve the following: family, friends, nature, swimming in the ocean, snorkelling, great food, transportive music, a good book, watching the sun set and deep sleep, preferably under the stars.” And her definition of quality time with the husband and kids? “Uninterrupted time together doing anything that doesn’t involve a screen,” Toni says. With four more films coming up in 2017 this busiest of mums adds, “I just wish I had more time.” That’s unlikely to happen soon.




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