Tori (Amos) & Toni (Collette)
Two tini stars on the cultural horizon. Fat found favour with Toni Collette, feminism never will with Tori Amos. It hasn’t stopped them from sparkling.
By Ruth Hessey
Twenty-three-year-old Toni Collette’s ability to embrace the love handles of her own femininity, as well as reach the Tim Tam in all of us, has made the Australian actress from Blacktown an international movie star in double-quick time.
She began her career as the plain girl Ben Mendelsohn ignored in Spotswood six years ago, and captured global accolades as the happy fattie from Porpoise Spit in PJ Hogan’s incredibly successful Muriel’s Wedding in 1994. In between, Collette went to acting school, played one of Blue Beard’s very p–sed-off dead wives in the theatre production of Blue Murder, and spent a lot of time perfecting the art of self-transformation gorging to flesh out Muriel’s fullsome curves, and slogging at the gym to lose them again.
These days, the Sydney-based actress is most likely to be spotted in Hollywood society pages, looking lithe and radiant as she parties with the likes of Sharon Stone and Barbara Hershey.
You can see her as a skinny junkie in the soon-to-be-released Cosi (also starring Ben Mendelsohn and Aden Young), and as the young, nubile Bea Miles character in Lilian’s Story (starring Ruth Cracknell). She has also recorded the Crowded House hit Don’t Dream It’s Over for Cosi.
But these cameos are just a taste of Collette’s forthcoming triumphs, which include the role of Harriet opposite Gwyneth Paltrow and Greta Scacchi in Miramax’s new version of Jane Austen’s Emma, and her role opposite Matt Reeves and Barbara Hershey in The Pallbearer.
Like Nicole Kidman, she’s the product of the Australian Theatre For Young People. Gawky teenage girls everywhere should take note: a sense of humour can take you to the top.
By Bernard Zuel
On a cold but clear morning in Edinburgh, Tori Amos casually declares “the feminist movement is dead”. And no-one should be surprised to hear it from her.
If Sharon Stone is the woman women hate, Tori Amos is the woman who can get up the noses of any number of women: whether it’s singing about the thoughts of a woman being raped in Me And A Gun, a singularly powerful moment from 1992’s Little Earthquakes or being pictured suckling a piglet in the sleeve of her current album Boys For Pele.
As with Polly Harvey whose current incarnation as a red-lipsticked, powdered-face hyper-female creation angered and confused some who saw her as an acid-tongued fem icon Amos doesn’t want to play victim or innocent or hide the fact that she likes to play with the images of her sexuality .
“First of all, the feminist movement is dead. It was very important that it happened, and it had to happen,” Amos says. “The angry side of women is the reaction to the fact that the true feminine has been suppressed for thousands of years. This anger is no different to a tidal wave or a volcano; it must be released and sometimes anger is the only true reaction to something.
“But, to become an angry woman, a bitter woman, means that you really have become a victim to your anger, and you have allowed it to consume you. And this is why I believe you either choose to heal or choose to stay a victim of your experiences.”
Boys For Pele is part of that healing for her, coming out of the turbulence of the end of a long-term relationship. It is an album centred once again around piano and her swooping, flighty voice, with a mix of typically obscure lyrics and others that sear with their force such as the bitterness of a woman greeting a former lover in Blood Roses with, “I shaved everyplace where you been”, and declaring that an involvement with a man is like “when chickens get a taste of your meat/when he sucks you deep, sometimes you’re nothing but meat”.
Yes, that’s valid, Amos says now of the viciousness in Blood Roses, but she’s past it.
“I chose to throw myself into some strange situations after my separation because I was in shock and that’s where I really saw how little respect I had for parts of myself, and that’s what I began to write about,” she says. “I don’t feel the need to do that any more. I have begun to value myself, which I didn’t before. I valued things that I did, but I didn’t value my own heart.
“And I would also not value other people’s hearts. That was a very big lesson about my long- term relationship, where I didn’t value his heart, either. It’s not that the guy is always the insensitive one. That’s why a lot of people have a hard time with my work; it isn’t always that women are the sensitive ones.
“Unless [her critics] are willing to look at that truth, then I’m not interested in what they have to say. Let’s stop pointing the finger.”
So does she like the woman she has become?
“I’m beginning to get a sense of freedom, freedom of the soul, beginning to,” she says, a little cautiously at first. “Because, once you know why you are reacting to something or someone, that’s when you have knowledge; then you are not anybody’s when you walk in a room, or you don’t have a false sense of yourself and need to feel superior or arrogant because, in fact, you really don’t think you are [good] enough.
“So, it’s when you begin to understand this emotional web. I like to build fires out there, I camp out a lot in the emotional world and it fascinates me.”
But you can burn yourself out there, can’t you?
“That’s why you go to the water first. Learn about water before you start playing with fire.”