Where the Boys are: Toni Collette goes West
Toni Collette sports some scraggy clothes and a bad dye job in her role as Michelle in the new Australian film, The Boys. But this film is a world away from her incarnation as the simple Muriel. The Boys spends a day with the Sprague clan and fin-ishes just as the three brothers appear to be about to commit a crime the audience never sees. Michelle is the headstrong girlfriend of the unhinged Brett Sprague, who has just been released from jail. Collette speaks about her role in this tense psychological thriller.
Enjoyable is probably the wrong word to use, but the film’s great.
It’s not the kind of film where you come out uplifted at the end. It stays with you and is quite confronting. I saw a screening in Sydney and a screening in Berlin at the Film Festival. When you work on a film, you rarely see how the audience respond. If they didn’t like it, they would have pissed off, but they were hanging around, really wanting to talk about it and looking at each other for some kind of support. It’s not a walk in the park. It’s not a popcorn film, it’s a clutch the armchair film and that’s what I love about it. It’ll make you think and make you feel horrible and scared.
Was the shoot intense?
It was a five week shoot and we had three weeks rehearsal, which was great. Rowan Woods, the director, is an actor as well, so it was thorough and freeing to have so much time and to be able to improvise and work that into the script. For quite a horrific tale, it was told with a lot of love. There were some really beautiful people work-ing on it, so it didn’t feel as hideous as it probably could have been. It was quite a happy shoot, everybody got on really well and wanted to be there and wanted to tell this story and felt it was important. I ended up adoring everybody and having a real-ly wonderful experience.
You grew up in a suburb quite similar to the one in The Boys?
Similar area, yeah. Not specifically the same, but the whole world was familiar and I was very aware of peo-ple existing within those perimeters. First of all I really wanted to be a part of it because I wanted to get it right, I wanted it to” be truthful and I want-ed it to be honest, but it wasn’t like dredging up my background I grew up in Glebe until I was about five and then we moved to Blacktown [in Sydney’s working-class western suburbs]. When I became a teenag-er I basically wanted to get out of Blacktown as soon as I could, but the older I get, the more I embrace it. I had a brilliant time growing up there and this film was a chance to go back and make it beautiful, by just being truthful to it.
The film takes this type of crime out of the sensationalist headlines and gives it context in reality.
It’s a reality. These characters are existing in this world, and the film doesn’t judge the characters. It just lets them drift along and meander along and act the way they act natu-rally. There’s no kind of pressure or judgement. They may judge each other, especially my character.
The Boys handles the subject matter in a really interesting and subtle way.
It’s interesting because you don’t even see the crime. Instead there’s just this really intense, foreboding feeling and it really chills people even though the crime is not ever seen by anyone.
Michelle, your character, seems to have a lot of spunk to her
I think she’s pretty spunky. She’s pretty tough and pretty smart, I think she’s probably the most positive of all of them. The situation with her and Brett was that they’d been together from a very early age and their relationship was very much habit, so she didn’t know anything other than him. Having had a 12-month break, she’s not relying on the relationship. She’s not expecting it to be there, she’s just going to see if there’s an inkling of anything and finds out that there isn’t really and that they’ve both changed.
How were your scenes with Brett (David Wenham)?
David Wenham is such an amazing actor. I know him, I know Daisy [his nickname], and we had this scene in the hallway where I confront him and there was something he was doing with his eyes where it was almost like he would just look straight through you. I’d spent the whole day with him and I started to cry, I literally had to run away and leave the set, go back to the dress-ing room for a minute and get myself together because he was freaking me out – as Toni! When we were in Berlin we would be sitting at a bar waiting for some interview and Daisy would walk up. People who were sitting there freely conversing would sud-denly freeze, they were really quite scared of him and he is the most adorable sweet beautiful man. I real-ly don’t know how he contacts that shit inside him. It’s pretty amazing, you know. He must have a very, very vivid imagination, I don’t want to believe otherwise!