Red, hot and scewed
“I just had a colonic,” Toni Collette blurts out with a laugh, sitting in a Manhattan vegetarian restaurant. “I never had one before. It was a-mazing.” Collette’s been talking about the crap people have in their bodies from eating junk food, which prompts the 27-year-old Australian native’s unladylike confession. Her lack of inhibition, her boyishly cropped hair, and her somewhat snaggle-toothed grin are the bright, flashing signs that Collette is not your run-of-the-mill, babe actress. Her sexuality, the cornerstone of most young actresses’ appeal, is not what has arrested audiences’ attention. Rather, it’s been her ability to fully transform herself into downtrodden yet indefatigable and endearing characters-such as her breakthrough performance as the overweight, ABBA-loving protagonist in 1995’s Muriel’s Wedding; her role as the jaded rock ‘n’ roll wife in 1998’s Velvet Goldmine; and her Oscar-nominated turn as Haley Joel Osment’s freaked-out mom, in last year’s The Sixth Sense. o But with the Oscar nod, Collette’s career is at a crossroad: Will she sustain the momentum or fade away?
“I actually don’t care,” she says happily. “I could go and study iridology- it’s a form of holistic medicine in which you study the eye to diagnose the body.” So, moving to Los Angeles is out of the question? “No way, never. I want to live in the rain forest in Australia.” Collette’s next confession: “I don’t know why I’m an actor anymore. But when I stop enjoying it, I’ll stop acting.”
The claim about the Australian jungle might be more than just talk-if her experience acting as a waitress who witnesses a crime in this summer’s Shaft is any indication. “I don’t feel emotionally connected to it,” she says of the film, which was beleaguered with rumors of strife on the set. “I found myself clutching Sam Jackson while he was shooting a gun and dragging me along, and I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m in an action movie.’ ” o “She’s interested in absolutely everything,” explains her pal and two-time costar Christian Bale (Velvet Goldmine, Shaft). “But, essentially, she’s a very silly person. I think anybody who snorts when they laugh-it’s always a good sign.” That spirit transcends the screen. “She brings out smiles from people on the street,” Bale adds. “I think she has an infectious thing about her.” o For now, Collette is infecting audiences on Broadway, where she has committed herself to a nine-month stint as the lead in an ambitious musical, The Wild Party. But things may not go as planned: Despite her lauded performance, the production has been troubled, and there have been rumors that it may close early [She has since received a Tony nomination.]
Yet this year of working dangerously hasn’t fazed Collette. With opening night just two days away, she doesn’t appear nervous-a far cry from her temperament on Oscar night. “I was thinking before the announcement, ‘Please don’t let me win, because I don’t want to have to get up and speak in front of all these people,’ ” she says. And then the moment after she lost to Angelina Jolie: “I was like, ‘I need a drink,’ and as soon as a break came, I was at the bar having a glass of champagne.” The night wasn’t a total loss, though. She had the opportunity to greet fellow nominee Russell Crowe in her customary fashion: She pinched his ass. o While she’d like to discuss her upcoming role opposite Glenn Close, in a film about Bess Myerson, the first Jewish Miss America, the Great White Way is calling. But before rushing off, she consents to a game of free association. It should be noted that after nearly every response, she lets rip a snorting laugh: Being 16 years old. “Candles-because of that ridiculous Molly Ringwald movie.” And the Oscar goes to Angelina Jolie. “Toilet.” Hollywood. “Driving.” On-set relationships. “Dangerous.” PREMIERE magazine. “Don’t read it.” Toni Collette. “Hungry.” America. “Let me out.” Sex. “Gotta have it soon.” Actors. “Full. Of. Shit.”