Toni Collette: Sometimes I feel like the Mona
What was your cultural passion when you were 14?
Oh God, the timing of this question is perfect with the release of Connie and Carla. I was a total musical-theatre dork. I was having dance classes three times a week, going to school having orange fights with the boys at the neighbouring boys’ school. This was basically one of the most exciting years of my life. I started to wake up through putting on a production of Godspell at school. I learnt to express myself. I realised I had a voice. Literally and metaphorically. I made some life-long friends and all in the name of song and dance. I discovered “Passion Pop” which is a cheap – $3 – bottle of bad, bad sparkling vino. I guess drinking is just as valid and popular a cultural pastime in Australia as theatre.
And what are you currently mad about?
Well, I don’t have much faith in the Australian government. Our so- called leader has allowed and negotiated a free-trade agreement with America which, if signed, will give America free rein over what we Australians are exposed to in the media. I personally don’t watch much telly, but it is a reflection of who we are and it provides cultural reference. We will basically have our kids growing up as American clones.
What are you reading in bed at present?
I like to read positive things before sleeping, so I keep a rotating selection of Michael Leunig’s books by the bed. He’s a gorgeously profound cartoonist – insightful, spiritual, political, uplifting, sometimes melancholic, satirical and human. His work often represents the hidden part of ourselves we both love and are fearful of, a sense of freedom.
Do you re-read books? Which ones?
I’m not a re-reader, actually. There are so many books in the world, so many wonderful writers to be discovered. Life is too short.
What is the most fashionable thing you own?
According to whom? The real drag queens in Connie and Carla gave me my very own tiara. I’m pretty proud of that. I guess I was accepted.
And the least fashionable?
My tracky daks (fleecy-lined leisurewear). When I’m at home I can’t seem to get out of them. They are so bloody comfy.
Do you have a hole in your cultural life?
In general I don’t think I get out there and expose myself to enough. I’m not talking about the ballet or art galleries. Although those things can open my mind and heart. I think that with celebrity comes a ready- made bubble which people can place you in. And I fear sometimes that I am not connecting with people as deeply as I could because of this imbalance. I’d also like to know more about the traditional owners of Australia. I tend to agree with quite a few of their ideals, particularly environmental ones.
Which painting most corresponds with your vision of yourself?
Sometimes I feel like the Mona Lisa. I’m confused but I’m still smiling.
Your house is on fire – what is the object you save first from the flames?
My first love letter from my husband. You can’t replace that stuff. I know I am only meant to grab one thing but I’d also stuff as many family photos in my pocket as possible.
What would be your ideal alternative career if you had to give up acting?
A global reviewer of fine foods. It has to be the best job in the world. Dontcha think?
Do you like parties?
Love ’em. Always have, always will. I used to be a big partier. Not so much now but when I do, I prefer intimate ones. Though I love a good boogie.
If you could tear down any building in the world, what would it be?
There’s a building right on Sydney Harbour which has been nicknamed “The Toaster”. It is so incredibly ugly and sits right next to the lovely sails of the Opera House. Why? Why? Why?
What is the soundtrack to your life right now?
It’s 6.30 in the evening here in Sydney now. We live by the beach, the sun has just gone down. We’re expecting friends for dinner soon. The aroma of roast lamb is permeating the house. “Lost Souls” by The Doves is playing. It’s been on high rotation for a few years for me and I cannot imagine listening to anything more fitting right now.
Connie and Carla and Japanese Story are in cinemas now