Talented Toni tunes into TV role
When it comes to motherhood, Toni Collette is lost for words. In her first interview since giving birth to her first child – Sage Florence – in Sydney on January 9, the actor says motherhood is “so much more” than she expected. “I really don’t think I can articulate it,” Collette, 35, says. “It’s one of those experiences that you just have to go through to understand and I’d hate to lessen it by trying to pin it down with words.” Fortunately for Collette and her musician husband, Dave Galafassi, tiny Sage has settled perfectly. “Sage likes her sleep just as much as we do,” she says.
Collette is back in a big way, with two Australian films in cinemas this month – The Black Balloon and Hey Hey It’s Esther Blueburger. The films are extremely different, but deal with similar themes about relationships and family life. “They were both outstanding scripts,” says Collette, who plays a mother in both. “They’re quite different stories, but both possess a great deal of humour and heart.”
Hey Hey It’s Esther Blueburger was shot in Adelaide and is a coming-of-age comedy drama about a teenager who struggles to fit into her posh private school. Collette plays Mary, mother to New Zealand actor Keisha Castle-Hughes’s character, Sunni, who befriends the rebellious outsider and central character, Esther (Danielle Catanzariti). “Esther Blueburger’s story is ultimately about acceptance of one’s self,” Collette says. “I play a single mum who is a bit of a mixed bag. She’s a bit of a kid herself and encourages Esther to be her brilliant self, when nobody else does.” Both films were directed by relative newcomers – Elissa Down (The Black Balloon) and Cathy Randall (Hey Hey It’s Esther Blueburger). “If Cathy is an introvert, then Elissa is a very definite extrovert,” Collette says. “Both of these directors had also written their scripts and the familiarity they had with their own material was invaluable.” Collette has starred in more than 30 films and scored herself an Academy Award nomination for The Sixth Sense (2000).
She says she is often drawn to stories about acceptance and family. “It’s OK to be you, warts and all,” she says of the message in both films. “I think most people can relate to these ideas.” Collette had a hectic schedule in the year leading up to the birth of her first child. She made six films, released her debut album, Beautiful Awkward Pictures, and performed at music festivals around the country. It is back to work next month, with Collette scheduled to shoot a pilot for Steven Spielberg’s new television sitcom, United States of Tara, in Los Angeles. Written by Diablo Cody, who recently won an Academy Award for Juno, the Showtime series will be directed by Jason Reitman, who directed Juno. It has been described as “a sort of Weeds meets Sybil or The Three Faces Of Eve”.
“I had never contemplated working in television, but the material was just too good to refuse and I am really excited,” says Collette. “I play a woman who has a multiple personality disorder, so I get to go for it, exploring not one, but several characters.” Collette’s time out of the spotlight has also given her time to focus on writing music. “I’ve been writing,” she says. “There are lots of incomplete songs awaiting my attention – soon.”