Actress Toni Collette was in Dublin this week to promote new movie MISS YOU ALREADY. Well known for movies like ‘Muriels Wedding’, ‘The Sixth Sense’, ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ and TV shows like ‘United States of Tara’ and ‘Hostages’. Movies.ie caught up with her to chat about her exciting career.
Movies.ie: How many people have come up to you and cursed you for making them cry so hard with this movie? For the last twenty minutes, I was inconsolable. I needed hugs afterwards, I called my mam, everything. So what has the reaction been like so far?
Toni Collette: Actually, the exact same as yours. I defy anyone to watch this movie and not cry, and I think that’s a really healthy thing! Y’know, we spend most of our lives kind of trying not to feel vulnerable, and for a movie to open people up in that way, making them run from the cinema and call up those that they love, how can that be a bad thing?
Movies.ie: Exactly! There was a little movie out recently called ‘Me, Earl And The Dying Girl’, have you seen it?
Toni Collette: No, I haven’t.
Movies.ie: It’s fantastic, and as well, at the end, I was in bits. But I got to speak to the cast and they said they had gotten some really positive feedback from some cancer awareness groups. Has there been any feedback from those kind of groups for you and for this film?
Toni Collette: Oh yeah, absolutely! And given that my character has breast cancer, and it travels elsewhere in her body, we didn’t want to misrepresent cancer in any way, so we sought out help at the beginning. Morwenna Banks, who wrote the script, it is fiction, but she’ll tell you its very much informed by personal experience. So it’s in the script, but Catherine Hardwick the director and myself met with a lot of people who were affected by cancer in lots of different ways. There were lots of people who had it, people who had been through it, those who were in treatment still, as well doctors and nurses and all kinds of centres and all those who helped those who had. So we were lucky to have those people who were so willing to give their time, and they were so excited at the idea of having someone tell the story in a really honest way and have seen it since and have been blown away by how realistic it is, so that is big relief to me!
Movies.ie: As an actress, for a character like this, what is the primary appeal? I understand if your character was based on some real like a biopic then you get to represent that person, but when it’s fiction and it could potentially be a disease-of-the-week type movie, what is the primary push to do a role like this?
Toni Collette: Well, it starts with the script. It always starts with the script. When I read the script for Miss You Already… Morwenna is so clever, she’s so witty, and like I said she’d had person experience, so she wrote something that I got lost in. I got drawn into the story the same way you do when you’re watching it, and that in itself for me is a great, great influence. It’s almost like I had no choice, it just spoke to me in ways that I really couldn’t understand at the time, I just knew that I had to do it. I loved that it seamlessly moved between moments that were very poignant, moments that were very deeply moving, and those that were hysterically funny and had me screaming with laughter. And I think they’re the kind of movies that I like, because they represent the way we really exist in the world. And I loved that my character was a bit of a nightmare. She doesn’t suddenly become some hero or some kind of a saint. She’s kind of a selfish narcissist who is so self-obsessed that she doesn’t see how she effects other people and she makes terrible decisions. She’s kind of spiky, she deflects any kind of sympathy. She’s very charismatic and has a sense of vitality and had a kind of maniacal party girl vibe, and that in itself was fun to play with, and to play with those nuances of what she goes through without losing all of those qualities. If she’d suddenly became, I dunno…
Movies.ie: Overly sympathetic?
Toni Collette: Yeah, then that would’ve just been like a hairspray commercial! This is like real life, with real people putting one foot in front of the other, and feeling everything, and I loved that about it.
Movies.ie: When it comes to picking your roles – some of your movies like ‘Little Miss Sunshine’, ”The Sixth Sense, obviously ‘Muriel’s Wedding’, ‘About A Boy’ – when you ask people what are their favorite movies, there’s a very good chance that one of your movies is going to be mentioned in their lists. But when you’re making them, is there a particular point when you think ‘I’ve got a really good feeling about this!’, or are your surprised sometimes by how the films turn out?
Toni Collette: It’s a bit of both. Sometimes, for instance with ‘The Sixth Sense’, we all knew, it was really strange. But it was called ‘The Sixth Sense’, so there you go! (laughs) Sometimes you’re really surprised. You might’ve had a really crap time on a film, or sometimes you’ve had a really great time on a film and it doesn’t go so well, even though it felt good. So you can never determine what the outcome is going to be or how people will respond to it, you really can’t.
Movies.ie: No, because something like ‘The Way, Way Back’, loved that movie. ‘Enough Said’, really loved that movie. And they’re two of those movies were I’m asking people have they seen them and more often than not they say no, and I have to hound them to watch them!
Toni Collette: A lot happens between making a movie and then when it reaches an audience, and I think sometimes that the distributor is at fault, in terms of just letting people know that it even exists for them to see it.
WATCH THE TRAILER FOR MISS YOU ALREADY BELOW
Movies.ie: Just to talk a little bit about your career, some of the roles you’ve chosen have been super interesting, but in a way you’ve kind of avoided blockbusters entirely. Is that something that you’ve purposefully decided to do, or has it just sort of happened that way?
Toni Collette: I think a bit of both! (laughs) I’m really grateful for my particular position, because sometimes people know who I am, but sometimes they really don’t, and sometimes when you’re watching a famous person, y’know, a celebrity, then that’s what you’re looking at. You’re looking at a celebrity, but I want people to look at the character I’m playing and relate to that person. So that’s one reason for not really wanting to partake in that kind of film. And also I just relate to good stories, and I think the more complex, kind of exciting scripts for me are smaller budget, which allows them more freedom because there are fewer financial pressures.
Movies.ie: Speaking of characters that are easily relatable, your character in Glassland was absolutely fantastic, and you obviously worked with Jack Reynor in that. And you’ve worked with Colin Farrell on Fright Night, and Pierce Brosnan on The Long Way Down, so you’ve got some nice Irish tendencies on your CV. Did you find that working with them helped with the Irish accent? Because you nailed it! You had a better Irish accent in that movie than Jack Reynor did.
Toni Collette: (bursts out laughing) He’s got that funny American drawl, doesn’t he?
Movies.ie: He sounds like an American putting on an Irish accent.
Toni Collette: That’s true!
Movies.ie: But is there any particular accent, or any acting aspect that you find difficult? Because you make it look so easy all the time!
Toni Collette: Awh, you are lovely! Thank you very much! And it was a total pleasure to work with all of those gentlemen, I have to say. Uhm… What was the actual question? (laughs)
Movies.ie: Do you find any aspect of acting to be difficult? Because you nailed the Irish accent, and that is infamously difficult to do.
Toni Collette: I have to say, before we started shooting [Glassland], I was sent tapes of a local Dublin actress reading the lines. It was the worst thing I could have possibly done, because I felt like I was mimicking her, it was really weird. Then I got here and I was working with this great dialect couch, and I was absolutely panicked. I even said to Gerard [Barrett, director] ‘I don’t think I should do this, I’m really sorry I wasted your money, I’m sorry you flew me here. I think you should get a local person because I don’t want to screw this up!’ There’s so much pressure, I’m here with all these Irish people, this Irish crew, if I was going to screw this up it was going to be royally obvious. And I think the problem was, I just needed to start, because once we started, it all just fell into place. So you can do yourself in just by overthinking, and I’m much better when I’m just doing.
Movies.ie: I was going to ask if you had any advice for young actresses maybe looking to get into this, would that be your advice? “Just do it. Stop thinking about it and just do it.”
Toni Collette: Well you’ve got to think about it a certain amount, but yeah, you’ve just got to jump in. You’ve got to allow yourself to feel exposed and vulnerable, you’ve got to be open as an actor. I think when I worked with Drew [Barrymore] on this film, you can’t determine chemistry, and she was so open and so willing and that’s when it becomes exciting because you kinda go off road, you go off the page, you’re saying lines but you’re feeling some weird energetic thing in the centre that becomes magical and unexpected and they’re the moments I love. But I would say to any young actor, trust your gut. Always trust your own gut, because you know yourself the best, and as long as you’re not a complete narcissist you’ll be alright! (laughs)
Movies.ie: You’re upcoming CV is so interesting. You’re making your directorial debut with a load of other actors, Russell Crowe and-
Toni Collette: (turns to PA in the room) We’re not sure what’s going on with that really, do we?
PA: No, not really.
Toni Collette: (back to Movies.ie) But I do want to direct though! I’ve started a production company, I’m producing some stuff, and as my kids get older I’m hoping to write a bit more and eventually direct. It’s time consuming and I don’t want to miss out on them, but it’s definitely in the pipeline and I’m really excited about that!
Movies.ie: But the one thing on your CV, and you’re going to get asked to death about it leading up to it’s release, is ‘Krampus’.
Toni Collette: Oh yeah, does that excite you?
Toni Collette: (bursts out laughing)
Movies.ie: The trailer for that was just- Oh my God, I cannot wait! And it’s just another really interesting decision, I guess, on your CV because that’s the next time we’re going to see you after this movie. So could you give us a little bit of info on it? Have you seen it?
Toni Collette: Well the thing about it that I loved is that it kind of defies characterisation. I love films like that, because they surprise you. Just trying to find something original is pretty much what I go for, and this is a film which would be called a family-comedy-Christmas-horror, right? (laughs) But there is sensitivity in it, and when it comes to the family, then there’s heart involved. So I think that’s the ultimate thing that I look for, some kind of truth and some kind of heart. Mike Dougherty, who wrote and directed it, he always calls back to films like Gremlins, films that he grew up with, where it is cheeky and fun but absolutely petrifying, and from what I’ve seen, he’s done the most incredible job. I haven’t seen the full thing yet, but it definitely falls into that kind of experience.
MISS YOU ALREADY is at Irish cinemas from Sept 25th
Words – Rory Cashin