Toni Collette never thought that acting could be her livelihood. Born in Australia, she was a regular on the Sydney theater scene and had few screen credits, namely her feature film debut in the 1992 comedy stain wood (known in the US as The efficiency expert) with Anthony Hopkins and newcomer Russell Crowe.
In fact, Collette was delivering pizzas when she took the lead Muriel’s wedding (1994), the sleeper hit rom-com sensation that propelled her to international stardom. “It completely changed my life,” says the now 50-year-old actress of her eponymous role as a socially awkward, ABBA-loving video store clerk who dreams of getting married in a new job role recall Interview with Yahoo Entertainment (see above). “It opened so many doors for me and gave me so many great opportunities. It made me feel like I could really do this. I never thought I would have a career. I just thought it was an isolated case, to be honest.”
In the 28 years that have passed, Collette has emerged as one of the most versatile — and revered — performers in Hollywood. She received an Oscar nomination for playing the distraught mother of a boy who sees dead people in M. Night Shyamalan’s The sixth Sense (1999), and any cinephile will tell you that she was absolutely robbed of a second nod for her utterly chilling role as yet another mother dealing with the supernatural in Ari Asters Hereditary (2018). She drew from Jane Austen (Emma) to Brian Slade (Velvet gold mine). She made an art form of playing multiple characters (and earned both an Emmy and a Golden Globe) on Showtime’s short-lived but popular The United States of Tara (2008-11) and helped bring together child actors Haley Joel Osment (sixth Sense), Nicholas Hoult (About a boy) and Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine).
She may appear in a star-studded cast like the crime drama knife out (2019), as the New Agey Yas Queen, play against guys and steal every scene she’s in.
Collette is digging for more gold in her new comedy The estate. She plays an unfortunate New Orleans woman who, along with her tougher sister (Anna Faris), is in danger of losing the family dinner when they gamble for the inheritance of their hated, dying, rich aunt (Kathleen Turner) only to be challenged by her seedy cousins (David Duchovny and Rosemarie DeWitt).
“When I first read [the script], my husband said, ‘What’s going on over there?’ Because I cried laughing and laughed really loud, which is very rare when you’re reading a script,” says Collette. “That was really fun. Once again it’s a cast and all the actors were just amazing. Anna, I had never met her. She’s the cutest. And we became a team straight away.”
The actress has shared memories of the making of many of her most fantastic projects in our latest installment role recall. Some highlights below:
About packing over 40 pounds for her breakout role in Muriel’s wedding:
“I don’t know if I ate a lot of pizzas. I remember drinking a lot of Certain Plus. I think it’s a high fat drink that they give to people in nursing homes. I had seven weeks to gain 43 pounds.”
How she really feels about ABBA:
“I love ABBA. Damn king loves ABBA. Always have. And wherever I go, when ‘Dancing Queen’ comes on, I just think, ‘I’m so happy that this song follows me everywhere.'”
The role she’s shooting for instead The sixth Sense:
“I was actually in New York to meet Martin Scorsese for a film called The World Bring the dead to life. And I was so in love with Marty and obviously wanted it [work with him]. I knew about him. I didn’t know who Night was. So I focused on working with Scorsese. Who wouldn’t? I still want to work with him. … [Finally I called my agent back] and my agent said, ‘You’ve been offered—’ and I yelled before he could get it out. I thought he said, ‘You were offered Bring the dead to life‘ and he said, ‘They were offered The sixth Sense.’ And then I [disappointedly]’Oh.'”
Then unforgettable sixth Sense Scene where Lynn (Collette) and Cole (Osment) are stuck in traffic
“It felt like it was simmering that I remember the night before I went to New York and went to a Burt Bacharach-Elvis Costello collaboration, that live performance that was filmed just to not to think about it. Because I was like, ‘I don’t want to get too involved in this. I just have to be present in the moment because if I think about it too much, it would be too much, too intense or something. And it was still intense. And I remember when we did it, Night shot Haley in the side first and I just roared my eyes out. And he kept saying: ‘Toni, Toni, we’re not even with you yet. Just wait till we turn around.’ But I was so full and so present in what that meant to me that doing that scene was actually very healing.”
When turning The Diary of Bridget Jones (2001):
“I really couldn’t decide. I was busy doing a musical on Broadway called The wild party and I was unavailable. But sometimes I think about it and I’m like, ‘I don’t know, this character is so much like Muriel.’ It might have been too close. And I try not to repeat myself.”
About the difficult role of a mother with cancer in the comedy About a boy:
“I mean, I play a suicidal woman who feels like she’s failing to be a good mother and is abandoning the world because she can’t save the world. I remember thinking, “You’re all assholes are in a comedy and I’m in a tragedy here.” I was really jealous of their experience because I think mine was a little bit different.”
At her request to do more United States of Tara:
“It was one of the most beautiful, profound and challenging experiences. … I mean, if they asked me to go back and do it tomorrow, I would do it. I loved it that much. I was so sad when it ended. It felt premature. And I think it happened before all this streaming stuff really took off. In a way it was ahead of its time. But the story, for a comedy, was just so moving to me. I loved it, I loved it, I loved it.”
Sawing off her head Hereditary:
“Well, the story is only one for me Yes, really sad story about a grieving family. And when it came down to what is a patently horrifying moment, it felt ridiculous. I was hanging out in the attic and Ari Aster, the brilliant screenwriter and director, had a very precise idea of the rhythm with which I would use the piano strings to saw off my own head. So I literally watched him and he moved the way he wanted me to move until it picked up speed. So it was kind of technical in terms of just pleasing him to the rhythm of what that movement was like. And it was even fun. It was fun putting on all the prosthetics and getting all the blood in a row. But it just felt like a complete departure from what the film actually meant to me.”
— Video produced by Kyle Moss and edited by Teri Keizer
The estate play now
Watch the trailer: