In 1993 I was en route to Cannes with a little Aussie film called The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert when they informed me of a technicality: as we hadn't had a cast and crew screening (the print was still dripping wet) I was allowed to show it once before the world premiere in France. We were about to layover in San Francisco, so after some inspired last-minute juggling, I stood in the back of a cinema in The Castro un-spooling a “mystery film” to a huge assembly of very drunk late-night punters.
Every conception I had about my career changed in that moment.
I'm not gonna lie, she's been a blessing and a curse. I created a stiletto so big I couldn't get out from under her shadow. After a few years sun-seeking, I threw in the towel and walked away in search of inspiration...which I found, five years later in the French Alps...over a 300 foot cliff. In the blink of a beaded lash I broke my back, pelvis and legs. I was given 20 minutes to live. I closed my eyes. I let go.
And woke up—three days later—in absolute agony. What the hell was I still doing here? An encore—that's what. I'd been given a second chance.
While in Hospital, Ealing Studio's head honcho Barnaby Thompson casually suggested an adaptation of Noël Coward's 1924 play Easy Virtue. It had been filmed once before—by a 20-year-old unknown director called Alfred Hitchcock. Re-write Coward? Re-image Hitchcock? Sure! Why not? Morphine can make decisions like that for you.
Another four years down the track and there I was facing Colin Firth, Jessica Biel, Kristin Scott Thomas and Ben Barnes—about to tackle the “The Master” and “The Master Of Suspense”—simultaneously.
Noël (born on Xmas day) wrote a daring and original play:
handsome young English buck returns to fading country pile married to
an older, sassy, divorced American! It's the
original Meet The (very posh) Parents—and ground
breaking for its time—but 90 years on? Coward is quoted as saying
he never wants his work to become museum pieces, and in those
few words I found the license to tackle it. We dusted off
the cover, and broke out the new paint.
You might think it's a bit of a stretch going from the rough and tumble
of the Australian outback to “England's green and pleasant land,”
but look at it this way: the tag line for Priscilla was,
"If aliens landed in your town, what would they wear?" Jessica
Biel is my glamorous alien from the future landing in Kristin Scott
Thomas' stagnant past—and oh Lordy! What is she wearing?
It's what The Master wanted—I think he would approve.