Toni Collette has held a firm place in our hearts — and given us karaoke goals — since her debut as gawky ABBA fangirl Muriel in 1994’s Muriel’s Wedding. This summer, The Aussie actress returned to horror (The Sixth Sense, anyone?) with Hereditary and got tuneful again in the queer-themed indie Hearts Beat Loud. Here, Collette dishes on music, her homeland, and Muriel’s lasting appeal.
What are your thoughts on 1994’s Australian film explosion, with Muriel’s Wedding and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert?
Those two films and Strictly Ballroom came flying out of the country in a very short period of time. It was exciting. I think those things are determined by the filmmakers. That’s what creates the wave. I don’t know if it’s happened since.
What do you remember about the reception of Muriel’s Wedding in America, and the splash you made as an actress?
I felt so alive and appreciative. It was such a surprise when people embraced that character. The movie was life-changing — it helped me embark on a career I never could have dreamed of.
Do you think the success of Muriel and Priscilla made it easier for American filmmakers to do more queer-targeted films?
Priscilla certainly did. It was so fun, but not without depth and poignancy. I don’t know if it opened doors for other films, but when something like that is available to people, it must.
In Hearts Beat Loud, the two romances involve a middle-aged straight couple and queer teen girls. It’s rare to see screen romances that aren’t straight people in their 20s.
I loved that there was no fuss made about that. And the daughter is black and no fuss was made. It’s just people living their lives. None of those questions were ever important, and that’s the way life should be.
And you get to sing karaoke in the film!
Yes! I started acting through singing. As a teenager, I did musicals. But the last musical I did was The Wild Party on Broadway in 2000. I’d like to do more of it, but I’ve been pretty busy with my day job!
Any future music plans?
I’m always singing. You can’t shut me up. My husband’s a musician and we talk about doing something again — we put out an album 12 years ago. And I write things, but only for myself. I can’t imagine life without music.
Finally, what is a must-do in Australia for anyone reading this?
I would do the Bondi-to-Bronte walk along the cliffs in Sydney. And jump in the ocean whenever possible.