- Nov 15, 2001
- Reaction score
- Real Name
- Neil Middlemiss
Based on the bestselling novel The Women in Black by Madeleine St John, Ladies in Black has been called a “love letter to Sydney (Australia).” Set in the summer of 1959, at a time when immigration from European countries was rising, along with female empowerment and women’s liberation, young Lisa’s world is about to change forever.
Just 16 years old, Lisa (played by Angourie Rice), lands a job working at a highly-regarded department store in Sydney. Under the influence of the mesmerizing Magda (Julie Ormond), and with blossoming friendships with the “ladies in black,” Patty (Alison McGirr) and Fay (Rachel Taylor), Lisa begins to discover a larger world of possibilities and wonder.
Ladies in Black, with a screenplay by Sue Milliken and directed by Bruce Beresford, is available to rent or purchase at digital retailers now.
HTF: What’s the first thing that goes through your mind when you read a script like Ladies in Black, with such a rich story, terrific roles, and a great character interplay?
Angourie Rice: I always imagine myself in the role when I read a script, and when I read this one, I was so excited by the idea of possibly getting to play Lisa.
“I think that if there were more women in these positions, we would see a lot more high-quality roles for women.”
HTF: Good leading roles for women always seem to be at such a premium, and films with strong women roles even rarer. Why do you think there’s still such a dearth of films getting made that feature women despite the proof that not only do they make money, but they tend to be excellent films critically recognized as well?
Angourie Rice: Sadly, I think the main reason is that there are still so few women writing, directing, producing and in senior executive roles, making decisions about what gets made. I think that if there were more women in these positions, we would see a lot more high-quality roles for women.
HTF: Talk about working with Bruce Beresford, a director known for his acute sense of drama and a fine sense of humor and wit for his films at times, and how you worked with him to find the true “Lisa” for you?
Angourie Rice: Bruce was always supportive, kind and thoughtful. He works with a highly experienced, extremely talented crew and you get the feeling that this complicated creative process just happens effortlessly. It’s a lovely environment to work in. I think everyone works their best when they feel comfortable and calm on set.
HTF: There’s a deeper subtext in Ladies in Black, at times subtle, sometimes not, about the progressive potency of empowered women in the post-world war II period, and there’s also a message on the view of immigrants, and importantly, their intrinsic value to any society. It seems that we, as a society, often find important and timely messages in the struggles and evolution of the past. Was that something you saw in the script when you came aboard the project?
Angourie Rice: Absolutely. I think a good period piece always invites the audience to see the present in the past, and this story does that brilliantly. It’s a reminder of how we got to where we are now that can help show the way forward.
HTF: The first performance of yours I saw was in The Nice Guys. You were terrific, and I thought to myself that you were destined for an exciting career and I hoped you would find roles that challenged and gave you opportunity to match your gifts. Do you find yourself turning away from roles that don’t ask you to explore interesting characters? I guess, what’s your process like for finding your next role, because you’ve been choosing some very good and interesting ones?
Angourie Rice: Thank you! I’m very lucky that I’m supported by a great team of people who help me choose good projects to pursue. There’s always a lot to consider, including who else is involved, the budget and where it’s being made, but in the end, it must be a story that inspires me, that I want to be a part of. It all comes down to getting excited about playing a character and acting out a story that I think is interesting and important.
HTF: Cinema is filled with stories from America exploring the evolution of society from the 50s and 60s and 70s, but it’s incredibly rare to find a film that showcases the evolution from the Australian perspective. How important is it for Australian film to share a deeper dive into Australian history, particularly from some of these decades where it feels like, at least for international movie goers, we’ve not had as good an opportunity to experience them?
“Ladies In Black…[is] a truly Australian film, but also has themes that resonate with an international audience.”
Angourie Rice: I think it’s so important! With so much American film and TV, it can be easy to forget – or even never learn – about Australia’s own unique culture and history. Though Australia and America are quite different, I think it’s an amazing thing to find a common experience in a film from another country. I think Ladies In Black does this really well – it’s a truly Australian film, but also has themes that resonate with an international audience.
HTF: In the film, you share some wonderful scenes with your co-stars, particularly with Julia Ormond – a truly gifted actress that I have followed with great interest since her portrayal in Legends of the Fall. Your scenes with her seem to sparkle with terrific, meaningful dialogue. And the film boasts a terrific cast all around. What do you take away from working with a cast like this? And what was perhaps the most challenging scene to perform?
Angourie Rice: All of the actors were so wonderful to work with. They inspired me every day with their dedication to the work, and how incredibly nice and generous they all were! I was the youngest, and still in school, and could have easily felt nervous and isolated, but everyone was so kind and welcoming and made me feel very comfortable on set. The hardest scenes are always the ones where there is unusual action or a lot of extras, or both. I think we spent the entire day on Sydney Harbour to film a 15 second scene on a boat.
HTF: Talk about the recreation of 1959 Sydney for the film, with the bold colours and fashion, the marvelous sets and production for the film. I love a good period film, especially where the sets seem to allow the actors to fully immerse themselves in that era, and Ladies in Black really transports views back to that era – does that amplify your performance or aid it, and have you found that you would want to find more roles that allow you to explore characters from different eras?
Angourie Rice: Being in costume in those authentic period locations is just a magical experience. Stepping on to set was like stepping back in time – everything was accurate to the time, from the carpet to the light fixtures. The combination of the costumes and the set really got me and everyone else in the cast into character.
I’ve done a few period films now – set in the 70s, 60s, 50s and 1860s in The Beguiled! It’s so fun to immerse yourself in another world. I’d love to do more. I’m a huge fan of Jane Austen so I’d jump at the chance to do something set in the 1810s.
HTF: Thank you so much, Angourie!
Angourie Rice: Thank you!