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"I had spent five months in research. It was very rough. I cried for six months non stop, actually"  -actor Lothaire Bluteau, on walking off a movie after clashing with the director
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MAKING OF: THE ADVENTURES OF PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT (1994)

It should have been a gritty doco; it turned out to be sweet and funny, much to filmmaker Stephan Elliott’s surprise.
ANDREW L. URBAN reports.

Elliott blurted out the script of two drag queens and a transvestite crossing the Australian desert to do a show in Alice Springs, in a single week. But the movie did not turn out as he intended: it is a "sweet yet ascerbic" film, which is not what he set out to make. "When I set out it was going to be colder and tougher, it was going to be hard nosed, with a doco feel - an in your face film. It just softened up," he says. "My gritty doco became a likeable movie - I saw it happening and went with it."

The title role of Priscilla is played by a bus, and it, too, is in drag of sorts, being painted pink to hide some ugly graffiti that anti-gay vandals sprayed on its side. If the bus gives a mechanical performance, the three actors playing the central characters do not; they contribute much to the process of softening up the film, which in turn gives it a considerably broader appeal: it is more touching than could be expected.

Hugo Weaving (Proof, Reckless Kelly, The Custodian, Frauds) and Guy Pearce (Heaven Tonight, My Forgotten Man) as the drag queens give Elliott everything he could and did ask for, while Terence Stamp as Bernadette lends weight to the film as a somewhat tragic transvestite, underplaying to great effect. (Watch him/her and Bill Hunter toying with an affair !!)
Despite the modest budget, the film offers spectacular desert locations, close ups of exotic Australian wildlife, clever and effective wardrobe, make up and production design, plus the occasional flights of fancy - such as the spectacle of Pearce in drag (looks gorgeous!) perched atop the speeding bus in flowing chiffon, miming "E Strano! Ah fors e lui", from La Traviata, as the desert slips by.

MIDNIGHT SCREAMING AT CANNES
Priscilla was selected for a special Midnight Screening at the 1994 Cannes film festival, an entirely appropriate slot for the film. Elliott and entourage (including Terence Stamp and Guy pearce) made a great entrance, and the steps of the Palais des Festivals sparkled with glittering gowns as several screaming drag queens came out to bask in the glow of the spotlight. And it was a fabulous night, darling, just fabulous!

The audience gave the film a standing ovation, and the party raged till dawn. (The things your editor has to do to make a living, daahling….)

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ADVENTURES OF PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT

INTERVIEW WITH TERENCE STAMP

FIRST REPORTED: 15/5/94

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7th IN SERIES:
20/8/98: The Making Of … is a unique and historic series of articles on a selection of Australian films – such as this one – that were made BI (Before Internet), or at least before Urban Cinefile was launched. All the films covered in this series can be found in the FEATURES ARCHIVES menu page, listed alphabetically under MAKING OF

We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of the Australian Film Commission in helping to publish this series.

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Making of ANGEL BABY

Making of BLACK ROBE

Making of BLOOD OATH

Making of CAPPUCCINO

Making of HERCULES RETURNS

Making of STRICTLY BALLROOM

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