She may be Australia's latest international film star, but
talking to Frances O'Connor at the selective Toronto
International Film Festival, there is no hint of the star about
to shine on the international movie scene. Sitting outside a
terrace adjoining Toronto's Sheraton Hotel, O'Connor recalls her
genuine amazement at winning last week’s Best Actress prize
at the previous Montreal Film Festival.
"It was a real honour,
especially since the whole thing was about film MAKING."
"I was genuinely surprised, and wasn't expecting it at
all," she says. "We did a lot of press for the film at
Montreal and the response to Kiss or Kill was very positive; you
could tell that people were genuinely excited by the film. Then I
was doing press for the film in New York when out of the blue
they asked to fly me back to Montreal, because they had the
awards ceremony that night. So they had this big awards ceremony,
actor Alan Rickman was there to present it and it was just
fantastic." President of the committee was esteemed actress
Jacqueline Bisset. "They were so lovely, very complimentary
and the people on the panel were very eloquent, educated people.
It was a real honour, especially since the whole thing was about
Kiss or Kill, in which Bennett outlined the script but had the
actors improvise much of their lines, revolves around two lovers
and con artists whose latest 'mark' ends up dead, and the pair
hit the road leaving a trail of dead bodies in their wake.
O'Connor plays Nikki, a tormented young man-hater who witnessed
her mother's murder as a child. It's a character that the actress
personally loves. "She's a great character to play, because
of her spirit and energy. I like the fact that even though
society may see her as of no value, the audience gets to love
"It's audiences who
are the real litmus tests.."
Asked why this film, as opposed to anything else, is the one
to have launched her career in such a big way, Frances remains
mystified . "It's really hard to say why or how it works.
Sometimes a film can be critically acclaimed but in terms of its
popularity with people, it just doesn't strike that chord. After
all, it's audiences who are the real litmus tests, and this one
seems to have struck the right chord." She adds that the
film's international success is due to the fact "that the
movie works within a great genre, the characters are very
authentic and it's got a lot of humour in it as well."
It was a year ago that Australian film audiences first noticed
a young O'Connor as the lesbian uni student in Love and Other
Catastrophes. What a difference a year makes. Now that she has
won such international approval, O'Connor concedes that the she
may yet fall victim to Australia's Tall Poppy Syndrome. "I
guess it's the natural human dynamic, that once you help bring
someone up, you get bored with it so you want to look for
something different. But that's something you can't control, so
you can't allow yourself to think about that or plan anything to
combat it, except to enjoy where you're at and what you're
doing." The actress laughs loudly when it's suggested that
she's been defined as the actress of the moment, but Frances is
keen to regard all this as the end product of years of study and
work. "I feel that a lot of hard work has really paid off,
though I think a lot of it has to do with luck, synchronicity,
and just being at the right place at the right time. But I've
always believed that if you stay positive, good things come
"I really want more
opportunities to get better at what I do."
With success comes the inevitability of fame, and O'Connor's
main concern, she argues, is "that kind of thing will muck
up my acting. I really want more opportunities to get better at
what I do." Hollywood offers have started to come through
for the young actress, even though she admits it's hard deciding
on the right film to do overseas. "I want to make sure I
remain true to myself and follow my instincts then you can't
really muck up." Though she won't talk about the specific
American offers ["in case they don't work out"] she
says she's "really itching to go back to work, either on
screen or stage. I've spent too much time away from what I really
love to do."