Although Frances O’Connor has been acting for most of her life, has been nominated
twice for best actress by the Australian Film Institute and has worked with everyone from
Aussie actor Matt Day to Goldie Hawn’s daughter Kate Hudson, most people still do not
know who she is. Making her first film appearance in Love and Other Catastrophes and
following with the highly acclaimed Kiss or Kill, O’Connor was recognized by critics
but remained unknown by the general public.
Then with her stunning portrayal of Fanny Price in Patricia Rozema’s adaptation of
Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park – plus a career shifting role as Madame Bovary for
BBC TV - and now with her hilarious performance opposite Brendan Fraser in the comedy
Bedazzled, audiences are finally ready to sit up and take notice. Though extremely shy in
person, O’Connor can light up a screen and become whatever character is put in front
of her. Having already been noticed by legendary director Steven Spielberg and set to star
in his new film A.I., it won’t be long before she’ll be wishing for that
anonymity she now embraces.
Bedazzled is a very funny movie. Did you have as much fun making the movie as we did
We had such a great time making this film. A lot of it has to do with the fact that
Brendan and [director] Harold Ramis have such a great sense of fun about them, they are
both very relaxed people. To be in that environment was a great kind of workplace. We had
a laugh every day. I am sure there are reams of film now on the cutting room floor that
they could not use just because we were laughing.
You got to wear some really crazy clothes and play some crazy characters too.
Yeah, I really loved the different styles. It was great fun discovering how each character
would look. What I wore affected the way I would move, and each thing had a different wig.
It is really fun to do all that stuff because that is really the essence of what acting is
all about, dressing up and pretending you are someone else. Getting to do it seven times
in this movie in seven different characters in a really fun way, well I loved that!
The movie is all about temptation. What is the first thing you were really tempted by?
Probably a big piece of chocolate cake. No, I mean, temptation is fundamental to human
nature. You either want something or you don’t want it. It is kind of the basis of
life. What was the first thing I was tempted by? I think as a kid you are always
struggling to be good or be human...
Since you were raised Roman Catholic, how did that affect your beliefs in heaven and
I am really glad I was raised Catholic. I like the fundamental aspects of that religion. I
think they give you great grounding in terms of having a moral code. But I do not
subscribe to any religion specifically now. I do not think that this film has any kind of
preachy message. I think it just explores the ideas of being human and wanting thing like
fame or money, and thinking that happiness lies in only those things. I like the message
that it is really about being yourself and accepting yourself and finding happiness in
that. I think it’s a really sweet message.
Do you find that over here in Los Angeles there is a different image of you than the
one you had in Australia?
In Australia I was seen as somebody who did only very modern, contemporary stuff. Then as
soon as I went overseas I did two period pieces so it was like, ‘When are you going
to get out of the corsets?’ and I was thinking ‘I just got into them!’
Do you have a preference?
The thing about the classics it that they are such great characters, they have a great
deal of depth and different layers to them. I always find that very stimulating to play.
I read once that you watched Sesame Street and used Big Bird’s accent to help you
develop an American accent. Was he your inspiration?
Actually, it was Grover. He was the defining thing for me! I grew up with a lot of music
in my house as well, so I think that helped a lot. Musicality has a lot to do with
accents. I love doing accents because I think speech has a lot to do with character. For
example you do a Southern accent and suddenly you feel a certain something that helps with
the character. So accents are great like that. Sometimes it helps to just walk in to a
meeting with an accent and that’s what I did for this film, Bedazzled, meeting
director Harold Ramis with my American accent. Then you don’t have to switch gears
when you start reading the character.
You’ve said you don’t like to talk about your private life. How can you avoid
I just feel like everyone should be allowed to have a private side. I think that’s
very important to maintain. I think you can set your own standards. I live a pretty quiet
You have never liked the idea of living in Hollywood but now you have two movies that
are shooting there (Bedazzled and A.I.). Have your views on home changed?
Well, as soon as I decided I was going to spend some time in London I worked the entire
year in L.A. So, in this industry you really can’t pick where you will be. I am going
where the work is at the moment, that is all I can do. But I am enjoying my time here. I
have really been enjoying working with Steven and working on A.I. It’s proving to be
really creative. Very different from Bedazzled, but again really stimulating.
Professionally you must be pinching yourself. It doesn’t get any bigger than
Steven Spielberg. How does that feel?
I have got to say, every Monday when I arrived on the set to work with Steven, I could not
believe it. I would be on the set thinking ‘No, really, I am working with Steven
Spielberg.’ It was kind of surreal. But it is fantastic. I am enjoying it.
So how does it feel knowing that you are probably on the verge of losing your anonymity
and that everyone in Australia is looking to you as the next big thing from Down Under?
I haven’t really thought about it a lot, because I have been working. You kind of
just deal with what is in front of you and that is not really in front of me at the
moment. Ask me in about a year’s time!
Published February 1, 2001