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A veteran of some 20 films, a fleeting Hollywood career, co-star to a talking parrot in the upcoming The Real Macaw, and now a happily married woman, Deborra Lee-Furness admits to PAUL FISCHER from her new London home, that she's ready to enter a new phase of her career: film director.

Deborra-Lee Furness is frantically trying to say goodbye to a household of visitors in her new London home. The veteran actress is now living in London while husband of close to three years, actor Hugh Jackman, is treading the theatrical boards in Oklahoma. "Every Australian I know seems to be passing through this city", the actress says laughingly. It's the first time she might have followed a man halfway around the world, but she wouldn't have it any other way, despite putting her own acting on hold. "It's tough, but you've got to stay together. That's the deal we made when we got married, to do that, so it's hard for both of us to be doing something and be in the same country." Which is why, she confesses, she wants to expand her horizons. "It makes you get creative in other areas, so I'm looking to maybe go behind the cameras as a director." Even though it's become fashionable these days for actors to swing behind the camera: "You know me, I'm a slave to fashion", she quips. "But it IS something I've wanted to do for ages, and it seems like now is the appropriate time."

"It TERRIFIED me." on working with the bird

Before leaving for her temporary new life in England, Lee-Furness took some time out to co-star in the family adventure yarn, The Real Macaw. The film revolves around a smart-aleck talking parrot trying to prevent his crusty old owner (played by Oscar winner Jason Robards) from being thrown out of his home, with a little help from his loyal grandson (Jamie Crofts). "I'd already turned out another movie with a talking animal, and I wasn't too interested. Then the guys making The Real Macaw offered me this, but I thought I was all wrong to play 'the woman'."

They persisted, however, and she agreed to do it "as long as she was given a more female input to the whole thing, in this otherwise male domain. I wanted her to be the more female person that would effect these three men: grandfather, father and grandson - and bring them all together."

The film also involved her sharing the screen with the bird, her least favourite part of the whole process. "It TERRIFIED me. I have a thing about birds, like Tippi Hedren in The Birds. I find them freaky, despite the fact that I'm an animal lover; but birds just freak me out."

"I was inspired by his energy" on Jason Robards

She might have been intimidated by the bird, but not by co-star Jason Robards. "I found him utterly inspiring, because he was like a child at play, and it mattered to him absolutely. I was inspired by his energy, that at his age, to still want to create something. It was also great getting all the gossip - from JFK and Marilyn to you name it. He was name dropping all these cool friends. It was great."

Lee-Furness was coy when asked if playing this latest character brought out her maternal instincts. "I like playing mums; I've played a few of them." And yes, she hopes to be a mother sooner than later.

Deborra is due to stay in London till at least October, at which time Oklahoma finishes its run. After that, she has no specific plans. "That's the life of the gypsy for you; we have no idea what's going to happen next." But she hopes to apply for the London International School of Film for next year "and eventually get all my friends together so we can make the greatest film of the century. Directing is a whole different ballgame; with acting you just get your call sheet, you shout and they push you around. This way you've gotta work really hard," she concludes laughingly. But she does hope one day to co-star with her husband.

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On set of The Real Macaw

May 1998, in Cannes, with husband Hugh Jackman at left

See Andrew L. Urban's feature ON LOCATION


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