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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 

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Emily Woof, who co-stars with Richard Roxburgh and Barbara Hershey in Passion, has swung on a trapeze before but never had to get whipped for a role – until now. And she got a big rush out of it, she tells ANDREW L. URBAN in Cannes.

For a performer who once launched herself from an upright piano onto a swinging trapeze while holding 50 helium balloons, playing a challenging character – even one who goes in fort a bit of S & M with whips – is not unusual. Emily Woof, best remembered (by mainstream audiences who missed her helium balloon escapade) as the short tempered wife of Robert Carlyle’s character in The Full Monty, will be equally well remembered hereafter for her role as Karen Holten.

"Peter creates an atmosphere where exploration of a role is allowed"

Holten was the woman in Percy Grainger’s life – apart from his mother, Rose, that is – at least for a while. Woof, who co-stars in Passion, the biopic with Richard Roxburgh as Percy, has also co-starred with another Australian – Toni Collette – in Velvet Goldmine.

But this was the first time she worked in Australia, which worked in her favour. "She was very much an outsider," says Woof, "and coming to Australia from England was very useful -–I could draw on that same sensation. The first day on set I felt a complete stranger…"

But Woof found working with Australian director Peter Duncan and American actor Barbara Hershey a great pleasure. "Peter is very sensitive; a director who gives you room to explore and find out out for yourself what you want to do with a scene. Some directors are pushy and have a fixed view but Peter creates an atmosphere where exploration of a role is allowed. I love that."

"He said, yes hit me. I like working with actors who are intense…" on Richard Roxburgh

Woof is curled up in an armchair in the bar of the Savoy Hotel in Cannes as we talk about her work in Passion and her acting in general. (She was in Cannes to help promote Passion, which screened in the market.) The early afternoon barman has brought us mineral water, and the sun is slanting its rays across the windows that open onto the elegant architecture of the Carlton Hotel next door. Woof is quite petite, but with a layer of strength beneath an outward vulnerability. She can flick from lighthearted joviality to profound introspection in the space of a full stop.

Woof found Roxburgh just as approachable. "I felt we had a strong rapport as actors and always felt I could do anything in a take and it’d be fine. Near the end I whacked him quite a bit . . .but we’d talked about it and agreed. He said, yes hit me. I like working with actors who are intense…"

Well, of course by then they had both indulged in a bit of S & M on the side, tripping down to a suburban house in Coogee, where a dungeon awaited them, and a professional dominatrix whipped them with 10 different whips – just to get an idea of what it was all about, in readiness for filming similar scenes.

"It was like a big drug rush, adrenalin pumping…like being in love. I was very excited, very alive." on being whipped

Glad they were to have done it, too. "I wanted to know what it was like," she says. "It’s about sexual pleasure but it is absolutely centred on pain." The most painful part was the whipping with a riding crop, "that really made me sore."

But it also gave Woof an intense high afterwards. "When the whipping was finished I couldn’t stop talking and running around. It was like a big drug rush, adrenalin pumping…like being in love. I was very excited, very alive."

Yet, for all her willingness to be absorbed by acting professionally, Woof has a strange ambivalence about it. "Which is a bit of a struggle….When I’m doing it, it’s the most rewarding thing. But I write a lot and writing is very fulfilling – acting can never have that…that sense of completion. Yet some roles and some scenes are tremendous to do."

Woof, who wrote and devised her own shows (some with helium balloons and such), has just finished her first screenplay, Revolver. "It’s parallel stories set in the 60s and 90s, based around The Beatles and obsessive love. It’s a dark romantic drama," she says.

Seemingly relaxed but filled with latent energy that bubbles up at the smallest trigger, Woof admits she's’ "pretty insatiable about doing things. I dance, I write, I play guitar and write songs…I’m very lucky having a lot of resources," as she puts it, ‘and foind it hard to do nothing…or even to watch telly."

"I’m not great at being on my own."

But she’s lucky being in "a secure relationship that’s important to me. I’m not great at being on my own." Despite that, she has "lots" of fears, but as she points out, it only comes out in her writing. "Read my work…it all comes out… I do have a melancholy side."

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See Andrew L. Urban's interview with director



"a bit of S & M on the side"

"I wanted to know what it was like,"

The most painful part was the whipping with a riding crop

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