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A versatile and sensitive actor, Rebecca Frith has jumped ship from the city to a remote village - and, putting herself first, found herself growing stronger in the process, she tells ANDREW L. URBAN as her latest film, The Missing, opens in Australia.

Three times we tried to get together for an interview, over a period of some 18 months, each time frustrated by the contingencies of circumstance. For example, on the set of A Wreck A Tangle (still not released), Rebecca Frith was in make up prior to a scene when my set visit had come to an end. At the inaugural Noosa Film Festival in September 1999, our interview date had to be aborted at the last minute in favour of a tv commitment that couldn't be re-scheduled. None of it was her fault.

Finally, then, we make it. A date for a coffee in Sydney's Pyrmont, next to the offices of Roadshow Film Distrutors, who arrange these things. The air conditioning duct is blasting air from a grill and Frith has a sleeveless top, which she would, coming down from Queensland. She shivers. "I've got the Queensland shivers," she says, rubbing her suntanned arms. Roadshow's Xanthe Bates runs off and gets her own jacket to wrap Frith's shoulders.

"to get away from the urban angst"

The Queensland thing is a major element in Frith's life these days. Six months ago in the early half of 1999, Frith made a bold move out of Sydney to a village with less than 2,000 souls, a short drive outside Noosa. It had nothing to do with the then nascent festival, rather with an urge to return to her Queensland roots and to get away from the urban angst that was making her feel trapped.

"I needed time out," she says, her cappuccino sitting quietly by her salad focaccia, "for my emotional and physical health. I had got onto the work treadmill in Sydney. I was actually born in Queensland, near where I live now, but had stayed on in Sydney for 12 years after NIDA (acting college). I felt I had to go home - and get a fresh perspective."

A brave move for an actress. Did it work? "It's worked beautifully - I've done five films in 12 months and regained some peace of mind. I'm amazed." Frith is frank about the fact that the move was not motivated by a partner or by any other factor. "It was a pretty selfish move. There was no man involved. And I come to Sydney now with more enthusiasm and more energy and it somehow makes my decisions more focused. I have to concentrate. . . "

"wears her vulnerability openly"

Her house is opposite the Mapleton Tavern, and overlooks the range towards the ocean. Her favourite tree is a tobacco tree that leans into the house. She counts the black cockatoos that fly overhead regularly and walks in the rainforest paths that back onto her property. "But I can also see the airport so I know that I can get a hit of city civilisation whenever I need to. . . "

If it sounds like an escape, it is. But Frith did not want it to be just that. "I had decided that I wasn't running away - but going towards something. To make my work better."

In the six months she has been in her new environment, Frith has found new strength. "I feel I have a lot more strength. It's impossible to rid ourselves of our patterns but I did look at some self destructive patterns and I am a lot happier now."

Frith, an actress who wears her vulnerability openly, is also a complex person with a ferocious appetite for the arts. She loves to combine travel and the arts; a year ago she spent three months in New York, "which was my first idea to bring back some inspiration for me work. It was one of the best things I've ever done. I went on my own and realised I enjoy my own company. It was a great revelation to discover I don't need anyone to validate who I am. I got into great conversations and adventures with strangers and felt great about that."

But her solo trip to New York - or her other trip to Los Angeles, where she acquired a fascinating watch ring (left forefinger) at the Museum of Contemporary Art - doesn't mean she wants to be alone. It just means she has reassessed herself and improved her self image. "Oh, yes, I don't want to be alone all the time. I'm ready for a good relationship."

"She's an observer"

But work consumes her still; even as her film, The Missing, opens around Australia on November 11 (after opening the inaugural Goat Island Film Festival on Nov. 5, 1999), Frith has just finished shooting Stavros Kazantzidis' Russian Doll, with Hugo Weaving, David Wenham, Sascha Horler - and Natalia Novikova as the Doll of the tile. "It's a comedy - I hope! - with fast urban dialogue and I play a Jewish psychiatrist married to David Wenham, who falls in love with the Russian Doll." (He does, not Frith….)

"She's an observer; while the others are going off like rockets, she watches - amusedly. A bit like Susan in The Missing, she loves unconditionally."

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Rebecca Frith: "This is my Lauren Bacall shot…"



Water Rats, GP, A Country Practice, The Flying Doctors and Law of the Land - are some of Rebecca Frith's tv credits. In theatre, too, she has worked with the best, from the Sydney Theatre Company and Belvoir Street Theatre to the NIDA Company and Griffin Theatre. In film, her most recent adventures, she impressed as Vicky-Anne, co-starring with Miranda Otto in the award winning Love Serenade by Shirley Barrett, winning her own Best Actress Award from New York's Beau Arts Society. She will be seen soon in Pip Karmel's debut feature, Me Myself I, and also played the Woman in the award winning short, Fetch, opposite Matt Day.


In The Missing, she plays Susan, "an earthbound, instinctive character. . . a spiritual person in touch with her instincts, an emotionally intense role. I felt very vulnerable and at time I had to remove myself from the crew and everything going on around the set."

In The Missing, by Manuela Alberti, she co-stars with Italian actor Fabrizio Bentivoglio, plus Australia's David Ngoombujarra and John Moore.


... in The Missing

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