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Playing seven characters with seven different wardrobes in Bedazzled is exactly what acting is about, Frances OíConnor tells Jenny Cooney Carillo; and there was so much on-set laughter tons of footage had to be discarded.

Although Frances OíConnor 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 Hawnís 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, OíConnor was recognized by critics but remained unknown by the general public.

Then with her stunning portrayal of Fanny Price in Patricia Rozemaís adaptation of Jane Austenís Mansfield Park Ė 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, OíConnor 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 wonít be long before sheíll 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 watching it?
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 donít 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 hell?
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 itís 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, ĎWhen are you going to get out of the corsets?í and I was thinking ĎI just got into them!í

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 Birdís 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 thatís what I did for this film, Bedazzled, meeting director Harold Ramis with my American accent. Then you donít have to switch gears when you start reading the character.

Youíve said you donít like to talk about your private life. How can you avoid it?
I just feel like everyone should be allowed to have a private side. I think thatís very important to maintain. I think you can set your own standards. I live a pretty quiet life.

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 canít 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. Itís proving to be really creative. Very different from Bedazzled, but again really stimulating.

Professionally you must be pinching yourself. It doesnít 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 ĎNo, really, I am working with Steven Spielberg.í 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 havenít 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 yearís time!

Published February 1, 2001

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Jenny Cooney Carillo talks to LIZ HURLEY

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