Archita Kashyap - 63 weeks ago
Hollywood films are often the destination for most talented actors from English speaking countries. Whether this journey to making it big in Los Angeles brings success, is not guaranteed. But the lure of working in a major Hollywood production has long brought in the best actors from Australia and Great Britain to this promised land of performance and global stardom. Yet, it’s often in smaller, independent films in their home ground that these actors actually display their best performances.
An interesting case in point is that of Toni Collette and Rosamund Pike. Both are beautiful, supremely talented and reliably consistent actors that have made impact. Both have an Oscar nomination each to their credit, but neither have found deserving appreciation from studios or the Academy over time. Collette earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress in her breakthrough film, M Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense. Pike got nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her duality and diabolical character in David Fincher’s Gone Girl. Despite achieving Oscar appreciation at relatively early stages in their careers, their work in Hollywood mainstream has been infrequent. Instead both have delivered stand out performances in films where these were least expected.
There was a time when Toni Collette dropped such huge amounts of weight that her skinny frame had led to speculations of her having eating disorder in tabloids. In reality, the Australian actor had gained weight for her parts in the popular Australian drama Muriel’s Wedding, and also for her part in In Her Shoes, with Cameron Diaz. Both movies were runaway hits, where women led the narrative. Between these, when Collette acted in The Sixth Sense and the popular British comedy, About a Boy, she hadn’t shed her weight. Which is why, her new found slim, lean self had gotten tongues wagging. Collette won accolades for her performance as a mother on the edge in the 2006 Indie gem, Little Miss Sunshine. But her skinny appearance in the years that followed, including a super slim form in the successful TV series, Hostages, which also reportedly paid her 1 million dollars per episode drew more attention than her performances in this phase. As often happens with female actors, her physical appearance over shadowed the brilliance of her work onscreen. But she continued to work in independent, smaller films that have substantial stories and meaty parts simultaneously. One such film, less known in global markets is the delightful Hector And The Search For Happiness.
It’s a British production about a psychiatrist who literally goes around the world looking for happiness. At times clichéd, his experiences exploring ways to find definitive happiness reflects common behaviour of most people- seeking a new lover, looking for a new partner, seeking a new calling and often just exploring a new culture. Directed by Peter Chelsea, the veteran filmmaker- producer who has also directed cult films like Serendipity and Funny Bones, Hector And The Search For Happiness features Collette in a short, sharp and brilliant role of a mother of two, pregnant with a third, leading the typical life of a Los Angeles wife. It’s complex and yet easy to relate to. Interestingly, the film also has Rosamund Pike, a British actor with a similar journey to stardom as Collette’s.
Rosamund Pike has spent a childhood living amidst music and arts with her parents being professionals in the opera. In what can only be called as visible evidence of hubris, Britain’s top acting institutes rejected her applications to become an acting student. Pike chose Oxford instead, and pursued theatre and work in British television. Pike has been courted by Hollywood with major roles, like that of a glacial beauty and Bond Girl in Die Another Day, the counter to Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher and in Fracture. Lissome, striking and very subtle, Pike is not the typical Hollywood movie star but stands out for her fragile yet strong presence. She beat established stars including co-producer Reese Witherspoon to star in Gone Girl, one of her career best performances. But Pike’s most outstanding work is in independent cinema, like An Education, Made in Dagenham, and in hostage dramas like Beirut and 7 Days in Entebbe. She delivered a solid rendition as Marie Colvin, altering her voice and accent in A Private War, a somewhat unsatisfying account of a superb war journalist’s life. Pike’s range as a performer in evident in Hector And The Search For Happiness, another of her winsome, convincing characters.
Toni Collete and Rosamund Pike have focused on being actors and not followed the essentials to becoming typical Hollywood style movie stars (read red carpet appearances, photo ops and a heap of endorsements). Both hold critical acclaim and bring heft and natural respect when they join a project. When Collette’s raging, grieving and helpless performance in Hereditary, Ari Aster’s horror classic didn’t win an Oscar nomination for Best Actress, it got many movie buffs up in arms. Not doing the rounds might cost one traditional Hollywood fame. But the steady, honest work that both these actors have done in smaller, substantial films that tell interesting, content driven stories, will hold them in good stead in future. With streaming opening up a whole new world of opportunities, Toni Collette and Rosamund Pike will hopefully continue to entertain with memorable roles in stories that we love watching.
(Hector and the Search for Happiness starring Rosamund Pike and Toni Collette is currently playing on myNK)
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