Australian actress Radha Mitchell is best known for roles in which she's a take-charge badass: PITCH BLACK, SILENT HILL, SURROGATES and MAN ON FIRE come to mind. Her delicate beauty is complimented by a fiery intensity that makes her equal parts imposing and alluring. But in EXPECTING, a new romantic comedy from director Jessie McCormack, Mitchell changes gears to play Lizzie, a woman struggling to conceive who has to decide whether or not she's going to accept a baby from her best friend, played by Michelle Monaghan. It's the kind of role we don't see Mitchell in much, a kinder, gentler side to the talented actress, who broke onto the scene in 1998's HIGH ART.
I spoke to Mitchell recently about EXPECTING and the change of pace it brought, her unexpected status as sci-fi action star and the most surprising thing to occur to her after she Googled herself.
What can you tell me about EXPECTING and your role in it?
Expecting is a little independent film, directed by a woman, it's filled with pathos and comedy. It's about a woman who decides she's give her baby to her friend.
You and Michelle Monaghan have really terrific chemistry in the film; what can you tell me about working with her and developing that relationship?
Well, we met at the read-through and it just kind of made sense, even physically we're opposites but complimentary characters. She's is just fun and funny and easy to hang with, and very spontaneous as an actress. I don't think she's ever had the opportunity to play a character like this, you can see all the quirky sides of her personality that she's able to explore. We're sort of like shadows of each other I guess, and as the story evolves, my character becomes more realistic and hers grows more mature. And then they meet in the middle. I honestly haven't seen it in quite a while. (Laughs)
áDid you shoot it a little while ago?
Yeah, a year and a half ago, I think. But it was a really fun shoot, particularly because of Michelle.
Is there any scene in the film that you think is a stand-out?
I was told to learn to play the ukelele, which was a little bit of a challenge because I've got very little rhythm when it comes to holding a tune. Then I was invited to sing on the soundtrack, which was very exciting, that was really fun, I've never sang in a movie before.
Do you have any singing background?
No, just in the shower. It's always been a fantasy, so that was so much fun.
We're used to seeing you play all sorts of badass roles in the past, you're usually very authoritative, so is it nice to play someone who isn't kicking butt or carrying a gun?
Ah yeah, you always want a gun in those movies. You want a gun even in a movie like this. (Laughs) Yeah, it was fun to do something a little girly, the clothes were a lot of fun. It was a female director and the energy of it was very feminine, and the subject. Dealing with issues of fertility and female friendship, it was a different aspect to explore and it's great to do something like this.
It seems like you're very comfortable in those movies - PITCH BLACK, THE CRAZIES, SILENT HILL - did you ever expect that you'd be in so many action-horror films?
Umů no! (Laughs) I think there's an intensity to them that I relate to. I'm going to do another movie next year that has some kick-ass/thriller elements to it, and it's fun doing the physicality of it. Not necessarily where I expected things to go, but I suppose it's alright.
And you probably weren't expecting to have this huge sci-fi nerd fan base that you've grown.
I think those filmgoers are some of the most genuine film buffs, they're so connected to film history and they really love their movies. They know what they're talking about, it's a real passion. But it's good to get a little high-brow as well; I recently did a movie based on a book by Jack Kerouc called Big Sur. But certainly those other movies have a technicality to them, and an intensity, that is very appealing as an actress. Always good to have an opportunity to have a gun.
Yes, of course. You should have a gun on set all the time.
You should! But there's no gun in Expecting, sorry.
Do you ever Google yourself?
Yes, I have, I do it sometimes. You know, I'll probably Google this interview later on and see how it went. You never quite sure how you're interpreted in an interview. I did have one exciting experience Googling myself: I learned I was attached to this movie shooting in India with these people I had never met. I called my agent and asked what this movie was, and then I actually ended up doing it, it's a little Australian film with Joel Edgerton that we shot in Calcutta; it was a really magical experience. But that started with me reading this article saying I was going to do the movie before I even knew about it. You can even predict the future with Google!
That's rather amazing. Sometimes I talk to actors about credits on their IMDb page which they've never heard of it.
Yeah, I'm not that diligent about monitoring all that; I'm sure there is stuff on my Wikipedia page that isn't true.
What has been the most fun experience you've had working on a film?
I don't know, that's like asking what was the most exciting day of your life. It's all a blessing, they all have different qualities. Lately I've been wanting to do stuff in Los Angeles, because usually I'm traveling so much. In a way, it was great working on Expecting because it was a little film with fun script and we were shooting in L.A. which is such an unusual thing to happen now. Most recently, that was a great experience. But shooting in India was great, shooting in Mexico City with Tony Scott [on MAN ON FIRE] was a highlight. But I think the older you get, you become a little more conservative and just want to stay close to home.
What do you do when you're not traveling and working?
I try to spend time with people I enjoy spending time with.
Well I thank you for your time and remember to keep that gun close.
Okay I will, thanks!