RELEASE DATE: 25/02/2016
RUN TIME: 1HR 59MIN
"it’s beyond my wildest dreams in terms of how audiences have fallen in love with this film," the film's producer Sue Maslin confessed to me. "Not just gone once or twice, some [people] have gone three, four, five, six times to see this movie."
Sue believes the popularity of the film stems from the seductive tale told in Rosalie Ham's novel. "I just fell in love with it. I just thought it was intensely visual. I loved the fact that you had those beautiful couture designs of the 50s set in this completely incongruous landscape - the Australian outback. The contrast of those two things is very, very filmic, and then you put that together with this crazy, bold story of revenge and love and transformation of the townswomen. There’s just so many elements that you start to think, 'This could be a really brilliant movie.'"
Working with the film's writer and director, Jocelyn Moorhouse, the duo specifically sought out Kate Winslet for the lead role. "She probably gets sent 200-300 scripts a year from all over the world, and she tends to do about two or three movies a year," Sue explains. "So as you can imagine, the odds are not great. We sent it to her agents. Jocelyn and I make sure [they] read the script, and they loved it. Knowing that they supported it, we then waited, and we waited, and waited for around nine months. Then one day, Joscelyn opened up her email, and there was this email from Kate saying, 'Oh my god, I’m so sorry it’s taken so long to get back to you. I finally read the script. I love it! I think I know how to play Tilly Dunnage and yes, I want to do this.'"
From then on, securing the dream Aussie cast was a smooth process. "Judy Davis was always in our mind to play Molly Dunnage, the mother, Mad Molly of the town, and we couldn’t ask Judy until we could tell her who was going to play her daughter. She was keen to play that role because it was so comic and it was so compassionate, and she got to work with Kate. Truly that was one of the main reasons both of them really wanted to do the movie, was to work with each other. So once we had Kate and Judy on board, then we had every great actor in Australia knocking on our door to be part of it. We were thrilled to be able to put together that wonderful ensemble."
It's become one of just eleven films to take in excess of $20 million at the box office - putting it up there with classic films like ‘Moulin Rouge’, ‘Babe’, ‘Crocodile Dundee’ and ‘Mad Max’.
The end result was a country town brimming with Australian talent. Liam Hemsworth, Sarah Snook, Rebecca Gibney, Shane Jacobson and Barry Otto all signed on - but Sue admits there was one cast member who took some convincing. "When we first approached Hugo Weaving, he said, 'Oh no, I’ve already done the dress-up thing. I don’t really need to do that again since ‘Priscilla’.' He wasn’t initially enthusiastic, and then Joscelyn said, ‘Oh well, that’s a shame. We can imagine Sergeant Farrat as being somebody who’s also very impressed with Parisian fashion and he would have a beautiful pencil-thin moustache, like a Parisian designer.’ And Hugo went, ‘Hmmmm, I haven’t done that before.’"
Following its success in Australia, 'The Dressmaker' has had a gradual release abroad. With America's love affair with Australian cinema a near guarantee the film would be a success in the U.S., Sue was able to reveal a few new details about the distribution deal. "I’m really hoping that the announcement will be made in about two weeks’ time. We’re just putting the final touches to the contractual side of things, and we have a very enthusiastic distributor, so watch this space – that announcement will be made very, very shortly."
'The Dressmaker' is available to own on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital from today.