Kate Winslet The Dressmaker
Cast: Liam Hemsworth, Kate Winslet, Jocelyn Moorhouse, Hugo Weaving
Director: Jocelyn Moorhouse
Running Time: 118 minutes
Synopsis: 1951. Tilly Dunnage (Kate Winslet), a beautiful, talented misfit, who's been working as a dressmaker in France for the great haute couture designers, returns home to Dungatar, a one-horse town deep in the wheat belt of south-east Australia. After 20 years away, Tilly has been driven back by a recent tragedy, to do two things – look after her ailing, eccentric mother Molly (Judy Davis), and right the wrongs of the past that continue to haunt her. Tilly Dunnage has revenge in her heart.
In Dungatar, everybody knows everybody and they all have a secret. Cabin-crazed, bitter, grasping and small-minded, the town folk maintain a precarious equilibrium as they know that their secrets are not safe.
When Tilly arrives back, the balance starts to shift. Signs of trouble come in the form of the extravagant fabrics, which start arriving from France, delivered to Dungatar in exotic tea chests.
The local constabulary, in the form of Sergeant Farrat (Hugo Weaving), is the first to develop a special, breathless interest in Tilly's magical way with thread and silk. He becomes something of a buffer between Tilly and the town's people, who haven't forgotten the tragedy they believe Tilly caused as a child"tearing the town apart and leading to her exile.
Tilly feels instinctively that she was wronged, but she also feels cursed and can't clearly remember what happened. The Dungatarians are drawn in by Tilly's bewitching skills of transformation, and one by one, she extracts from them the information necessary to piece the truth together. The extraordinary gowns she creates become her means for revenge against those who did her wrong. There'll be a price for looking this good.
The stakes are raised when Councillor Evan Pettyman (Shane Bourne), who virulently hates Tilly and Molly, employs the buttoned-up Una Pleasance (Sacha Horler), a rival dressmaker from Melbourne, to compete with Tilly and bring her down.
Along the way Tilly bares her heart and against her better judgement falls in love with local football hero, Teddy McSwiney (Liam Hemsworth). Most importantly, she forms an initially volatile but finally tender reconciliation with her mother Molly.
In a no-holds-barred showdown between Tilly's and Una's creations, it becomes clear that the transformation of the residents of Dungatar has only exaggerated their many flaws, and revealed just how ugly and black their hearts are. Their obsession with Tilly's couture designs will be their ultimate unravelling, and Tilly's final triumph.
Release Date: October 29th, 2015
About the Production
How The Production Got Sewn Up
From Page To Screen
When The Dressmaker was published in the year 2000, producer Sue Maslin saw the novel and recognised the name of the author, Rosalie Ham.
'I went to school with a Rosalie Ham - it turned out it was one in the same" Sue Maslin explains. 'We both grew up in a little country town called Jerilderie, in the southern Riverina area of NSW, and we both were at boarding school in Melbourne which meant from a very early age catching a bus that took five and a half hours to travel up to Jerilderie and drop us off in the middle of the night to be picked up by our parents."
Sue Maslin read and loved the book because it encapsulated, without being nostalgic or sentimental, something raw and honest and funny and tragic about what it's like to grow up in a little country town – 'the kind of place where everybody knows everyone else's business and you can tolerate the worst evil and the greatest of excesses amongst each other just as long as you are not an outsider."
The Dressmaker was Rosalie Ham's first novel.
Rosalie Ham says: 'I went to a writing course and they said -you're going to write a novel, a practice novel, you probably won't get this novel published because people don't often get their first novel published'. And I thought, fine, well I'll just put everything in. -Everything' ended up being all the big themes - death, marriage, betrayal."
And so Tilly Dunnage, her mother Molly and the fictional town of Dungatar were born.
The character of Tilly seems drawn, at least in part, from Rosalie Ham's mother. 'My mother was one of the dressmakers in Jerilderie. She happened to be divorced, and so there was a certain amount of scandal that was attached to that. She had to make a living as a seamstress. And I saw the difference in her role as the seamstress as opposed to the other ladies who were in the hierarchy of the town that wanted beautiful frocks made by her.
Having someone like Tilly return to the town as an inferior person but actually impossibly beautiful and superior, juxtaposed against the people of the town, that's the point I wanted to make."
Sue Maslin continues: 'I fell in love with this idea of going back to your village after many years away and being the proverbial stone that's dropped into the pond that creates the ripples going out - It captured something that I recognised."
Sue Maslin's securing of the option for the film rights would prove a little more difficult.
Sue Maslin says: 'I got in touch with Rosalie Ham because I was dying to see if there was some way that I could get rights, but sadly they'd already been assigned to another producer. We met up anyway and started to get to know each other again. We never discussed the making of the book into the film at that point because it was with another producer but we started playing golf."
'We're both very bad golfers, but there's nothing better than being on a golf course with a novelist talking about life, death and the universe. Then one day RosalieHam turned around to me and said, the rights to The Dressmaker are coming up, do you think you'd be interested, and it was like: -YES!'"
Rosalie Ham had to face the natural fear of a novelist in -handing over' their work. Building up this renewed friendship and a mutual understanding with Sue Maslin helped.
'When someone comes to you and says I want to turn your book into a film, it's very exciting but then there's also some sort of fear that they're going to change it." Explains Rosalie Ham. 'But, Sue Maslin understood exactly what it was about. I had seen Road To Nhill (which Sue Maslin had produced in 1997), and loved that film because it understood the relationships between characters in a small community, and human nature. So once the option had expired and Sue told me what she wanted to do, it was a fait accompli."
How did Jocelyn Moorhouse come into the story?
Sue Maslin explains: 'I needed somebody that could capture that edge between comedy and tragedy that's so essential to the story, and the person that I kept going back to was Jocelyn Moorhouse, mostly on the basis of her beautiful, funny, sad film Proof which was the film that really announced her as the extraordinary director that she is. I flew to Los Angeles to meet Jocelyn and we had a really great conversation about it but she was not ready to make the film at that time."
However, as with many elements of this story, persistence was key.
Jocelyn Moorhouse recalls: 'I suggested other people she could go to, but Sue Maslin wouldn't take no for answer. She kept coming back to me every couple of months - -are you still too busy?' - so I finally read the book, immediately fell in love with it and was completely obsessed with turning it into a movie."
Jocelyn Moorhouse came on board, not only as director but as writer of the screenplay.
Rosalie Ham says: 'I knew that once I signed the option, I had to let it go. It was no longer my project. When Sue Maslin mentioned that she would like to get Jocelyn Moorhouse to write the screenplay, I knew that Jocelyn Moorhouse would do a wonderful job because of Proof. It's a film I've never forgotten."
The natural fears remained, but when Sue Maslin and Rosalie Ham drove down to Warragul in rural Victoria and met Jocelyn Moorhouse at her parents' home, Rosalie Ham took a stack of books that she'd referenced to write The Dressmaker. In that general enthusiasm of looking through the books, and saying 'Oh my goodness, look at that frock", or 'That's wonderful and this is a twill, this is how they do this", Rosalie Ham knew that Jocelyn Moorhouse was just as enthusiastic and her ideas about the palette, the designs, the story, were aligned with the spirit of the book.
'Once we drove away from Warragul on our way back to Melbourne," recalls Rosalie Ham 'I remember thinking -It's all going to be fine, it will be good'."
Sue Maslin says, 'Rosalie Ham's been our touch stone. Rosalie Ham told Jocelyn Moorhouse her thoughts about the characters, but they were offered, they were never forced or pushed onto us at all, she was completely and utterly trusting of what we're doing."
Jocelyn Moorhouse says there were many things that drew her to want to adapt the book. 'The story itself is really irresistible. I love revenge, the concept of what drives a person to want to punish evil doers for what they did in the past. I loved the character of Tilly, this incredibly strong woman who has a mysterious quality and a tragic past. I also loved the mother-daughter relationship and the possibility of bringing two extraordinary actresses together to fire off each other. The love story is very beautiful, it's also very dark and funny and it has an epic quality on the emotional level."
Jocelyn Moorhouse continues: 'I wanted to create, in the script and onscreen, a western feel, an archetypal, wasted, harsh landscape that these people have to survive in, but at the same time there's a sense of humour to it all, and a sense of style. It was my intention for it to have a fable quality - a mean little town with a secret tries to ward off this avenging angel who descends on them."
As the writing began, Sue Maslin loved where Jocelyn Moorhouse took the script.
Sue Maslin says: 'It was clear to me that if you just played it for the comedy, you could very quickly descend into caricature. At all times, sitting under the comedy, you have to have an equal measure of pathos, so that you appreciate what is emotionally driving these characters at any given time. Jocelyn Moorhouse understood all of that. The level of detail that's in the script is quite extraordinary, it works on many, many levels."
Sue Maslin waited until the script was advanced before asking Rosalie Ham to read it.
'The screenplay arrived and it sat on my coffee table" Rosalie Ham recalls. 'I picked it up every now and again and flicked through it, to make sure that the key scenes that I deeply wanted to remain in the screenplay were there.
Sue Maslin phoned me after 24 hours and said -I feel sick, I haven't heard from you. You've got to tell me what you think.' I said 'It's wonderful, you go ahead and make it!" but I didn't confess to Sue Maslin that I hadn't really read the screenplay. It's not my thing - it's their project. I wanted to be surprised. I was perfectly comfortable that they could do whatever they needed to do. I was concerned about the big things remaining in, and once I knew they were still there, I was perfectly happy."
It was clear to Sue Maslin from early on that this was not going to be a low budget film. The setting and costumes were going to be period - not only that, but couture period design. 'That coupled with the fact that we were setting the film in a country location with a cast of thousands, big ensemble pieces, this was going to mean for an Australian budget, it was going to be on the higher side."
To access such a budget, casting was key. From the outset, Sue Maslin and Jocelyn Moorhouse needed to start thinking about actresses with sufficient calibre and box office clout, as well as the talent and extraordinary range to embody Tilly.
Jocelyn Moorhouse says: 'I have loved and wanted to work with Kate Winslet ever since I saw her in Heavenly Creatures. When I was writing the screenplay, as I thought about who could play Tilly, Kate Winslet was at the top of my list. It's her strength, her beauty, her sensuality and also the fact that she can become such a complex character."
When Sue Maslin sent the script to Kate Winslet, Jocelyn Moorhouse remembers saying to Sue Maslin: 'What's the harm, she can only say no, or she might say yes."
Sue Maslin continues: 'We didn't quite realise at the time how long these processes take but we were very happy to wait and we didn't offer it to anyone else in that time."
Jocelyn Moorhouse remembers: 'We kept wondering if we should just give up, but I couldn't get the idea of Kate Winslet playing Tilly out of my head, so I said let's just keep waiting, and finally one day I received the most beautiful, effusive email from Kate Winslet saying -I love this character, I know how to play her, I know her, yes I'm doing it.'"
Kate Winslet remembers: 'When I first read the script I was very taken by how different she was as a woman to anything I'd read for quite a while. There's a strength in her that is unflinching and almost aggressive at times because she has had to overcome so many challenges in order to stay strong and to be the person that she is."
'She's an Australian and I always love playing characters that come from somewhere else. I was taken with Tilly being surrounded by the Dungatarians, as we ended up calling the locals during the shoot – her story is set against such a hilarious backdrop, the irony in that really struck me. It's a risky, fun, comedic, dark, sometimes strange story with a very strong mother-daughter relationship at its heart ultimately. So, it was a combination of all of those things really that grabbed me."
Like Sue Maslin, Rosalie Ham and Jocelyn Moorhouse, Oscar™ nominated Director of Photography Don Mcalpine also grew up in rural Australia. For Don Mcalphine, coming to know the script and form the visual execution of the film was a process of absorption that began years before the first day of shooting.
'I knew Jocelyn Moorhouse was writing the script two or three years ago before production started" says Don McAlpine. 'On most films I arrive three weeks before shooting starts, but this wasn't the case. I enjoy the way she and P.J. Hogan (Jocelyn Moorhouse's husband and a film director) make films. I've reached a stage in my career where I pick jobs where I'm going to get something back out and I think this is one of them."
Don's first task, which would result in the film needing an even larger budget, would be to find Dungatar… Finding Dungatar
Dungatar is not a real town, it's a wicked amalgam, a small town that could be anywhere in the world, that despite its fantastical vision and eccentric occupants, is built around deep truths about human behaviour.
Jocelyn Moorhouse says: 'It's the kind of home town you never want to go back to, full of nasty people and really frightening secrets. Everybody knows something about everybody else and everyone is held in check."
It's a town that grew out of Rosalie Ham's fertile imagination, that the film's creative team would have to interpret. When they set out on the road of Victoria and NSW to find a readymade Dungatar, they didn't realise the challenge that lay ahead.
Sue Maslin recalls: 'The very first trip was just Rosalie Ham and I – we got in a car and headed west, out of Melbourne into the Victorian countryside, into what we call the Mallee and the Wimmera areas, the big flat wide open plains. We went there first because that's the kind of landscape where we grew up."
There were options in many towns, but there were always elements that weren't quite right for Dungatar. Once Jocelyn Moorhouse came on board, she became very involved in searching for the locations and the brief became even more specific – the town of Dungatar had to be a little town in the middle of nowhere with a big open wheat belt, but with single a hill behind it – crucial to the dynamics of the story. However, this is something almost impossible to find as the landscape in these regions is either miles of flatness, or if you find a hill, you're faced with many neighbouring hills.
Sue Maslin continues: 'Jocelyn Moorhouse and I looked all over Victoria, all over New South Wales, into South Australia, over a period of almost three years we kept searching. We brought Don McAlpine on the road trips and we brought Roger Ford, the production designer."
Don McAlpine remembers: 'I spent about two weeks with Jocelyn Moorhouse and P.J. Hogan in the back of my car doing the grand tour of western NSW, looking at every little town that existed, hoping we'd find it." Joining them on some trips would be Production Designer Roger Ford, who knew Jocelyn Moorhouse from working on P.J. Hogan's film Peter Pan.
Roger Ford says: 'We'd find a little town but it would all be made of brick so you think, well, that won't burn and then it started to occur to me that we should be building this town, it's the only way to achieve it."
Don continues: 'Eventually it was resolved that we'd build the town, and of course the next thing is to find a location near a place that could be close to services. They brought me down to check out about three locations and they took me to two others, both of which I personally rejected, I said, this hill's too steep, something was wrong."
Out of the blue, Sue received a phone call from the location department of the Victorian State agency Film Victoria, to ask if the searchers had ever been down the road to the You Yangs – an area of low lying hills that are about 50 miles south of Melbourne.
Sue Maslin said: '-No, we'll go down and have a look', and it was incredible - at the back of the You Yangs is the Mt. Rothwell Biodiversity Centre, you go up over a rise and you're suddenly looking straight out across the big plain, as far as the eye can see. It's a setting that gave us both the hill and the plains but more importantly, it gave us these incredible rocky granite outcrops and dead, gnarled trees and we said, -This is where Dungatar should have been built'."
But of course – it wasn't. The town itself would have to be built.
'The downside is that I had budgeted that we would find a town and not have to build one", says Sue Maslin. 'So it meant a lot discussions with Roger Ford, who's a genius about how we could actually build this town and then of course I had to go out and raise more money in order to do that."
Jocelyn Moorhouse put together mood boards and started conversations with Roger Ford about how this town would look on screen, and narrowed it down to an approach that evoked Russell Drysdale's paintings. They had to imagine their way into how this town would sit in the landscape, how the main street would run. Jocelyn was confident, in that 'Roger Ford can look at a blank canvas and then just imagine up the possibilities that exist."
Sue Maslin stresses: 'This is not any ordinary place, it's from a fable and it needs to look that. This town saw better days a long time ago, it's very worn at the edges, and this is where the art department really came into play because everything was built brand new, and had to be aged to look decrepit and windswept."
On seeing the finished town for the first time, Rosalie Ham remembers: 'It was very emotional. I got off the bus at Dungatar. It was windy, cold, a bleak day, and the buildings were there, the whole town, it was real. I felt very emotional. I stood on Molly's veranda and looked down the hill at the rest of the town. It was perfect. I remember turning around and pointing and saying -Look, Dungatar!'"
Don McAlpine says: 'It's like if you had a million bucks and you could design old dead trees, boulders, a hill just the perfect shape, the perfect distance away from the town. It's just magic. All through this film, it was been amazing how fortune favoured the brave. They were very brave in attempting a lot of things in this movie, and they worked out, and as an old campaigner I sit back and I'm just amazed how lady luck has rewarded them for their grit." The Shoot
With Kate Winslet secured, and the town of Dungatar emerging from the earth, Casting Director Christine King worked with Jocelyn Moorhouse and Sue Maslin to assemble a cast of incredible Australian actors who would bring the townsfolk of Dungatar to wonderful, wicked life.
The casting of Tilly's mother Molly Dunnage was crucial, but it had secretly been decided from the outset.
Sue Maslin explains: 'We knew from Draft One that whoever else we cast, Molly was going to be played by Judy Davis, but we couldn't ask her until the script was ready, and until we could tell her who was going to play Tilly. We finally had the great joy of saying that Tilly would be played by Kate Winslet and Judy said -Of course I'll play Molly'."
Jocelyn Moorhouse says: 'Judy Davis is a brilliant actress, one of the world's best. In Woody Allen's Husbands And Wives, she was so funny and I thought she will nail Molly, but she won't just be funny, she'll be really beautiful as this woman who's had to put up with so much pain in her life but still has a great sense of humour."
Judy Davis' range, gravitas, wit and edge would be the perfect counterpoint to Kate Winslet. Sue says: 'From Jocelyn Moorhouse and my perspective, you could not ask for anything more than to work with two of the greatest actresses working in the world today, Judy Davis and Kate Winslet and to put them together in a movie and see the magic."
Sue Maslin says: 'Casting the role of Teddy was probably the toughest decision - finding an actor that could bring both the charm and the masculinity to the role. We wanted an Australian actor, but somebody who was going to have credibility with audiences internationally as well. Liam Hemsworth certainly embodied the physicality of the role and the sensitivity"
Casting the other roles in the film drew from the finest Australian actors working locally and internationally - Hugo Weaving, Caroline Goodall, Shane Bourne, Rebecca Gibney, Sacha Horler, Shane Jacobson, Alison Whyte, Genevieve Lemon, Barry Otto, Sarah Snook, Amanda Woodhams, Hayley Magnus, Gyton Grantley, James Mackay, Julia Blake Kerry Fox and Mark Leonard Winter.
Judy Davis says of the process of working from an adapted screenplay: 'I have worked on things where I'd got the book and underlined things. In this case, I decided that I would immerse myself in the shooting script and so that's what I did.
During rehearsals, it was probably an advantage to be the only person in the room who hadn't actually read the book because when something didn't make sense to me, someone might have said, -Oh yeah, but you know it's in the book' and I'd say, -I haven't actually read the book and that's not making sense.' It is a great advantage to have one person in the room who is simply working from the script."
Jocelyn Moorhouse and Don McAlpine had the luxury of time and familiarity in terms of refining how this film, with such a specific, unique tone, would look. Don McAlpine says: 'It's a process of absorption. You look at the photographs and art works Jocelyn Moorhouse thinks depicts what the story is about, you overhear conversations with Sue Maslin, with actors, with the production designer, Roger Ford. And through that process, you slowly absorb what you think is the film she wants."
Jocelyn Moorhouse and Don McAlpine used spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone as a reference, for their sense of working with a fable quality.
Don McAlpine explains: 'Stylistically, Jocelyn Moorhouse was quite open that it's spaghetti western. But it's Australian spaghetti. We exaggerated the use of wide-angle lenses quite brilliantly I think."
Kate Winslet says: 'It was a great experience working with Joss Moorhouse, she's a very relaxed director to work with, she doesn't get frustrated. She's never in a hurry, even though I think it's remarkable that she isn't because we've had very little time to shoot this really large piece."
One featured extra cast member is Rosalie Ham. Sue Maslin explains: 'Rosalie Ham said, jokingly you'll get the option if I can get to be an extra in the film, so that was the deal. She goes on the journey of being transformed by Tilly so you'll actually see her in the background along with many of the other Dungatar women transformed by those beautiful costumes."
Rosalie Ham says of the experience: 'I didn't actually imagine that I would be in such close proximity to the other actors and the cameras. I saw the physical side, the technical side, the cameras, how it all comes together and that correlates a little bit with how you put a book together. I got to be a sticky beak. It was brilliant." The Frockery -It's such an extraordinary journey that's sewn through the clothing.'
Marion Boyce, Costume Designer
-It becomes this fantastic narrative of before and after as Tilly transforms the town's women and then in all sorts of ways, gets her revenge on those that did her wrong.' Sue Maslin, Producer.
Director Jocelyn Moorhouse says: 'A designer friend of mine once said to me, couture is a weapon and that stuck with me. I like the idea of a woman being able to use her skills at designing extraordinary clothes that can transform the people wearing them, and to use that as a weapon against those people."
Clothes are crucial to The Dressmaker – costuming is key to any film, but here it takes on a profound level of importance. Rosalie Ham had the clothes close in mind when writing the source book: 'Clothes as a disguise, something to cover the flaws of your body, was what I wanted to explore, but in this case, it exacerbates the flaws in the people - things like vanity and jealousy - and so it all came from that."
Fashion in The Dressmaker is about disguise. Tilly Dunnage takes advantage of the women in the town and appeals to their sense of competition and vanity. The women of Dungatar haven't looked or felt good for a very long time, so it's a way of luring people and giving them a false sense of hope. Tilly simply gives them enough rope – or ribbon – to hang themselves with. She lets them 'bring themselves unstitched", as Rosalie Ham puns.
Hugo Weaving, who plays Sergeant Farrat, an eager recipient of Tilly's skills says: 'The tone of it's the difficult thing with this film. Everything needed to be grounded in a reality and a truth but at the same time there's a heightened reality to it, so it's slightly surreal. The characters are both drawn from life, very specific types, but a lot of them are larger than life and the costumes need to somehow reflect that."
Kate Winslet says: 'Tilly has trained as a couture dressmaker in France with Balenciaga and Dior and Madame Vionnet. The Dungatarians don't really understand quite how magical and beautiful her creations truly are, they think it's -dress up'. It's kind of a gift that she's giving them, as well as carrying out little bits of revenge along the way. They go from looking pale and a bit tea stained to looking like they're all walking down a red carpet. It's really quite striking."
The post war 1950s were a time in which fashion had two competing movements - Christian Dior created -the new look' in 1947, which took women back a little bit to the corset and the cinched waist. Madame Vionnet and Balenciaga were both couturiers who didn't use artifice, they used what was already there and the way fabric was draped on the body to enhance the good qualities and disguise the bad.
Rosalie Ham says: 'I wanted to make the distinction between those two things in The Dressmaker. You can be feminine and beautiful but you don't have to wear a corset or alter yourself particularly to be able to do that."
It was also in these post war years that French designers began to influence chain stores and youth culture, as well as to take advantage of the increased production of materials. Jocelyn Moorhouse explains: 'Fashion during the 1950s was very exciting because there'd been an atmosphere of restraint, everyone had to be austere during the war years, and then Christian Dior came along and changed everything, and Balenciaga. They changed the silhouette, they used a ridiculous amount of fabric to create what were really works of art, not just clothes."
For a film costume designer, this is wonderful challenge, not just to craft individuals but for the palette of how those individuals fit together in the group scenes.
Marion Boyce, known for her recent work on period television series Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, was engaged to approach the task of putting more than 350 costumes together for the entire cast, except one. To distinguish the character of Tilly, Margot Wilson who'd previously worked with Sue Maslin on two films, and with Kate Winslet on another, was engaged to design all of Tilly's costumes.
Jocelyn Moorhouse stresses: 'It was important to me that we used, as inspiration, the work of famous European designers in that period, to be true to them in what Tilly creates for the local ladies but at the same time add a twist of forward thinking. Tilly's clothes had to be very elegant and chic but not too flashy - designers tend to make the flashier stuff for their clients and dress in a more chic and understated way themselves."
When Jocelyn Moorhouse talked with Marion Boyce and Margot Wilson about the colour scheme of the clothes, they agreed that at the beginning of the film, like a lot of Australian country towns of the era, Dungatar is behind the times. People would be wearing clothing from the 1930s and 40s. Tilly would then bring a very contemporary, European sensibility. These new creations had to be very strong - dark reds, mustard yellow, emerald greens. They wanted strong colours to stand out against the dusty palette of the town.
Part of that was Jocelyn Moorhouse working with Roger Ford on the production design elements. Roger Ford recalls: 'We had a lot of discussion about it and I said, I'm going to keep the colours very subdued and shapes, basically unattractive so that your shapes and forms of costumes and colours really jump out."
Sue Maslin says: 'The costume design is in many ways what drives the visual narrative of the film. The people of Dungatar, almost disappear into their earthy tones of this little town that's sitting miles away in the wheat belt and it's just really been left behind. And the along comes Tilly who wields her Singer Sewing Machine to great effect."
The film is replete with beautiful creations – sumptuous, elegant, even startling ones, depending on who's wearing them and what the intended effect is on the part of the creator, as well as the wearer.
Jocelyn feels that: 'Gertrude Pratt (Sarah Snook) gets to wear the best dresses really. Tilly makes her a Pygmalion project. Gertrude starts off very plain and wearing what look like flour sacks. She begs Tilly to help her and it's a fabulous makeover. She turns her into a goddess."
Tilly herself wears incredibly tailored outfits. The details, even elements that won't necessarily show up on camera – including vintage underwear - were crucial for the team. Some costumes came from the private collections of obsessive costume collectors, sourced internationally.
Marion Boyce says: 'The sheer number of costumes was daunting, that was a lot of pressure to begin with and I had to decide to stop thinking about the pressure, to just enjoy it and go on the journey."
Marion Boyce researched in intimate detail exactly what Parisian couturiers were doing, reading about the cloths that at the time were being invented, finding the really interesting milliners of the time. Not just what the new silhouette was, but where the shapes came from, what drove it, what the social mores were at the time.
'The early 50s was a really incredibly exciting time. The sort of the fun came back into clothing. The clothes were freer and they made you want to dance again."
Marion Boyce knew how to make the cast look good, but what about making someone look bad? This was necessitated by the presence of Una Pleasance (Sacha Horler) the dressmaker brought to town to compete with Tilly.
'Making something look bad is a very good challenge for my pattern makers, cutters and sewers because they're incredibly talented" says Marion Boyce. 'When we were making Gertrude's wedding dress, which Una Pleasance had designed, they'd say -But this is cream coloured, that's going on white', and I'd say: -That's the point'"
She continues: 'I had to convince them to pile layer upon layer to create this extraordinary meringue of a frock. Gertrude had to clamber out windows, run through the town and fall down hills in this extraordinary confectionary. It hurts sewers and cutters to make something intentionally atrocious but in the end, seeing Gertrude in this frock that completely and utterly swamps her, and the physical comedy that comes out of that is really terrific."
Equally, Margot Wilson had to manage the extra pressure on the costume department because of the nature of the story. 'You very rarely get a film that is actually about costumes as opposed to some other element. Tilly's character is about her passion for making clothes so I felt more pressure doing this one than probably any other film I've done, even though of course you try your best for every film."
For Margot Wilson, designing for Tilly, precise research was crucial, but: 'I could bring in the new look that Dior did and then put a swing of Tilly to it. Kate Winslet has a wonderful figure to work with - it's perfect for the 1950s. To create garments I could sculpt around Kate Winslet's figure was a dream come true."
Of capturing the costumes on film, Don McAlpine says: 'The costumes were so striking, you just had to point a camera at them, to be blunt. You'd have to light them, but I didn't have to go out of my way to emphasise them because while there is so much fantasy going on, in my cinematography, except for some of the close-ups on Kate Winslet, I tried to keep a basis of reality to ground the whole film. It needed that basic solid grounding and I tried to make my work logical amidst all the illogical and fanciful and wonderful things that are in the film."
Of the end results, and of her own character, who avoids transformation, Judy Davis says: 'I think the costumes are absolutely wonderful. Given the size of the film, and limited time, Marion Boyce did a tremendous job. Molly didn't have much of a wardrobe thank God, so that was pretty simple!" The Red Dress
A crucial scene early on in the film, soon after Tilly has arrived back into Dungatar, perfectly encapsulates the power of Tilly's creations, how they drive the narrative of the film, as well as the care the costume department went to in creating magic.
Rumours have gone around that Tilly Dunnage, the alleged murderess, is back, but no one knows for sure. And then…
'Tilly decides to shock the living hell out of them," says Kate Winslet. 'So she turns up at a local football match, bringing mad Molly in a wheelchair, and Tilly is wearing an absolutely stunning, fitted red dress, initially under a coat, and with these wonderful red high heels. Cigarette and a cigarette holder, dark glasses, the whole bit. It's her reveal."
Jocelyn Moorhouse adds: 'The red dress had to be very startling because this was her way of saying, 'I'm back and I'm going to make you pay attention". It had to be red because there's an insane football game going on and something had to stop it dead. She's like the siren in the Odysseus story, where he says 'men don't look at her, don't look at the sirens, tie me to the mast". We're doing a play on that, and she manages to completely disrupt the premiership game with her clothes."
Margot Wilson felt very strongly that the dress needed to be immediately striking, but to have an elegance and poise, not to be in any way cheap or obvious. Kate Winslet picks up: 'And so Margot Wilson said to me, -Listen, I've got this fabric that I bought 20 years ago in Milan, knowing that one day I would really use it for something special, I had no idea what'…"
Margot Wilson jumps in: 'I went through all my fabric boxes I bought this fabric which is a moray silk and I've been looking for a film to use it on and finally, this was the film."
Kate Winslet admits: 'I felt so honoured that she wanted to make Tilly's red dress from this wonderful fabric. It's really extraordinary to work with a costume designer who cares so much about a character that they're even prepared to sacrifice a beautiful part of their arsenal, their past. I feel very privileged to get to experience some of her history." The Characters
Tilly Dunnage – Kate Winslet
Kate Winslet says of Tilly: 'I was very taken by how different she was as a woman to anything I'd read for quite a while. There's a strength in her that is unflinching, almost aggressive at times, because she has had to overcome so many challenges in her own life in order to be the person that she is."
Tilly Dunnage and her mother Molly were always outcasts in Dungatar, baited by the grasping, nasty inhabitants, but the tragic death of a child - the Pettyman's son Stewart - when Tilly was 10 years old, and for which she's blamed, led to her expulsion from the town. Now in her 30's, the unsolved mystery of the death haunts her, and Tilly returns to seek closure – firstly through clarity of what really happened, secondly through some measure of revenge. Her strength, her rare talents, but also her need for love are clear.
Producer Sue Maslin explains it in this way: 'The leading theme of The Dressmaker is the notion of revenge and it's revenge as a wickedly funny idea, but it's also revenge that is a necessity. In Tilly's case, it's necessary because she not only needs to understand why she was victimised as a young child and sent away, and why her mother has been punished all the years since she left, but more importantly, she needs to reconcile the truth for herself about what happened. She needs to forgive herself. She can't do that in isolation."
Kate Winslet finds that: 'Tilly is unique and extremely skilled at what she does, she has a sense of grace and poise that is entirely lacking in the town. I really admired her very powerful sense of self. She's vulnerable but does a really good job of hiding it."
Of the novel's characterisation, Rosalie Ham says: 'Tilly Dunnage is reserved, aloof, an observer, she has instinct, she knows what people are like and she appeals to the good or the bad in people with her talents. She's a wounded, slightly vengeful but not to the extent where she does anything terrible directly - she puts in place things so that those who deserve it ruin themselves. It's her presence in circumstances that causes the chaos, or the joy." Molly Dunnage – Judy Davis
Molly Dunnage, or -Mad Molly' as she's casually known, is Tilly's acerbic, unpredictable, and not-as-mad-as-she-seems mother. Molly says things, hurtful things, particularly to her daughter, which she may or may not mean. Like her daughter, Molly is sharp and forthright, she tells the residents of Dungatar how she sees it.
As Jocelyn Moorhouse explains, however, 'Molly resists accepting that she is the mother of this woman for a very long time and that brings a lot of pain to Tilly."
Sue Maslin says of the importance of Molly to the fabric of the film: 'The thing that really helped right from the beginning was that Jocelyn said, -You know, all these things happen to Tilly, and yes there is a love story (with Teddy McSwiney) but the real love story is a mother-daughter relationship.' And I thought, she's so right - the relationship between Tilly and Molly is actually the emotional heartbeat that anchors everything else that happens in the film."
Judy Davis admits: 'it's an interesting role because it encompasses comedy, or what I would call high comedy, and really quite weighty emotional elements. So the role required both and I did find that a fascinating mix. It's challenging because it's like you're a juggler with balls and you think, have I gone too far that way or will the audience not buy this?"
Liam Hemsworth points to the special bond that Teddy McSwiney and Molly share.
'A lot of people in Dungatar will talk behind people's backs, Molly doesn't do that, she's upfront, she'll call people out when it's deserved and Teddy likes that. She's got a lot of spirit." Teddy Mcswiney – Liam Hemsworth
The love story that develops between Teddy and Tilly is tender and unexpected – in many ways the two are like chalk and cheese. Tilly has lived in Europe, she's worldly, elegant, savvy, she has an emotional past. Teddy is a stolid footballer, uncouth, younger than her, who may not have ever ventured out of Dungatar, but they share a level of smarts, and he instantly falls in love with her.
Jocelyn Moorhouse says: 'Teddy starts to pursue Tilly, who spends a lot of time saying -No, no, I'm not here to fall in love, you're not my type, this is not going to work'".
Teddy is accepted in Dungatar because of his sporting prowess, but the McSwineys live on the fringes of town – like gypsies, but they never travel anywhere. Like Molly and Tilly, they are outcasts. The fact that the McSwineys cared for Molly, in a roundabout way, in Tilly's absence, initially endears Tilly to Teddy.
Liam Hemsworth, who plays Teddy, says he connected to the character on reading the script 'because he reminded me of a lot of people I grew up with, of my grandpa in particular – a hard working Australian guy, someone who just gets on with it, very positive and quirky, a fun loving kind of spirit.
Teddy is a little different to most of the people in Dungatar because he has a little more ambition and wants to get out and see what the rest of the world looks like. I felt like I knew this guy really well and I felt like I knew exactly how it should be played."
Kate Winslet says: 'Teddy is a sincere man, he has no airs and no graces, he looks like a right scruff pot most of the time but in many ways, he's exactly what Tilly needs. He's what she's never experienced - someone who really appreciates her and sees her for who she is. He's truthful and pure. It's a very sweet endearing relationship."
Liam Hemsworth adds: 'She's kind of, she's so different from this town and he's so different from this town and I think he sees it as an opportunity for them to both kind of escape out of this world."
Rosalie Ham says: 'I think what's really important is that Teddy restores in Tilly her faith in herself. She feels cursed, as though she's done something terrible and she's had to carry that around. In Teddy making her feel accepted and wanted and being kind and generous and good to her, ultimately Teddy's fate makes her understand that it's actually not her, that people are responsible for their own actions. You can be good and glorious and still meet a dastardly end, or you can be bad and terrible and also meet a dastardly end. It's not about Tilly - it wasn't her fault. That's the function of Teddy in my mind." The Dungatarians
Every character in Dungatar is involved in either covering up or contributing to the tragic events of the past that affected Tilly and Molly.
Jocelyn Moorhouse says: 'Some of them are not awful, but they've all committed some rather heinous acts that they're trying to forget about. When Tilly comes back they're forced to remember. The citizens of Dungatar see Tilly as a threat to their status quo, to the semi-peaceful existence they have established. They banished her when she was a little girl, blamed her for a murder, and the very fact that she's come back means they'll have to face all the bad things they did to her in the past."
How they treat Tilly and each other will determine their final fate. Sergeant Farrat – Hugo Weaving
Sergeant Farrat is Dungatar's -law and order' – he's a good man, and despite Dungatar's flaws he loves his town and is well loved in return, with one small catch – Sergeant Farrat harbours a secret - he enjoys cross dressing. He enjoys it very much.
Hugo Weaving, who plays the role, explains that the Sergeant is 'both thrilled and anxious on the arrival of Tilly" - anxious because he knows something about her past, and thrilled by the skill and the access to the luxurious fabrics and style that she brings to town.
Of what The Dressmaker reveals, Hugo Weaving says: 'The film's all about the unearthing of pretentions and the unearthing of lies beneath the surface. So, the surface is very important, how people present is very important, what they aspire to is very important. So, the dresses and the frocks, even Sergeant Farrat's occasional frocks, say a lot about the person."
Sergeant Farrat is compromised by his secret, by the one person who knows it (Evan Pettyman) and holds it over him In the end however, unlike many in the town, Sergeant Farrat is liberated by the revelation of his secrets and lies, rather than destroyed by them. Evan Pettyman – Shane Bourne
Evan Pettyman, like certain other characters, has an apt surname. He's the pompous town councillor of Dungatar, the self-appointed -Grand Poobah', and a nasty piece of work. He plays, if not the vilest villain of the piece, then at least the ringleader.
His extra-marital exploits, his cruelty towards his very long suffering wife, Marigold, and his nepotism all add up to a nasty character.
Shane Bourne, who plays this charmless man, says: 'He marries Marigold - a frail, fragile little thing who was the daughter of the former shire president – so he secured his tenure. I think as a councillor, he's probably done a reasonable job in terms of what's required around the town, but he's slightly sociopathic, loves control, and would probably do anything to get his way."
Evan Pettyman is deeply concerned at Tilly's return for reasons that become gradually clearer - his world and his status are under threat as soon as she returns.
Of a shared trait between Tilly and Evan, Shane says: 'With Tilly's expertise, she is able to manipulate the situation much the same as Councillor Pettyman does, but she does it a much more intelligent and creative way." Marigold Pettyman – Alison Whyte
Marigold Pettyman, Evan's long-suffering wife, doesn't venture out of her spotless house very often. She lost her child, Stewart, twenty five years ago – whilst the rest of the town think Tilly murdered the boy, she believes he fell out of a tree and died. As a result, she's developed OCD tendencies, agoraphobia, and a generalised anxiety disorder.
Evan is quite happy that Marigold remains sedated with -tonic' and under self imposed house arrest so he can conduct his own affairs, finally bringing Una Pleasance into her home, which wreaks havoc and brings Marigold's delicate state unravelled, but it's Tilly who offers Marigold the strength that leads her to being liberated from her old life.
Alison Whyte, who portrays this fractured woman, says: 'Tilly is the first person that's listened to Marigold in a long, long time. Everyone tells Marigold to be quiet, to stop grieving. Tilly tells her the truth and that gives her a little strength. Knowing the truth that her son possibly wasn't the angel that she's made up in her fantasy world helps her recover."
'Marigold expresses her grief by trying to keep control of the house, of the bugs, of the dirt, of the filth. When her Stewart died, her world was completely out of control and this is her way of controlling her world. Marigold is forced to confront with a few truths and decides maybe that she won't take her tonic and maybe that she will actually stand up for herself and step out that door."
Of the harsh justice wreaked finally on her onscreen husband, Alison says: 'Revenge is always great to play, and he really deservers what he gets in the end. We had a lot of fun shooting the stuff that happens to Evan Pettyman!" Gertrude Pratt – Sarah Snook
Gertrude Pratt, who enters The Dressmaker plain and downtrodden, becomes Tilly's first and most successful tool in her revenge strategy. Tilly transforms Gertrude like the proverbial ugly duckling, enabling her to catch the man of her dreams. The success of the transformation makes it easier for Tilly to tantalise others to get the information she wants.
Sarah Snook, who plays Gertrude says: 'My character starts the film as -Gert', then has this transition into -Trudy'- becoming very buttoned up, very upper crust. Well, with ideas of being upper crust." Her new-found glamour and status are her undoing – turning her vain and nasty.
Perhaps in empathy with this dynamic of Gertrude being consumed by pretension, Sarah says: 'My costumes are very beautiful and they've been worked at endlessly to make them look perfect, lots of fittings, and then I get to wear them once, so sometimes I feel like I'm the flesh prop for the costume, the costume's wearing me rather than the other way around."
Marion Boyce says of dressing Gert/Trudy: 'Sarah Snook is sensationally good, and a real chameleon - you can put the most extraordinary things on her, amazing hats, nothing swamps her, she just shines."
Despite Gertrude's flaws, the gowns are extraordinary. Sarah Snook says: 'There's one that's almost like origami, with beautiful pleats and interesting pocket shapes and a high neck line, and different kinds of movement across the skirt. It's really quite beautiful." Una Pleasance – Sacha Horler
Una Pleasance descends on Dungatar part way through the film. She's the rival dressmaker, brought in from Melbourne by Evan Pettyman and Elsbeth Beaumont to bring decorum and good manners back to the town with her gauche, dull work, after Tilly's designs wreak havoc and cause the townswomen to get above themselves.
Sacha Horler, who plays Ms Pleasance, says: 'Una is very interested in her own life. She has mixed morals so as far as she's concerned, she's a woman of great standing but she's also a bit of a slut. The fact is she's not as good as she thinks she is."
For Sacha, the preparation for Una came from seeing what the costumes were going to be, what her hair and her makeup were, and understanding Una's place as an outsider in town. She then 'had faith in the director that we would find it as we recorded it. So much is done when the outside work is done for you, you can just step in and find out what's happening in the moment between you and the other actor."
Of Una's entrance, Sacha says: 'When I arrive, I'm wearing a brown suit with a beige shirt and I arrive to see a woman standing, changing a light bulb in a light blue diaphanous gown that looks like some extraordinary Grecian costume, then I turn around and there's a woman in a figure hugging, black satin cocktail outfit with massive white concertinaed wings. I turn around further and there's another woman in a Japanese, pink, off the shoulder satin gown…it's just so incongruous which is why for my character, it's such a shock to come to this town." Barney Mcswiney – Gyton Grantley
Barney McSwiney is Teddy's older brother, who plays a pivotal role in the final unravelling of the film's deepest secrets.
Gyton Grantley plays the character, and he explains 'There's no actual clear definition or diagnosis of Barney's condition but he's -simple'. As he says in the book, -Mum says I'm not quite finished yet.' So, he's a very special brother to Teddy and he's looked after by Teddy, and Barney looks after Teddy in certain ways."
Gyton says of the entire clan: 'The McSwineys are a rag tag mob, separate from the town of Dungatar. They've got the shit of Dungatar all over them, as mad Molly says in one scene. It's their job to run the rubbish tip and to collect and empty all the outhouses - it's a dirty job but someone's got to do it."
Barney is shunned by the town – who have little time for someone they also see as -not quite finished', but Barney is often in the background, watching, observing, taking it all in.
Playing such a character always has its challenges, in terms of how to pitch the performance, especially in a film that has a comedic core and a degree of heightened reality.
Gyton says: 'Playing a person who's intellectually disabled, you want to honour and respect the condition as much as possible. Not knowing exactly what condition Barney has made it difficult but also opened the situation for me to take it wherever I liked. A friend of mine is a care worker for adults with various disabilities, so I spent a couple of days with them and observed. That was really helpful but in the end it comes down to the fact that Barney is full of love, full of joy, and he's so happy to have his family and to have the life that he has." Elsbeth Beaumont – Caroline Goodall
If there's one character who can rival Evan Pettyman's maliciousness, it's Elsbeth Beaumont. As Caroline Goodall, who depicts her, says: 'I think I'm probably the worst. I am one hell of a piece of work. A bit like a cross between Lucille Ball and Joan Crawford."
Elsbeth forms an unholy alliance with Evan Pettyman, but in the end both play lone hands in their desperate reach for power. Elsbeth Beaumont sees herself as landed gentry and lives in Windswept Crest. When her son William falls in love with the formerly dumpy Gertrude Pratt, Elsbeth wants to ruin the marriage – this mission is one of the inciting incidents of the film.
Elsbeth's secret weapon becomes Una Pleasance. Through the clothes, Caroline says that the townsfolk: 'discover by wearing Tilly's creations parts of themselves that they never knew existed and as a result, that is also very dangerous because it upsets the status quo. Those of us, certainly my character, who want to stay in control, we're suddenly out of control and the dresses accentuate all of that." William Beaumont – James Mackay
William Beaumont, son of Elsbeth, is the scion of Dungatar's land owning family, the self appointed -lords of the manor'. William has been away at agricultural college in Perth, and returns to town after the death of his father to take over the management of their property, Windswept Crest.
James Mackay, who plays William, says: 'The battle with William's mother Elsbeth is over his future. She has a very clear plan that he will come back, take over the property, marry well and that they will be financially set. She believes that now he's mixed with society he's a much bigger catch than any of the other bachelors in Dungatar and he should be behaving accordingly."
Fate, however, will turn William's eyes towards Gertrude after the dramatic transformation Tilly works on her. Beulah Harridiene – Kerry Fox
Beulah Harridiene, the town's school teacher, has a monstrously distorted sense of moral duty and responsibility, that led her, those many years ago, to accuse Tilly Dunnage of the murder of Stewart Pettyman.
Kerry Fox, who plays Beulah, says: 'The relationship between Tilly and Beulah starts with hatred and ends with despisement and vitriol."
'Beulah is nosey, she's obsessed with knowing everything that's going on, she detests Tilly Dunnage and the fact that Tilly has come back. Beulah is in everybody else's business. She hasn't a sense of kindness within her at all."
Beulah is key to the secret Tilly needs to know. Once revealed, Beulah gets what's coming to her.
Beulah's evilness, at times, expresses itself within the context of comedy, however. Kerry says: 'I don't get that much opportunity to play comedy but I do really enjoy it, so it's surprising to me in terms of the reaction that I'd get when I did little things but they make people laugh, which is good."
In a film replete with gorgeous gowns, Beulah (and Kerry) struck out.
'I have the worst costumes in this whole film, they're really ugly. I haven't taken photos of myself with anyone else because they all look so glamorous and I look like a mean, spiteful, dag. One could be bitter about that but as they say, I'm taking one for the team!" Nancy Pickett – Amanda Woodhams
Nancy Pickett is the long serving assistant to pharmacist Mr Almanac, and develops a predatory relationship with Tilly through gossip and lies.
Of the context for her character, Amanda Woodhams says: 'We live mere metres away from each other and that's over the years sort of sent us a bit cuckoo."
Nancy is one of those transformed by Tilly's fashions, and Amanda explains of the process: 'I like to dress like myself generally but you had to bow down to the costumes. The feathers, the corsets, every piece was hand made for each actor. That level of detail is really rare."
Amanda says of her offsider in intrigue and other matters: 'I have a very special relationship with my little mail girl down the road, Prudence. Any time I get to lock eyes or lips with her, it's a pleasure." Prudence Harridiene – Hayley Magnus
Beulah's sister Prudence is a very different proposition – far more loose, and lacking in religious zeal. Prudence is integral because she works in the post office and as the call operator, she gains regular insight into the town's antics.
Percival Almanac peers into the lives of others by developing their photographs – Prudence listens into their secrets. This makes her a beacon of gossip. Prudence is initially intrigued by Tilly, and although she's wary, she wants to share in the riches that Tilly has to offer.
Prudence and Nancy Pickett are inseparable partners in crime.
Hayley Magnus, who plays Prudence, says of the pair: 'Prudence and Nancy are strong influences on each other, not always in a good way. It's a typical result with a pair that egg each other on. Things that maybe they wouldn't try by themselves, they've got the confidence of another to get them through."
On the story as a whole, Hayley was drawn to the sense of the isolation of Dungatar and its inhabitants, which 'breeds an eccentricity - when you're alone for too long, things get warped and you don't have anybody else to compare them to and things get heightened and more extreme." Percival Almanac – Barry Otto
Percival Almanac is the chemist of Dungatar - an elderly man with crippling scoliosis that distorts his figure, as much as his mind is crippled by his fervent religious moralism.
Mr Almanac barely speaks to his wife, Irma, who's confined to a wheelchair. Nancy Pickett and Prudence Harridene give him some assistance, but many Dungatarians are wary of him, and for good reason. He knows everyone's business – partly by developing the photos of the townsfolk, whose immorality leaves Mr Almanac foaming at the mouth.
The wonderful actor Barry Otto plays Percival, and says: 'He's very religious and bigoted, very cruel. His crippling I believe has come from his behaviour and how cruel he's been in life. To understand him – there are a lot of things that are unanswered in his life. I've played some nasty people over the years but he's interesting because you don't get much out of him, he doesn't speak a lot and trying to put that together and to imagine what he might have been like over the years is interesting."
'Mr Almanac is monstrous to Tilly and Molly - he just can't forgive Molly for her past, as if it's got anything to do with him. He's very controlling. You feel great sympathy for his wife putting up with him - maybe she should have poisoned him early on!" Alvin Pratt – Shane Jacobson
Alvin Pratt and his wife Muriel own the general store of Dungatar, which is where all the inhabitants must shop. Alvin aspires to be thought of well - he has the money but not the prestige of the Beaumonts - who actually owe him money.
His treatment and his cruel descriptions of his workhorse daughter Gertrude are incredibly unflattering - he thinks she'll stand little chance of finding anyone decent in Dungatar to marry. How wrong he is proven to be.
When Gertrude's transformation leads to her engagement to William Beaumont, Alvin's perception of his daughter shifts enormously. Shane Jacobson, who portrays Alvin Pratt, says 'The transformation that Gertrude, my daughter, makes from glasses on the end of her nose, frumpy and fairly bland, to stunning - through the magical work of Tilly's hands - is incredible." Muriel Pratt – Rebecca Gibney
Muriel Pratt, whose opinion of her daughter Gertrude is marginally better than that of her husband Alvin's, is keen to push Gert onto the eligible William Beaumont.
Rebecca Gibney says of the woman she plays: 'Muriel just doesn't shut up. As soon as she finds out that William is back in town, she's at Elsbeth Beaumont to marry off Gertrude because she's convinced that her daughter is the perfect person to marry. I think because Alvin actually says to her at some point, -No one is going to marry that calico bag of water'…that incites Muriel to prove him wrong."
'I think in her heart of hearts she sees herself as a bit of a Doris Day crossed with a bit of Marilyn with a bit of Ava Gardner. That's what she wants to be and she hasn't got the gowns or the dresses in the beginning and all of a sudden Tilly comes along."
Muriel is confident with her sexuality – one of the town's many secrets is the fling she's been carrying on with one of the local footballers. Rebecca says of the affair: 'I'm a bit of a minx. That's a nice way of putting it!" Reginald Blood – Mark Leonard Winter
Reginald Blood – Reggie for short – is the affable young publican of Dungatar's Station Hotel, and a player on the town's football team, along with Teddy McSwiney. We first formally meet Reggie gawking at Tilly in THAT red dress, which results in a torn hamstring.
Muriel Pratt refers to young Reggie as the -Perry Como of Dungatar', not just for his dulcet tones. In fact, Muriel thinks that Reginald Blood is not only a better singer than Mr Como, but better looking, and as if to prove her point, Muriel has been carrying on a liaison with Reggie under the noses of the Dungatarians. Mr Almananc has seen photographic proof of their secret encounters, and the increasing boldness of their affection is not lost on Alvin Pratt, Muriel's husband, who ensures Reggie gets his comeuppance in the end. The Key Team
Working With Kate Winslet
Cast and crew reflect on working with Oscar™ winning actress Kate Winslet. Jocelyn Moorhouse: " It was an immense privilege working with Kate Winslet. Watching her create her character of Tilly Dunnage was very inspiring, and being able to document the beautiful scenes she created with Judy Davis was a true joy for me."
Sue Maslin: 'The role of Tilly is owned by Kate Winslet. She gives that performance such gusto and such love, you cannot possibly imagine anyone else doing it."
Rosalie Ham: 'When I was told that Kate Winslet was attached to the project, I couldn't have been happier. I thought that she'd bring humour and emotional depth and an intensity to Tilly Dunnage and flesh her out. I think the casting is perfect."
Judy Davis: 'Kate Winslet is not only enormously talented as an actress - and I don't know why that came as such a surprise, I certainly knew the degree of her talent because I've seen a lot of what she's done – but she's incredibly generous. One of the more generous people I have ever met. And so that's a joyful mix, to have the talent and generosity and being a tremendously open person too, so it was a delight. Also she's just so beautiful, it's just a pleasure to look at her. The eye rests very easily on her."
Don McAlpine: 'Kate Winslet and I got on very well. Her beauty is the essence of the story, her sophistication as the dressmaker is imperative, and I had this freedom to produce her as beautifully as I could. I'm always aware of the plot, but I went for glamour because I think glamour is the essence of what this character is all about."
Liam Hemsworth: 'The first scene we shot together was a dramatic scene and we'd done a couple of rehearsals and I was getting a feel for it. As soon as the camera was on her and we did the first take, she blew me away - how real it was, and heartfelt. She's an incredible actress and such a fun person to work with, quirky, honest, a no-bullshit kind of person."
Gyton Grantley: 'It was an absolute honour and pleasure to work with Kate Winslet. She's very polite, pleasant, funny and also supportive too. I had a couple of scenes with Kate Winslet that were emotional and she's just there for you 100% and when you've got that kind of support it's a lot easier to do that kind of work."
James Mackay: 'The moment you see Kate Winslet in this role it just fits, she's just perfect for it. Tilly's got extraordinary strength and courage but there's also a beautiful vulnerability to her, and a fragility as well. Kate Winslet can embody all of those things simultaneously, so beautifully, but at the same time she's got a real groundedness."
Shane Bourne: 'She's got a very sassy, fun loving nature and I think as a performer, she has a glorious mystery about her, which I think drives this story forward."
Sacha Horler: 'I've always had a secret girl crush on Kate Winslet and as an actress, I've always longed to work with her and I was suitably impressed that my fantasy of what she's like was realised. She's incredibly talented and very funny, she got her hair and makeup done with all of us, so my fantasy was not ruined, only amplified."
Kerry Fox: 'Kate Winslet felt very passionately about the script and worked hard, thinking about it structurally and being truthful to it. She's incredibly well prepared and but also really enthusiastic and fun and open, she's gorgeous."
Rebecca Gibney: 'Kate Winslet could read the phone book and I would be in love. Her range as an actress is profound and even just standing on the side of set and watching her work has been a joy."
Of working with the cast and crew of The Dressmaker, Kate Winslet says:
'Each of the lovely skilled, fantastic actors brought their own world, their own character, their own preparation and delivered it every day - I think that's very typical of Australian actors, in the experiences I've had. And with the crew too, a small crew, we all got to know each other very well and they were tremendous fun to work with, dedicated and uncomplaining. When you have a certain number of days in which to complete your film, you don't want whinging, whining and fussing, there's no room for diva like behaviour, and it's just great to have experienced none of that stuff."
What skill did Kate Winslet take away?
'The only sewing I could do was kids name tape labels in the back of their school uniforms, or on bloody socks or things like that. Mending the odd cushion. I always liked the idea that one day I'd be able to really sew, and I've spent a lot of my adult life thinking, -This year I'm going to learn to sew', and then it doesn't happen. This year I really did learn to sew.
I was fortunate enough to be supplied with the Singer sewing machine that we use in the film. Someone came and taught me to use it really well, so now I know what all the little bits and fittings do. I really loved that side of playing this role because it's so fun to learn something new, especially when you know that it really does add to the character." Working With Judy Davis
On working with Australian actress Judy Davis:
Rosalie Ham: 'Judy Davis was exceptional casting because Molly Dunnage is an absolute favourite of a lot of readers. When I gave talks about the book, people would ask -Who's going to play Molly?' and when I was able to reply -Judy Davis', the response would be -Perfect, absolutely perfect'. She was the woman and the actor to bring that emotional depth, the irony, the tragedy and the humour to good old Molly."
Kate Winslet: 'I'd never read such hilarious one liners as Molly has in this script and Judy of course delivered them so perfectly, so precisely and every single time and I think that was the greatest thrill of this whole experience, that I have worked with Judy and loved every single second of it."
'She's got the most fantastic stories to tell about her life and the experiences she's had working with other actors and directors, and she's such a generous actress. I've learnt a lot watching Judy. In terms of the bucket list of people to work with, she was right at the top and I just love the fact that I can put a big tick next to that one now."
Liam Hemsworth says of Judy Davis' scene stealing: 'It's alright for me because I'm allowed to laugh but Kate (Winslet), a lot of the time is trying not to laugh and it's just great fun." Working With Liam Hemsworth
On working with Australian actor Liam Hemsworth, the cast and crew say:
Jocelyn Moorhouse: 'Liam has a fabulous laid back quality. He's very much the laconic charmer that Teddy had to be. He's got a very relaxed masculine, very Australian quality that I wanted for Teddy. He's also incredibly good looking which helps, and he's just naturally a very charming guy."
Sue Maslin: 'You could not find a better Teddy, he's just utterly charming, utterly gorgeous, laconic, a larrikin- all of the things that Teddy embodies, so it was an absolute delight working with him."
Rosalie Ham: 'Physically he's perfect for the part. Emotionally I think he brought a ruggedness, a humour and a kind of sympathy to a very broad audience." Working With Director Jocelyn Moorhouse
'I've waited years to make this movie. It's about my favourite subjects: revenge, love and creativity. I'm deeply grateful to have such extraordinary actors working on this with me." – Jocelyn Moorhouse
Of working with Jocelyn Moorhouse, the cast and crew of The Dressmaker say:
Kate Winslet: 'I think she loves the story so much. Whenever a director has that level of commitment and passion for a story it's always a much more enjoyable experience and that was absolutely the case with Jocelyn Moorhouse. Her excitement and her effervescence for these characters and for the town of Dungatar - she loves all of the characters, even the horrible ones. She appreciates who they are. It's been a great experience working with her, she's a very relaxed director to work with, she doesn't get frustrated. She's never in a hurry."
Hugo Weaving: 'It was a long, long time since we worked together on Proof, so I was really keen to work with her again, especially on a script that she'd written or adapted. And then the character was kind of fabulous, so it was very easy. Jocelyn Moorhouse has a fantastic eye - details, and human details, are really important to her."
Judy Davis: 'Jocelyn Moorhouse's great. She'd offered me a few things before and unfortunately they never worked out so it was great to finally be able to do something with her. She's very open, not at all an imposing sort of director, very collaborative. Patient."
Liam Hemsworth: 'I'd seen a few of her films and thought she was a really great director, and I'd spoken with P.J. Hogan (Jocelyn Moorhousen's director husband) about the ideas for the film, and I thought Jocelyn Moorhouse was the right person to bring that kind of particular Australian quirkiness to it. This film has a lot of different genres in it; it's a dark comedy at times, then pure comedy, then very heartfelt and dramatic. I felt like Jocelyn was going to pull all these things together."
Gyton Grantley: 'She's such a sweetheart on set, very gentle and easy to work with and it provides a great atmosphere for you to get your work done. She's very open to suggestions. She's a really dream of a director to work with, probably one of the greatest directors I've ever worked with."
Sarah Snook: 'Jocelyn Moorhouse is so sensitive and has a real equanimity about her. She's very balanced and has a keen eye for truth and for artistic flair as well."
James Mackay: 'The dynamics she got within the ensemble and the way she teased out the intricacies of the scenes... she's got a real precision in how she constructed the world of the film. As an actor, it's a delight to work with someone who has such a strong focus on the narrative and on the characters."
Sacha Horler: 'Jocelyn Moorhouse's very funny, she's got a very dry sense of humour and a really great eye for what she's looking for in every take. What attracted me to the project was that Jocelyn Moorhouse was going to direct and she is an extraordinary talent and I'm a huge fan of her other films, and I thought if I had a chance to audition for her, that would be a wonderful thing."
Caroline Goodall: 'I'd worked with Jocelyn Moorhouse before, when she did second unit on Mental, which was directed by her husband PJ Hogan, a fabulous film, and we got to know each other then. She called me some time ago and said, -I'm doing this new movie and there's a part in it you might like', and when I read the script for The Dressmaker I jumped for joy and said -I'll be there'. She's a real actors' director, which is so great because the most important thing for her is the performances, so we felt completely safe in her hands."
Rebecca Gibney: 'Jocelyn Moorhouse has not just an incredible talent, but one of the biggest hearts of anyone I have ever met. I've never seen her ruffled. She is calm and considered, and she'll hate me saying this, but I think she has a touch of genius. I know a lot of people in the world have been waiting for her to come back, and I think this is the perfect film for her because it's going to showcase her huge talent." Reflections Of Producer Sue Maslin
'Working on The Dressmaker has been the biggest movie that I've worked on to date, and right from the outset it's made no apology for being ambitious.
It's a film that has needed to tell its story on a big bold scale through costume, through design, through a period setting and through an ensemble cast and is really extravagant in it's use of comedy and drama. It's been an incredible challenge right from the outset - doing those kind of movies in Australia are really, really difficult. By and large, we don't have the budgets do to it and the only way that you can get to raise those budgets is to cast A-List international actors and again, that's a really tough ask for many Australian films.
The only way that it was possible to get that level of budget in place and that level of cast in place, was by making that very first fundamental decision about who is going to write and direct this movie. Everything else then follows. Ultimately it goes back to the relationship that Jocelyn and I have, jointly driving the creative vision behind the film." Working With Director Of Photography Don Mcalpine
Cast and crew reflect on working with Oscar nominated Don McAlpine:
Jocelyn Moorhouse: 'Don McAlpine was always one of my favourite DOP's, right from when I first decided to become a director. He's an Australian legend, so it was a huge thrill that he agreed to work on this film. I worked with him as a producer on Peter Pan and also on Mental, so I knew Don quite well and he got very excited when he read the script.
He was a young man in the 50s, so was a huge source of information for us, but also he's such an artist. He is a painter of light, there's no other way to say it. He was a huge creative force, a wonderful creative partner on this."
Sue Maslin: 'Working with Don McAlpine was a complete revelation. The design and the setting and the costumes were all going to bring incredible production values on screen, but they all needed to work in together with light to take people into this this magical world. Combining all of those elements as Don does, I've never seen anything like it. He always had his iPad, which works as his viewfinder, working very closely with David Williamson his camera operator and with Jocelyn, and together they create paintings on the screen. Absolutely extraordinary."
Judy Davis: 'Oh well, Don McAlpine. The first film I did was with Gillian Armstrong (My Brilliant Career) and Don was the cinematographer on that, so all these years later to work with him again was really nice. He's got amazing energy, because he's not - I'm sure he wouldn't mind me saying this - he's not a youth any more, but the speed at which he can work is breathtaking."
Production Designer Roger Ford says: 'After doing two major films together, we've got to the stage now, Don McAlpine and I, where we actually don't need to talk about much because we both know what each is capable of, it kind of all comes together, it sounds weird, but it comes together almost automatically for the two of us there." Reflections Of Marion Boyce – Costume Designer
'I actually was sent the book The Dressmaker quite a few years ago by one of my sewers and she said, -Marion Boyce you must make this film and I want to work on your team'. And here she is, on this team, on this film.
I was very excited when I was asked to work on The Dressmaker. I also thought -WOW, that's an extraordinary amount of frocks!' It was really exciting but it was an enormous challenge, a lot of characters and a lot of journeys.
I do quite a lot of period films. I have a very large collection of books and research materials and Jocelyn and I spent a very long time looking at them. We'd get lost for hours just looking and perusing and working out which direction to go in. We'd work out the characters' stories, where they start, where they move to, where they end.
The contrast is huge from very rural, cotton frocks and pinafores and very utilitarian clothing to clothing that has extraordinary texture in the cloth, to things like capes being made of 40 metres of pleated white silk organza - the idea of white silk organza in that setting is quite ludicrous but that's what's so fun about it. Incredibly tight fitting frocks with high-heeled shoes running around in the dirt - there was something quite ridiculously fantastic about that." Creating Tilly – Reflections Of Costume Designer Margot Wilson
'Kate Winslet and I discussed the costumes and the fabrics and what sort of person Tilly was, we talked about silhouettes, using strong colour, dual colours like red and mustard, purple and green, and black, which was a far cry from what the town people wearing.
I did a lot of drawings of Kate Winslet in the costumes and shapes and silhouettes and then I showed the drawings to Kate and we tweaked from there.
When designing a dress, you have to think about what's being said, the dialogue, what the action is, what's described in the scene as the action.
Kate Winslet's great to work with because you can talk about the character with her, develop ideas, she's very down to earth and has incredible patience when you're designing the dress and fitting the dress and you can see her moving into the character as you're talking to her. She wasn't unsure of who that character is.
The way that I look at costumes is: -Can I see the character in those costumes all hanging together?' You can usually see if something is sticking out that shouldn't be there. So, once I look at the rack and feel happy that it's all blending together, and it's all one person, then that's success." Creating Dungatar - Reflections Of Production Designer Roger Ford
'First of all, I had fantastic references from Jocelyn Moorhouse, mostly pulled from other films, westerns like Bad Day At Black Rock and Unforgiven and spaghetti westerns.
She wanted the audience to feel that Tilly Dunnage comes back with revenge in her heart, like the gunslinger coming back into town. She wanted this slightly western look to the town, so the town had to be grotty and ugly and a bit dangerous. Very subdued colours and rusty iron and wood, worn wood everywhere. No asphalt on the street, a really rough gravel, dirt street, so building it gave us that possibility as well.
We got this orangey sort of gravel stuff we put down the street and it started to take on a real grungy little country town character.
We didn't try and make it 1950's, we went back before that because we wanted the impact of Tilly arriving from Europe with her beautiful 50's dresses to be in huge contrast with the grotty little town. So we kept all the colours down, we kept building very simple." Reflections Of Shane Thomas – Hair And Makeup Designer
'I met with Jocelyn Moorhouse and the first thing she said to me is that she didn't want anything naturalistic about this film, it's a total non-real world, so we want to push things as far as we can in terms of hair and makeup and transformation which got me very excited because to be able to take risks is a rare thing in film and without risk, you can't achieve greatness.
I came up with vision boards to show what I would like in terms of design, and the production and costume designers did the same. Then we got together to make things work. I sat down with Marion Boyce, and Margot Wilson, and Roger Ford and talked about palettes and where we wanted to start the film and where we wanted it to get to in terms of changing palettes.
Initially all the women of Dungatar are very plain and my palette is very wooden, dull and beige, then when Tilly comes and starts transforming them, the lips turn to red, their hair colours change.
Tilly changes the least out of anyone in the film. She arrives being this chic, glamorous woman from France and breaks down a little bit because of circumstances. She arrives more put together, and leaves very put together, but in the middle of the film, because of the things that happen to her, she becomes a little broken.
I really feel it's some of the proudest work I've ever done, considering how many people we've had to do, and the calibre of the cast in The Dressmaker. They're very experienced and very good at what they do so they expect a very high level of creativity. It's a real triumph." Favourite Scenes
Jocelyn Moorhouse: " I Ioved the scenes where Kate Wilson and Judy Davis were physically fighting each other, but I also have to admit the scene where Liam gets measured by Kate for his new suit, always makes me smile.".
Judy Davis: 'There's a scene with a physical fight between Kate (Tilly) and Molly, with me in a wheelchair, which was a novelty to say the least. Some of it's almost slapstick, and the combination of the speed at which one has to make decisions, creative decisions, and then physically execute them was like walking a tight wire."
Marion Boyce: 'When Una Pleasance comes to town. It's first time you really see the town dress up - they're in quite extreme creations and it wasn't tied to a wedding or an event so we could actually have an extraordinary amount of fun with the silhouettes, making clothes that really didn't serve any purpose at all that they were incredibly strong silhouettes."
Sarah Snook: 'I think my favourite sequence is when Gertrude is rolling down the hill, just below Tilly's house, running through the town, through clothes lines, jumping over fences, in a giant meringue of a wedding dress. The safety officer said to me -Do you need knee pads?', and I said -This whole thing is padding in itself, I can't hurt myself at all with the amount of tulle that I'm wearing.'"
Alison Whyte: 'I love the scene when Marigold and Tilly meet at Molly's house. It's the first time that Marigold's come out of her home and dared to defy her husband. It's a beautiful scene between Marigold and Tilly, there's something very tender about it - I think it's got some real kindness that runs through it and underneath it."
Sacha Horler: 'One of my favourite scenes is with Sergeant Farrat – he's in the middle of something and is dressed in his sergeant's uniform, but when the camera pans down he's got very lovely ballet shoes tied up just to his knees." What Can Audiences Expect?
Crew and cast share their thoughts on the riches The Dressmaker will offer audiences.
Jocelyn Moorhouse: 'The audience can expect to have a lot of fun. I've had a lot of fun making it, and I know the actors have. It's got some beautiful scenes, some hilarious scenes, and it's visually really fun. People will be surprised because it's not going to be like a lot of other movies. Once they're in our world, they're going to have a great time."
Sue Maslin: 'I want audiences to have uninhibited pleasure in this film. Pleasure with costuming, with the performances, with the story and to have a big fat movie experience where they can laugh, cry, and then come away having a real sense of triumph in Tilly's journey."
Rosalie Ham: 'I think audiences are going to laugh, to cry, to be aghast. And I think they're ultimately going to come away thinking about these big themes; hypocrisy, bigotry, the dramatization of all those big themes in life. With those elements, and the fun and the fashion, it's going to be a very vibrant experience and I think that that's what cinema should be about."
James Mackay: 'Audiences have got a lot to look forward to with this one. There are so many big universal themes and so many things that just slip straight through your defences and hit you right in the gut or in the heart. and they're going to have a lot of laughs along the way."
Sacha Horler: 'I think it's going to be funny and quite mad and a really great journey. There are some extraordinary actors in this film. Judy Davis, Kate Winslet, Liam Hemsworth, Hugo Weaving, I'd buy the ticket just for those four."
Caroline Goodall: 'It's going to be so much fun, I really think that audiences are going to be roaring with laughter. It's also got all the depth that you could possibly want, a really beautiful love story, but it doesn't take itself too seriously. I really think it's a movie for everyone."
Barry Otto: 'The journey is so absolutely unpredictable. There's nothing like being just ahead of the audience, and once they catch up to you, the shocks that come. Just go for this ride that will make you cry and laugh, it's just got all the elements of life."
Rebecca Gibney: 'I think it's going to be a visual feast, an assault on the senses. So many films don't do that, or they use tricks to do that, CGI and this is art on display - incredible costumes, incredible makeup, a beautiful love story, extraordinary performances, beautiful writing and extraordinary direction and amazing cinematography. It runs the gamut."
Release Date: October 29th, 2015