Eyes wide shut

A grim retelling of a Grimm Brothers’ fairy­tale is an in­trigu­ing ca­reer choice for elfin ac­tress Emily Brown­ing, writes Vicky Roach

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Movies -

SLEEP­ING Beauty, the dis­turb­ing, erotic thriller that po­larised au­di­ences at the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val last month, is a long way from Lemony Snicket, the fam­ily ad­ven­ture that launched Emily Brown­ing’s US ca­reer. And that’s kind of the point. ‘‘ Ev­ery­body keeps talk­ing about how risky it was,’’ says the 22-year-old Mel­bur­nian, who spends a good deal of her time in Sleep­ing Beauty sim­u­lat­ing a drug-in­duced stu­por while her naked body is be­ing pawed over by rich old men.

‘‘ But I didn’t see what the po­ten­tial risk was – ex­cept maybe peo­ple not re­ally want­ing to cast me in a chil­dren’s film any time soon. And that’s not the path I am want­ing to take at the mo­ment.’’

Brown­ing be­gan acting at eight in the Hall­mark Chan­nel movie Echo Of Thun­der, which was shot in Vic­to­ria. She had re­cur­ring roles in TV se­ries Blue Heel­ers and Some­thing In The Air from the age of 10.

‘‘ I have done so much chil­dren’s tele­vi­sion and played some­one very young in so many films, I was ready to take on an adult role, I sup­pose,’’ she says.

So Brown­ing chose to fol­low Zack Sny­der’s con­tro­ver­sial all-girl ac­tion fan­tasy Sucker Punch, in which her char­ac­ter kicked butt in a school­girl’s out­fit, with Sleep­ing Beauty, a role that re­quired her to wear very lit­tle.

The film is a rad­i­cal re­work­ing of the Grimm Brothers fairy­tale. It tells of a univer­sity stu­dent who en­ters into an ar­range­ment with a madam ( Rachael Blake), who has cor­nered a niche mar­ket in the pros­ti­tu­tion in­dus­try.

Brown­ing was never un­der any il­lu­sion the movie was go­ing to be a crowd-pleaser.

‘‘ Even read­ing the screen­play, it made me feel un­com­fort­able. But that was some­thing that at­tracted me to it. I would pre­fer to po­larise an au­di­ence as op­posed to mak­ing an en­ter­tain­ing film ev­ery­body feels am­biva­lent about,’’ she says.

She doesn’t want to give the im­pres­sion she is com­mit­ting ca­reer sui­cide by rul­ing out fam­i­lyfriendly en­ter­tain­ment.

‘‘ And I have to do some­thing ev­ery now and again that my nana is go­ing to be happy about,’’ she says, with a laugh.

For the record, her nana was de­ter­mined to sit through Sleep­ing Beauty and her loved ones are likely to be squirm­ing in their cin­ema seats for a bit longer yet.

Brown­ing’s next pro­ject is the low-bud­get in­die Magic Magic, about a girl trav­el­ling with friends in a re­mote area of Chile who slowly starts los­ing her men­tal fac­ul­ties. It co-stars Juno Tem­ple and Michael Cera.

Clearly, safe op­tions aren’t what ap­peals to her right now.

‘‘ Com­par­a­tively speak­ing, most things are safer than Sleep­ing Beauty,’’ she says archly.

Watch­ing the film, one can’t help but won­der whether di­rec­tor Ju­lia Leigh’s orig­i­nal choice – Mia Wasikowska, who pulled out for ‘‘ sched­ul­ing rea­sons’’ – might ac­tu­ally have been cau­tioned against such a ca­reer move.

Last Tango In Paris star Maria Sch­nei­der has said mak­ing that film was her life’s only re­gret.

Susie Porter, who bared all in Bet­ter Than Sex, reck­ons she would do things dif­fer­ently if she had her time over. But Brown­ing ap­pears to be made of the right stuff to sur­vive this foray into ‘‘ adult cin­ema’’.

‘‘ The nu­dity wasn’t a huge deal to be hon­est. I’m com­fort­able with my body,’’ she says.

‘‘ I would have been more ner­vous if they were ac­tu­ally sex scenes. They would have been more in­ti­mate. For most of the dif­fi­cult scenes, I didn’t re­ally have to be present at all. Ju­lia sug­gested early on that I learn to med­i­tate through them, so I was able to block ev­ery­thing out.

‘‘ If the right role came along, I would hap­pily do nu­dity again. It’s some­thing I wish more peo­ple were com­fort­able with.’’

A lack of self-con­scious­ness about her body is per­haps the only thing Brown­ing has in com­mon with her char­ac­ter.

‘‘ I tend to over-an­a­lyse things. I’m not the type of per­son to flip a coin and let things hap­pen,’’ she says. ‘‘ In the work that I do, I try so hard to en­sure that I am not ob­jec­ti­fied or ex­ploited.’’

Her char­ac­ter, she says, is will­ing to be ex­ploited ‘‘ just to see what that will be like’’.

‘‘ I found that in­ter­est­ing, be­cause it’s not through weak­ness or naivete. It’s a per­verse fas­ci­na­tion with see­ing how far she can get.’’


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