JACKI WEAVER: the highs, the lows and the hu­mour of one of Aus­tralia’s most suc­cess­ful ac­tors

At 71, Jacki Weaver is one of the most suc­cess­ful Aussie ac­tors in Hol­ly­wood. In a can­did, ir­rev­er­ent chat with Su­san Hors­burgh, she shares the highs, the lows and the hu­mour of a life lived with­out com­pro­mise. And she of­fers to babysit.

The Australian Women's Weekly - - Contents - PHO­TOG­RA­PHY by MICHELLE HOLDEN

Jacki Weaver has a ter­ri­ble hang­over. She was out last night with “the Sen­a­tor” – aka ex-hus­band Der­ryn Hinch – and can’t re­mem­ber when she got home. “But I went to bed alone, you’ll be pleased to know,” she says with a laugh. Jacki has a colour­ful his­tory in the in­fi­delity depart­ment, but she’s ap­par­ently a new woman with hus­band num­ber four, South African ac­tor Sean Tay­lor. “I’ve never cheated on this one,” she says. Fif­teen years of mar­i­tal monogamy, she reck­ons, is a pretty good ef­fort: “It is for me!”

An Aus­tralian stage and screen star since the ’60s, Jacki knows her per­sonal dra­mas have threat­ened to eclipse her pro­fes­sional achieve­ments in the past. But that was be­fore her break­out role as so­cio­pathic crime ma­tri­arch, Smurf Cody, in 2010’s An­i­mal King­dom – when Os­car came call­ing. A se­cond Academy Award nom­i­na­tion for her part in Sil­ver Lin­ings Play­book two years later proved the rst nod wasn’t a uke, and the Hol­ly­wood screen roles have ooded in ever since.

When we meet, Jacki is in Mel­bourne for ve whirl­wind days, wak­ing at 4.30am to lm Stan Orig­i­nal’s six-part sci- se­ries Bloom, play­ing a re­tired ac­tress at var­i­ous stages of de­men­tia. Last week she was in At­lanta with Diane Keaton, shoot­ing a com­edy about a bunch of 60-some­things who start a cheer­lead­ing team in a re­tire­ment vil­lage. Next week she ies to Nova Sco­tia with Lucy Liu to play a Bap­tist choir­mas­ter who in­her­its her es­tranged son’s drag club. Af­ter that, she’s off to New Mex­ico with Ben Kings­ley to

lm a mod­ern-noir drama se­ries, as a dodgy pas­tor’s wife. And her next lm Wi­d­ows, star­ring Vi­ola Davis and Aus­tralia’s El­iz­a­beth De­bicki, is in cin­e­mas now.

“I’m ped­dling as fast as I can,” says Jacki, who has nabbed more than 30 lm and TV roles since her Sil­ver Lin­ings part op­po­site Robert De Niro six years ago. “I feel I’ve got to cram as much in while I can still put one foot in front of the other.”

Now 71, Jacki is so chuffed by her sur­prise third act, she doesn’t even try to be cool about it. She name-drops with in­cred­u­lous aban­don, re­count­ing fan-boy ap­proaches from the likes of Daniel Day-Lewis and Quentin Tarantino, and vol­un­teers what she calls a “boast­ful story” about then-Pres­i­dent Barack Obama singing her praises to a pro­ducer. Yet she doesn’t seem braggy at all – just ap­pre­cia­tive, like she still can’t be­lieve her luck.

That’s the up­side of scor­ing your big break at 63. “I don’t think I would have coped with it as well if I’d been young,” says Jacki. “I think I would have got a bit de­luded and car­ried away. And maybe there wouldn’t have been the same de­mand for me when I was young.”

Ma­tu­rity, how­ever, doesn’t di­min­ish the ter­ror of Os­cars night. Af­ter win­ning mul­ti­ple awards for An­i­mal King­dom, Jacki thought she had a shot at the Sup­port­ing Ac­tress gong in 2011. She had mem­o­rised a speech with all the Academy rules in mind – no longer than 45 sec­onds, no lists of un­fa­mil­iar names – so when The Fighter’s Melissa Leo was crowned the win­ner, Jacki had to con­cen­trate on look­ing gra­cious for the cam­eras.

“There’s this ush of dis­ap­point­ment, then this huge re­lief you don’t have to make the speech,” she says, laugh­ing. “I think my hus­band was more crushed than any­one. He was so cross that he dragged me out to the bar and we were with all the other losers for about an hour drink­ing cham­pagne.”

Perched on the edge of a sofa in a cav­ernous in­ner-city stu­dio, Jacki is sand­wich­ing our in­ter­view be­tween mar­ket­ing shots for Bloom. She ini­tially seems shy and un­com­fort­able, her 151cm frame folded up tight and her hands plunged into her sleeves, un­til she an­nounces she’s just freez­ing. Ex­tra coats ar­rive and then the trade­mark cheeky-kid de­meanor emerges – the squeezed-up shoul­ders cou­pled with the twinkly-eyed grin. When an as­sis­tant de­liv­ers a plate of scram­bled eggs, Jacki is too queasy to touch it – and out comes the hang­over con­fes­sion.

That earth­i­ness is a big part of her ap­peal. “She’s so hum­ble and grounded and in­clu­sive and sweet,” says

“I feel I’ve got to cram as much in while I can still put one foot in front of the other.”

Bloom cre­ator Glen Dol­man. “She doesn’t have any ‘Hol­ly­wood-ness’ at all. She has a lovely, in­ti­mate open­ness – you just want to hug her when you meet her.”

For Bloom, a drama re­volv­ing around a mys­ti­cal plant that seems to re­store youth, Glen wrote the com­plex part of Gwen­dolyn with Jacki at the top of his wish list.

She didn’t dis­ap­point. “She’s just so fear­less – there’s an hon­esty that takes your breath away,” he says. In one scene, her char­ac­ter, dev­as­tated by Alzheimer’s, walks down the main street of her town in a bathrobe and slip­pers. “She had to look quite raw,” Glen re­calls. “Of­ten ac­tors want to look good; she does what­ever needs to be done to tell the story.”

Jacki’s own story be­gan in

Syd­ney where she grew up the clever, the­atri­cal rst child of a bar­ris­ter, tak­ing elo­cu­tion les­sons from the age of nine. In her 2005 au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, Much Love, Jac, she chron­i­cles a “fairly run-of-themill” 1950s child­hood, but also re­veals the sex­ual abuse she suf­fered at the hands of a mid­dle-aged fam­ily friend from age seven to 11. “There was a time in my twen­ties when I was so con­sumed with ha­tred for my tor­men­tor that I fan­ta­sised about do­ing him bod­ily harm,” she writes. “I’m over it, al­most for­get­ting, though not quite for­giv­ing. The sub­ject is closed.”

At 15, Jacki made her pro­fes­sional stage de­but as Cin­derella and promptly fell in love with the heart­throb Prince Charm­ing, Bryan Davies, who in­cited mass hys­te­ria when he picked her up from Hornsby High School in his red Jaguar.

Aged 18, Jacki took her rst trip down the aisle – af­ter a rst-date pro­posal from di­rec­tor David Price. “I be­lieve in sex on a rst date,” she writes, “oth­er­wise how do you know if a se­cond date is worth the ef­fort?” A few years later, though, she ditched David for John Wal­ters, a smoothtalk­ing pro­ducer who was 30 years her se­nior. She be­came preg­nant at 22 and son Dy­lan’s birth in 1970 was an­nounced with the front-page splash, “Jacki’s Love Baby”.

Dy­lan was still a tod­dler when Jacki took up with theatre di­rec­tor Richard Wher­rett, “the hand­somest man I’d ever seen”. Jacki knew he was gay from the start, but they were deeply in love and re­mained so, even af­ter she suf­fered a mis­car­riage, the re­la­tion­ship crum­bled and she mar­ried boom op­er­a­tor Max Hensser in 1976. Richard, who had lived with HIV for 15 years, died of liver fail­ure in 2001, and Jacki nursed him un­til the end.

Through­out the 1970s, Jacki was a signi cant force in the new wave of Aus­tralian cin­ema. She was in

Pic­nic at Hang­ing Rock and The Re­moval­ists, and won AFIs for Stork and Cad­die. The lm roles pe­tered out in the 1980s, but she went on to build an ex­traor­di­nary body of theatre work, in­clud­ing ac­claimed pro­duc­tions of A Street­car Named De­sire and Un­cle Vanya.

Jacki was in They’re Play­ing Our Song when she started see­ing Der­ryn Hinch in 1982. Fond of a grand ges­ture, Der­ryn took out a full-page ad with the head­line, “JACKI WEAVER SU­PER­STAR” in The Ad­ver­tiser when the mu­si­cal moved

to Ade­laide, both en­dors­ing the show and declar­ing his love. They mar­ried soon af­ter­wards. They lived the high life, with match­ing Rolls-Royces, but also en­dured Der­ryn’s jail stint for con­tempt of court. In the mid-’90s, she “did yet an­other run­ner”, dump­ing him for an­other man, but the two are still in con­tact ev­ery day.

“He’s re­lent­less!” says Jacki, laugh­ing. “He’s such a de­cent man – a re­ally good hu­man be­ing.” Says Der­ryn: “I loved her, I still love her, and we’ve shared a lot of ups and downs.” It was Der­ryn who woke her to say she’d just been nom­i­nated for her rst Os­car – news that ap­par­ently prompted Jacki to run around the room scream­ing ex­ple­tives in her Qan­tas py­ja­mas. Af­ter a decade-long dearth of lm of­fers, the recog­ni­tion was es­pe­cially sweet. Says Der­ryn: “She doesn’t need to prove any­thing to any­body any­more, ever again.”

He de­scribes her as funny, smart (“al­most up there in Mensa ter­ri­tory”) and fe­ro­ciously loyal – a pocket rocket whose only short­com­ing is her abil­ity to bear a grudge. And if Jacki has been life­long tabloid fod­der, she’s partly to blame. “She’s said some out­ra­geous things,” says Der­ryn.

“And she does it in such a sweet, girly voice.” Among her all-time zingers: “‘Pro­mis­cu­ous’ im­plies that I’m not choosy. In fact I’m very choosy. I just hap­pen to have had a lot of choices.”

Jacki told Aus­tralian Story in 2015, “I think I’ve al­ways been a bit like a man when it comes to mat­ters of the heart. I just take what I want.” Look­ing back now, she says, “I some­times think I prob­a­bly fell in love too eas­ily.” Still, she’s not

“‘Pro­mis­cu­ous’ im­plies that I’m not choosy. In fact I’m very choosy. I just hap­pen to have had a lot of choices.”

about to beat her­self up about it. She calls re­gret, “the height of neu­ro­sis. Of course, like ev­ery­one, I look back and think, I shouldn’t have done that, but to dwell on it is to spoil what’s hap­pen­ing now. Isn’t that just ba­sic san­ity? You’ve got to forge on.”

Age has brought a cer­tain calm, but also a sense of time run­ning out. “I of­ten think about death,” she says. This year has been marred by the loss of her aunt Ge­orgina, who was more like a sis­ter. “That was tough,” she says qui­etly. “I’ve had a few friends go this year. There are ter­ri­ble holes.”

Brought up an Angli­can, Jacki still goes to church some­times, but doesn’t be­lieve in an af­ter­life. “I think what we do now is im­por­tant,” she says. “That’s how we leave an im­print.”

Af­ter seven ac­tion-packed decades, “I prob­a­bly do know a few things,” she ad­mits, but she prefers to keep her life les­sons light and breezy. “I’ve learnt that it’s not that im­por­tant to re­move your make-up be­fore bed.

You know those women that say, [with a plummy voice] ‘I never go to bed with­out do­ing a full cleanse?’ Were you never too drunk or amorous? Didn’t you want to jump in and f*ck him?”

Jacki and hus­band Sean met in

2002 when they co-starred in the David Wil­liamson play Soul­mates. Their mar­riage works, she sus­pects, be­cause they’re both ac­tors. “We re­ally un­der­stand each other’s angst,” she says. “And he’s a won­der­ful ac­tor. When­ever I do get an award, I al­ways say I’m the se­cond-best ac­tor in the fam­ily, which is a big suck-up, but it’s ac­tu­ally true.”

The cou­ple lives in a mod­est rented apart­ment in West Hol­ly­wood, ec­cen­tri­cally dec­o­rated with lots of books, kitsch and clut­ter. Both news junkies, they fol­low US pol­i­tics re­li­giously. As a self-con­fessed

“sour old leftie”, Jackie de­scribes the po­lit­i­cal at­mos­phere in Trump’s Amer­ica as fraught, but she’s re­luc­tant to bad­mouth the Pres­i­dent. “I try to be po­lite be­cause I’m in some­one else’s coun­try,” she says. “I don’t say his name. It’s very, very sad.”

Worse than Trump, though, is the dis­tance from her grand­chil­dren, 11-year-old Take­tora and Luli, eight. Syd­ney-based Dy­lan texts his mum ev­ery day but Jacki only sees the fam­ily twice a year. “I don’t think I’m a very good granny be­cause I’m so ab­sent, but I do adore them,” she says. “They like me, but I think it’s ’cause I let them do any­thing they want.”

Jacki had a sim­i­lar lais­sez-faire ap­proach to par­ent­hood. “I loved be­ing a mother,” she says, “but I was in­con­sis­tent. I was al­ways work­ing, I didn’t have any proper rules. I had my son when I was 23 and I used to cart him ev­ery­where. He slept in dress­ing rooms and his rst full sen­tence was, ‘Don’t touch the props.’”

Af­ter ex­actly 40 min­utes, her min­der calls time on the in­ter­view so Jacki can dress for the next shot. “But I like talk­ing to this lady,” protests Jacki. Ac­tu­ally, she might just be dread­ing an­other photo ses­sion. “I bet the stylist hates me,” she whis­pers. “She thinks I’m a mean old bitch.” It tran­spires that the wardrobe woman asked her ear­lier to take off her watch – and Jacki re­fused. “It’s a Longines!” Jacki ex­plains in­dig­nantly. “I won it

30 years ago on Celebrity Sale of the Cen­tury!”

Even hung over, this Aus­tralian act­ing le­gend is a de­light. As she’s ush­ered away to face the scary stylist, she says, “Email me! We can start a re­la­tion­ship. And I can mind your chil­dren ...” It’s no won­der Jacki Weaver’s a hit in Hol­ly­wood.

Jacki daz­zling at the 2011 Os­cars. Right: Pic­tured in the late ’60s as her ca­reer took off.

Clock­wise from top left: Jackie and son Dy­lan; with theatre di­rec­tor Richard Wher­rett; pic­tured in the late ’80s with Der­ryn Hinch; with her hus­band, South African-born ac­tor Sean Tay­lor.

From left: Sil­ver Lin­ings Play­book co-stars Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper; a still from An­i­mal King­dom; as an Alzheimer’s suf­ferer in her lat­est project, Bloom.

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