In her prime

Hol­ly­wood heavy­weight Jacki Weaver is back to Bloom again on the Aussie small screen

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - TV Guide - - Front Page -

IT’S hard to keep up with Jacki Weaver’s many cred­its, across both stage and screen.

The two-time Academy Award nom­i­nee has not wasted a sin­gle op­por­tu­nity since be­ing “dis­cov­ered” by Hol­ly­wood eight years ago, af­ter a ca­reer- defin­ing turn as malev­o­lent ma­tri­arch “Smurf” Cody in Aus­tralian crime fea­ture An­i­mal King­dom.

That was about 23 films ago, on top of the 80 plays she’d starred in and an­other 15 movies she had banked be­fore mak­ing the leap to live and work from Los An­ge­les.

That’s not count­ing her TV ap­pear­ances – from nine episodes of Homi­cide back in 1967, to her loom­ing re­turn next year as Se­na­tor Ca­tri­ona Bai­ley ( pic­tured right) in a sec­ond season of Foxtel’s ac­claimed po­lit­i­cal thriller Se­cret City.

But word to the wise – and those folks up­dat­ing her bi­o­graph­i­cal de­tails on­line – the grand dame of Aus­tralian TV, film and the­atre wants it known and struck from her record: “I was never in a soap opera, even though Wikipedia says I was,” she tells TV Guide, un­prompted.

Tak­ing a deep breath, I brave to ask if a cheeky nick­name as­signed to the star on the same site – “the sex thim­ble from West Pym­ble” – is cor­rect, and the 71-year- old gig­gles: “Oh yeah, that’s right and I don’t mind either”.

“I was quite proud of be­ing called that … I was only about 14 at the time.”

Such has been the long and colour­ful life of Jac­que­line Ruth Weaver, who loves to laugh at her­self and her sto­ried sex­ual history but has lit­tle time for re­gret, as she f lits from one project to an­other.

When we talk she’s just back in LA af­ter eight days in Mel­bourne, where she filmed

Bloom, a six-part su­per­nat­u­ral drama se­ries for Stan, but will barely have time to “un­pack and repack” be­fore she’s off again.

The next stop is Canada, to film for six weeks, play­ing the

lead in Stage Mother, “a beau­ti­ful story about a mother of a drag queen,” Weaver ex­plains. “She dies and it’s about how I cope with it,” adding, “it’s one of those movies where it’s funny one minute and sad the next … which is like life, re­ally.” She’d just fin­ished an­other film called Poms, a cou­ple of days be­fore she f lew home to Aus­tralia, which co- stars Diane Keaton. “We played best friends, who start a cheer­lead­ing club. We were in 40- de­gree heat and do­ing these rou­tines; then I’m in Mel­bourne, do­ing a scene where I’m drenched in wa­ter and the morn­ing we did that it was mi­nus five de­grees. It was one ex­treme to the other,” she says. In Bloom, she plays faded star Gwen­dolyn Reed, who is in a home, suf­fer­ing from Alzheimer’s, when her hus­band, Ray (Bryan Brown) dis­cov­ers a strange berry in their gar­den which gives hope she may re­turn to her for­mer glo­ri­ous self. In one of the early scenes, pic­tured above, Gwen es­capes her car­ers and wan­ders down the main street of a fic­tional coun­try town, bat­tling to heal its own wounds af­ter a dev­as­tat­ing f lood. Her va­cant stare and ad­dled mum­blings, dressed in a night­gown, is a sight painfully fa­mil­iar to any­one who has or is nurs­ing a loved one, lost in the fog of an­other time and place. De­spite pin­balling from one act­ing job to an­other, im­mers­ing her­self in a role with such emo­tional in­ten­sity isn’t easy, Weaver ad­mits.

“It’s very sad. Some of the more in­ti­mate scenes with Bryan were ter­ri­bly sad and I was re­ally up­set by it be­cause I’m of an age where I’ve known quite a few peo­ple with de­men­tia and it is a ter­ri­ble thing. It’s par­tic­u­larly sad for the peo­ple around them … I was able to draw on things I’ve ob­served over the years and still see­ing in peo­ple.”

Her de­ter­mi­na­tion to keep work­ing is, in part, she says, as a way of staving off the ageists and “try­ing to stay in­ter­ested in life.”

She’s been en­gaged in the world around her from an early age, proudly declar­ing her­self a fem­i­nist “since the day I was born” and tak­ing heed of her late mother’s advice.

“She would say, ‘Any­thing boys can do, you can do too.’”

The Hornsby Girls High grad­u­ate was en­cour­aged not just to com­pete with the op­po­site sex, but to beat them.

“Mum would say, ‘ I don’t care if you’re not top of the class, just as long as a boy doesn’t beat you,’” she says.

If there’s one thing Weaver does lament about her late-in-life suc­cess, it’s that her par­ents weren’t around to watch her shine so brightly over­seas.

“That would be my only re­gret … that they’re not alive to see what’s hap­pened to me in Amer­ica. They would be [proud].”

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