In her prime
Hollywood heavyweight Jacki Weaver is back to Bloom again on the Aussie small screen
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].”