Starstruck Movie Portraits
Starstruck Movie Portraits
Starstruck: Australian Movie Portraits explores striking portraits emerging from 100 years of Australian movies and draws extensively on items from the NFSA collection.
This curated collection of images from the NFSA and National Portrait Gallery exhibition includes photographs of Nicole Kidman, Toni Collette, Hugo Weaving, Geoffrey Rush, Abbie Cornish, Heath Ledger and Chips Rafferty.
Learn more about the exhibition at the Starstruck exhibition website.
WARNING: this collection contains names, images or voices of deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
A short documentary about the Starstruck: Australian Movie Portraits exhibition, developed by the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia and the National Portrait Gallery of Australia.
Photographer Hugh Hartshorne captured this still representing an early scene from Candy (Neil Armfield, Australia, 2006). Dan and Candy spin on an amusement ride, oblivious to their watching friends and family and before their lives begin a relentlessly and impassively observed downward spiral.
Their passionate entanglement here in this portrait became the key art for the film, and the image lives on in Australian cultural memory.
The film is an adaptation of Luke Davies' memoir of love and addiction set in the 1980s.
The stars of Lovers and Luggers - Shirley Ann Richards, Lloyd Hughes and Elaine Hamill - exude glamour.
This Hollywood-style portrait was characteristic of chief cinematographer, George Heath.
Cinesound was consciously striving to create films of visual and dramatic sophistication, and the exotic location of Thursday Island for Lovers and Luggers gave the film cosmopolitan appeal.
Nicole Kidman was only 20 years old when she was cast in the role of Rae Ingram in Phillip Noyce's psychological thriller Dead Calm (Australia, 1989).
When she and her husband rescue a young man from a sinking ship, a tense stand-off develops and Rae is forced to outwit a homicidal maniac.
Many critics have compared Kidman's performance to Sigourney Weaver's in Alien (Ridley Scott, USA, 1979).
This portrait captures Rae's transformation into a defiant and tenacious heroine. Kidman considered it 'a challenge to play a very fragile woman … on the edge of a nervous breakdown'.
Coming across this portrait by prolific publicity stills photographers Witzel Studios from her time at Universal Studios 50 years earlier, Vera James remembered: 'They said to me … let's see if we can make you look good for once, sweet and innocent … I had a blonde wig and they gave me some apple blossom or something'.
James preferred dramatic roles. She played the crooked, dissolute competitor for the charming William Desmond in McGuire of the Mounted (1923), recalling with a chuckle: 'I could never be a glamour-puss … because there's nothing glamorous about me'.
Stills photographer Matt Nettheim captured this portrait while hanging out the window of the ferry in the rain.
'It was pissing down the last time I was here', says Geoffrey Rush as actor Sir Basil Hunter in The Eye of the Storm (Fred Schepisi, Australia, 2011) before we see him on the ferry.
Based on Patrick White's 600-page novel and set in 1972, family matriarch Elizabeth Hunter (Charlotte Rampling) has summoned her expatriate children (played by Rush and Judy Davis) back to Sydney as she approaches death.
Rush has observed how deftly director Fred Schepisi encapsulated 'hundreds of pages of the backstory' in this scene.
Director Bruce Beresford's Breaker Morant (Australia, 1980) was a tense psychological drama of injustice and brutal pragmatism in which the British put a group of Australians on trial for killing a prisoner during the Boer War.
This portrait was taken on location in Burra, the day they filmed the action sequence where the Boers attack the gaol, involving multiple cameras, blank shots and explosives.
Lewis Fitz-Gerald played 'a junior officer, who'd volunteered for service out of a sense of patriotism and duty, who'd swiftly become disillusioned'. Appearing alongside Australian stars Jack Thompson, Bryan Brown, Charles William 'Bud' Tingwell and John Waters, it was Fitz-Gerald's first feature film role.
'Judy Davis, is a young lioness …' observed The London Sunday Times.
In sharp contrast to Hollywood conventions, in My Brilliant Career (Gillian Armstrong, Australia, 1979) the male lead Sam Neill as Harry Beecham is the eye candy, while Judy Davis as Sybylla is the ugly duckling.
This image by David Kynoch was probably taken during an on-set portrait shoot to experiment with lighting, poses and costumes.
Here Sybylla is transformed into an elegant young woman and together with Harry she creates a portrait that conveys a message quite different from that of the film's ending.
Despite the pioneering rural backdrop, the theme of a young woman renouncing marriage for career transcends its 19th century setting.
The film is based on the novel of the same name by Miles Franklin written in 1901. Anna Senior won an AFI Award and was nominated for Best Costume Design at the Academy Awards.
This portrait featuring Tianna Sansbury as Daisy, Laura Monaghan as Gracie and Everlyn Sampi as Molly, poignantly conveys the physical and emotional journey in the film Rabbit-Proof Fence (Phillip Noyce, Australia, 2002).
The image was captured by photographer Matt Nettheim between takes while the girls were still in costume.
Daisy and Gracie are led forward hand-in-hand by the eldest girl Molly, representing the unbreakable bond between family and their determination to return home to country.
Director Phillip Noyce remarked that despite being amateur child actors, these girls were perfect for the role as he could see 'the history, the heartache, the struggles and the triumphs of Indigenous Australia in each one of them'.
The film is based on the book Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence by Molly's daughter, Doris Pilkington Garimara.
It introduced many people to the concept of the 'stolen generations’: Aboriginal children who were removed from their families as the result of government policies.
Directed by Gregor Jordan, Two Hands is a morality tale. Heath Ledger is Jimmy, a naïve 19-year-old who wants to make it big in Sydney’s infamous Kings Cross district. Rose Byrne is Alex, the small-town girl who falls in love with him.
Photographer Stuart Spence created this portrait around the filming of Jimmy and Alex’s first date: 'Working on set everyday, watching their characters interact made it so much easier having Heath and Rose replay their parts offset, on my little location studio sets … You do have to be in the moment and keep still to get the nuance of characters as they evolve in front of you.'
Filmed partially in the Cronulla sandhills near Sydney during the Second World War, Forty Thousand Horsemen (Charles Chauvel, Australia, 1940) celebrates the Australian Light Horse of the First World War.
John Goffage, renamed 'Chips Rafferty' by Director Charles Chauvel for this, his first major role, played the lean and laconic bushman character. The role echoed earlier depictions of diggers on local screens but would see him establish it as an Australian cinematic archetype.
Rafferty had limited acting experience - he had been a shearer, miner, drover and pearl diver. Stills show his natural range, from this comic scene in a cabaret where he begins mirroring the alluring movements of the dancing girl, to poignantly reflective moments.
Director PJ Hogan's award-winning comedy Muriel's Wedding (Australia, 1994) celebrates Muriel as a misfit and a daydreamer determined to escape her dysfunctional family. The film also introduced actress Toni Collette to a global audience.
Robert McFarlane's still is taken at a revealing moment halfway through the film when Muriel is caught trying on a wedding gown for an imaginary wedding. She despairingly confesses to her friend Rhonda, played by Rachel Griffiths, how much getting married means to her: 'If I can get married it means that I'm changed, I'm a new person… [not] Muriel Heslop. Stupid, fat and useless. I hate her!'
Mark McManus as Will and Jeanie Drynan as Jacky in a photograph by Mark Strizic and Robin Copping from Two Thousand Weeks (Tim Burstall, Australia, 1969).
'The mistress he didn't quite know what to do with', is how Jeanie Drynan describes her role opposite Scottish actor Mark McManus in Two Thousand Weeks.
In her NFSA oral history, Drynan recalls 'loving every minute' of the ambitious, low-budget, all-Australian film shoot in January and March 1968.
Photographer Mark Strizic, whose work is held in several national collections, including ten portraits at the National Portrait Gallery, shot the stills in his distinctive style. Former director of the National Gallery of Victoria, Eric Westbrook once described Strizic as a 'poet of the fleeting moment'.
At the beginning of The Tender Hook (John Ogilvie, Australia, 2008), Iris's face can be seen through a car window, gazing out into a rainy night in 1920s Sydney.
Caroline Johns's still captures the film's atmosphere and Iris's character and locks onto the repeated visual motif of Iris seen through glass, used throughout the film to emphasise her remoteness and inaccessibility.
In the film, archival footage blends with stylish film noir to tell a story about a love and power triangle between boxing promoter and small-time crook McHeath (Hugo Weaving), his wife, the enigmatic Iris (Rose Byrne), and an earnest young boxer (Matt Le Nevez).
Arriving in the dead of night at the remote wheat-belt town of Dungatar, Tilly Dunnage (Kate Winslet) stages a strange and defiant homecoming in The Dressmaker (Jocelyn Moorhouse, Australia, 2015).
Farrat (Hugo Weaving), the local policeman, recognises her dress before he recognises her: 'Myrtle Dunnage, you grew up' he says breathlessly.
The portraits capture the atmosphere of this gothic mystery filmed in a purpose-built, one-street town in the You Yangs, in Victoria.
Stills photographer Ben King grabbed the opportunity to do a special photoshoot with the leading actors in the beautiful evening light while the cast and crew were waiting for the sun to set for night filming.
'Starstruck (Gillian Armstrong, Australia, 1982) is about being a kid with dreams', remarked Ross O'Donovan, who plays Angus, in an interview celebrating the NFSA's newly restored version of the film.
Teenage cousins Angus and Jackie (played by Jo Kennedy) live in the Harbour View Hotel at Millers Point in Sydney. Jackie is 18 and wants to be a singer; Angus is 14 and writes songs while dreaming up wild schemes to get his cousin noticed.
When the pub is threatened with closure the teenagers set out to win a national talent contest with a cash prize of $25,000 to save their home.
This transparency taken by Bliss Swift depicts the costumes Jackie and Angus wear in the film for the final talent quest competition. Shot for publicity purposes, it features wild hair and lots of bling.
This serendipitous shot captured by photographer David Kynoch depicts the transitional stage where actors Sam Neill and Judy Davis are assuming their characters and director Gillian Armstrong is describing her vision for the shoot.
The filming schedule for My Brilliant Career (Gillian Armstrong, Australia, 1979) entailed a 45-minute drive from the motel accommodation to a homestead in Michelago each day and a ten-and-three-quarter hour union-regulated workday. There was a six-day week with Sundays off, with each day's shoot taking up about eight hours.
For the producer (Margaret Fink) and director, the days merged into late nights with rushes to watch, and logistical and artistic planning for the weeks ahead.
'A quaint distinction of manner and a seductive voice … ' is how the Richmond River Herald described Charlotte Francis in 1936.
Much of the success of Ken G Hall's The Silence of Dean Maitland was due to the character Alma Lee, depicted here and played by Francis, an English actress.
The opening beach sequence was provocative for the era, and a scene in which Francis was briefly naked invoked the Censor's disapproval.
The offending shots were cut, but for Cinesound the controversial publicity paid off at the box office.
The wave-pattern radiating from the focal point of Alma Lee's feet in this lively portrait embodies her irresistible, elemental force of attraction in the film.
Stills photographer Robert McFarlane captured this image on the set of The Year My Voice Broke (John Duigan, Australia, 1987).
Set in 1962 the film is a sensitive coming-of-age tale that follows Danny Embling (Noah Taylor) and his friend Freya Olson (Loene Carmen), as they navigate the heartache, confusion and challenges of adolescence in a small country town.
Director John Duigan remarked that 'adolescence is always a conjunction of the most massive degrees of change that an individual has to face'.
This is a pivotal moment in the film that both confirms the deep-seated trust that is fundamental to Danny and Freya's friendship and marks the end of their childhood as they are thrust into the confronting adult world of love, life and death.
This portrait was shot by stills photographer Philip Le Masurier during the climactic scene of Strictly Ballroom (Baz Luhrmann, Australia, 1992) set at the Pan Pacific Grand Prix dancing championships.
In the scene, Scott and Fran cast aside old dance rules and their personal fears to perform a stirring paso doble.
The tuxedo-and-glitter Cinderella story ends with the couple triumphant in dance and in love, embodying the film's most important message: 'A life lived in fear is a life half lived'.
Greg Rowe was 11 years old when he was cast in the lead role of Mike, the title character in Storm Boy (Henri Safran, Australia, 1976).
The plot revolves around his rescue of a baby pelican (Mr Percival) from hunters, and the friendship formed between Mike, Mr Percival and Fingerbone Bill (David Gulpilil).
'[I] live alone… and then the little boy came… You must be Storm Boy, you're running like the wind', Gulpilil remembers. 'They're both telling the story; from me how I loved the pelican because it was my Dreaming and the little boy loved it too'.
'Mick catches barramundi – Sue invites him to New York. Mick kisses Sue. Interruption by Wally's call', was the action filmed in this scene according to a Location Schedule held in the NFSA.
Filmed beside a billabong at Gunlom Falls in Kakadu, NT during week five of the shoot, the 'animals' and 'special requirements' for the scene included a 'wet suit bottom for Paul' and 'flopping barramundi 6 repeats'.
Crocodile Dundee (Peter Faiman, Australia, 1986) is one of the most successful non-Hollywood films of all time.
Photograph by Jim Sheldon.