Hugo Weaving as Mitzi in Priscilla Queen of the Desert

Priscilla: Behind the Scenes

The Adventures of Priscilla: Behind the Scenes with Stills Photographer Elise Lockwood

Elise Lockwood stills and interview
 Sean O'Brien

In 1994, Elise Lockwood landed a dream job – shooting the stills for the film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994). Elise's work also featured in the exhibition Starstruck: Australian Movie Portraits.

A wild ride

As a young photographer in the early 1990s, Elise was riding the wave of new independent cinema, shooting stills for acclaimed Australian films like Broken Highway (Laurie McInnes, 1994), Bedevil (Tracey Moffatt, 1993) and Traps (Pauline Chan, 1994).

But when the script for Priscilla fell in her lap, and Elise met writer-director Stephan Elliott, she sensed this project was going to be a visual feast and she leapt at the opportunity.

The NFSA holds in its collection a set of 191 Priscilla colour transparencies photographed by Elise on the production, many never-before seen. For Elise, all these years later, it’s the rare behind-the-scenes images that capture the true flavour of her Priscilla experience, a bonding 'wild ride' for cast and crew.

You can see examples in the image gallery below:

'A great sense of fun'

In this clip from her 2019 NFSA oral history interview with Sean O'Brien, Elise recalls life on the set of Priscilla:

On the set of Priscilla, Elise Lockwood oral history excerpt, 2019. NFSA title:1592814

In this clip, Elise recalls the playful moment behind the iconic image of Hugo Weaving in character as Mitzi Del Bra, waving a green scarf in the desert breeze, in the stark landscape of the Kanku-Breakaways near Coober Pedy:

The iconic image of Hugo Weaving, Elise Lockwood oral history excerpt, 2019. NFSA title:1592814

Shooting the finale

Elise found the Priscilla shoot to be constantly inspiring, and challenging, and she had to be alert and proactive about getting in close to capture the action. For example, she had to leap atop the Priscilla bus between takes to grab Guy Pearce on the giant silver stiletto and quickly line up the three lead actors along the cliff edge at Kings Canyon, while the chopper circled overhead.

In this clip, Elise recalls her tenacity for getting the shot, in this case the three leads in their Lizzy Gardiner-designed, frill-necked lizard costumes, with their tongues out:

Frilled-necked lizard costumes, Elise Lockwood oral history excerpt, 2019. NFSA title: 1592814

Elise particularly loves photographs that capture the candid moments between the action and feels that, years later, it is these informal images that can have the greatest resonance.

In the series of shots in the gallery below, actors Bill Hunter and Terence Stamp take a power nap on the rocky ground, while Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce look on; director Stephan Elliott and actor Guy Pearce look out across the stony gibber desert plains; the three leads share a moment between takes; Hugo Weaving in an out-take on the balcony of the Palace Hotel in Broken Hill; and Elise herself behind the camera, swiftly capturing Hugo Weaving during a make-up session:

Life Between the Scenes

In this clip, Elise considers the popularity and legacy of the Priscilla images, and the importance of keeping the collection together in the NFSA:

The legacy of production stills, Elise Lockwood oral history excerpt, 2019. NFSA title:1592814

In addition to Elise’s transparencies, we also hold Priscilla posters, scripts, the original film and more. These audio clips were taken from Elise’s oral history with Sean O'Brien for the NFSA, recorded in September 2019.

Main image: Hugo Weaving as Mitzi, 1993. Photo: Elise Lockwood. NFSA title: 1489077