Fame, Fans and Coming Full Circle

BY MEL BONDFIELD

The NFSA marked the 25th anniversary of Strictly Ballroom with our new online exhibition and curated collection. Tara Morice joined us to celebrate with an exclusive interview, sharing highlights and defining moments from her life and career.

A blessing and a curse

It is the role that has defined her career to date, but Tara Morice reveals that it has been both a blessing and a frustration. 

Opening up about life after Strictly Ballroom, Tara recalls being turned down for roles because her image was so closely tied to the character of Fran.

Despite this, Tara remains optimistic about the depth and quality of female roles in Australia.

Dismissing the 'ugly duckling' cliches, she cites her inspiration - Judy Davis' Sybylla in My Brilliant Career (1979) - alongside Toni Collette's Muriel in Muriel's Wedding (1994) and Fran as characters who are acutely aware that they don't fit the mould, but nevertheless have the will and strength to reach their end goal.

Tara says she was determined that Fran's transformation and development would arise from confidence rather than physical appearance alone, as she takes a leap of faith and backs herself against the odds. 

Tara's Biggest Fan

In 2007, Tara took her own leap of faith, turning her hand to documentary filmmaking after forging an unlikely friendship with a Florida retiree, Mildred Levine. 

Mildred, who ran a theatre group in her retirement village, wrote to Tara after the terrorist attacks in the US on 11 September 2001. She had screened her favourite film, Strictly Ballroom, for the residents that night and wanted Tara to know how much it helped everyone get through the horrifying events of the day.

Mildred's letters continued and Tara eventually wrote back. Their correspondence compelled Tara to head to Miami, Florida to make the documentary My Biggest Fan (2008).

My Biggest Fan became not just Mildred's story, but also a reflection on Tara's own career at the time and how she dealt with life's highs and lows. 

Close up of Tara Morice in as her character Fran in the film Strictly Ballroom.

I looked at my experience of having this sudden fame and being associated with a character for the rest of my life.

Tara Morice

Through Mildred, Tara says she gained a deeper understanding of Fran's struggle and what it took to 'find the courage to become the best version of herself'. 

Full circle

Fran aside, Tara has an impressive list of film, television and theatre credits to her name. 

These days she is probably better known among young audiences as Miss Raine in the ACTF series Dance Academy, a role she played from 2010 to 2013 and recently revived for Dance Academy: The Movie (2017).

Tara admits she finds it confronting as a woman watching herself age on screen, and laments the lack of roles for older characters in Australian film and television.

However, looking towards the future, Tara has a few projects on the horizon that fans should look out for, including theatre productions and plans for a feature she has written and hopes to direct.

Asked if she and co-star Paul Mercurio will be showing us their paso doble again anytime soon, she says, 'Hey, you never know, maybe in another 25 years!'

See more of our exclusive interview with the stars of Strictly Ballroom, Paul Mercurio and Tara Morice.