Melissa George Interview
The world is full of model/actresses. They’re a cliché, a joke. But you don’t get many actress/inventors. In fact, Melissa George may be the only one, having invented Hemming My Way, an adhesive snap that creates instant hemlines.
“I just did a photo-shoot as inventor/actress,” giggles the Aussie actress. “You get a lot of model-slash-actress. You don’t get actress-slash-inventor. It’s a good slashy.”
Poised and elegant, George’s interest in fashion is hardly surprising given she was named the new face of L’Oreal’s Melbourne Fashion Festival and has graced the covers of Vogue and GQ. Currently she’s dressing down, fighting for her life in Rise Of The Footsoldier director Julian Gilbey’s breathless Brit action thriller A Lonely Place To Die.
George plays Alison the leader of a group of climbers, holidaying in the Scottish Highlands, who find themselves hunted by a pair of murderous kidnappers after saving a young Eastern European ransom victim. As the group are killed off one by one, George finds herself in a desperate fight for survival as she battles the killers and the terrain to get the girl to safety.
“Alison isn’t expecting to have to go through the things she goes through,” says George. “She’s independent, she’s got no boyfriend, she doesn’t like guys very much, she’s got no interest in having a family; it’s all about the mountains for her.
“She’s conquered the mountains many times before but, for her, the big challenge is to become more maternal, more sympathetic, more feminine, more of a woman.
“And I think this little girl really brought that out in her and it was lovely to see that arc from a woman who doesn’t want that kid around to actually doing anything she can and fighting all evil, all bad, all that rugged terrain in order to save the life of that little girl so it was actually wonderful.”
The coldest winter you’ll ever spend is a summer in the Scottish Highlands and for George, who does most of her own stunts, the physical nature of the role was punishing.
“It was more than a human being could take. I had to dive into a Scottish river and still haven’t recovered from it. I was very, very cold, I’m in a Scottish river with trout and salmon and Julian’s in a boat bone-dry.
“It was so cold he had to beg me to go back in. I was really difficult. I said: I’m not going back in, I can’t go back in, I’m going to die. I didn’t have a wetsuit. You’re the lead and your in a t-shirt because they wanted to show arms and all that sort of stuff. They have all the theory behind how much they have to show.
“When I got into the water I looked around and all the safety people had three wetsuits on - THREE - and I’m, like, really? I have a t-shirt on and no protection. Diving in took the wind right out of me. I should’ve dipped a toe in first or something. I was really, really in a bad way. A t-shirt in a Scottish river, what was I thinking?”
“I’m not doing anymore rock climbing. My arms got so built that I developed this muscle here. (Points to prominent upper arm muscle) Look at that. Who has that? I go back to New York and people are like, what is that? That’s from rock climbing too much.”
The physical changes the role required didn’t just end with her muscles.
“They dyed my hair dark and made my skin really dark too because I thought she’s been in the sun, whereas I don’t go in the sun, so to see me so pale, to be a rock climber just didn’t make sense. So it was nice to be darker, have darker hair.”
A former star of lunchtime favourite Home And Away, George has come a long way since soapland. Eschewing the panto route of most of her contemporaries – “Been offered a lotta money to do it but just can’t sing. I’m like do I want a career after this or not? I think I do. Best not sing.” – George has worked with some of the best directors in Hollywood (Steven Soderbergh, David Lynch) and has carved out something of a niche as a tough, resilient heroine, appearing in horror movies like The Amityville Horror remake, Paradise Lost, 30 Days of Night and Triangle as well as thrillers like Tom Shankland’s WDZ.
“I never expect to do the genre thing but I do love making these movies, they’re very creative, high impact, everyone’s just come on lets get in there let’s be dangerous and I like to live on the edge a little bit.
“I think the common thread is not so much the genre for me because when I did In Treatment, which I got the Golden Globe nomination for, that was again a woman who was still standing at the end, she’s tough, but it’s two people talking in one room and it’s HBO.
“So I think what I look for, I tend to not look at the genre, I look at the director and I look at the script. Does it portray a woman in a good light? I don’t mind being knocked around or whatever as long as she comes out standing. And if she doesn’t, as long as she had a good journey. So that’s one thing I always try to do justice for women.
“For an actress its not easy to find good roles. About 10 years ago when they were casting for Tomb Raider it was out of Angelina and I and I had five screen tests and she came in at the last minute and she got it and she’s obviously fantastic but I always thought when I get the opportunity to be an action woman I’m going to take it. This film comes along so I take it.
“If I’m getting paid to make a movie I might as well take one of these kind of roles because I spend most of my year not really doing these kind of movies. I’m very urban. I live in New York.”
Almost embarrassed she says: “I’m very sorta ladylike.”