On playing a character so voluptuous and sexy she said: “Tilly knows how a dress can turn heads and really be a very powerful statement, I loved playing a character who just looked so different to everybody else and didn’t care. She relished it. So much of what she wears is completely inappropriate and impractical for the climate and where she is, but she wasn’t going to suddenly put on something different just because of that. I really admire that. I wish I could be like that”.
On the scene when she first gets to touch Liam Hemsworth’s chest: “He was very professional, and I felt very sorry for him because the scene itself and the way that it’s written is actually quite funny. So Judy and I, at the beginning of that scene, we have a lot of dialogue between the two characters that kept really making us laugh. He gives a performance that is absolutely bang-on. He played it in a very genuine, very tender way, which of course makes him even more lovable. He’s a really great guy, and he was sort of endearingly honest about how grateful he was to have the experience of working on the film.”
Liam Hemsworth on one of his first days on the set, was being sized up for a suit, and so was asked to strip down to his underwear, and display his athletic frame. It left Winslet and Aussie co-star Judy Davis in hysterics: “When you are on set and you take your shirt off and you are the only person on set that is shirtless and pant-less, it’s awkward,” says the actor about being objectified. “Then you have Kate and Judy laughing hysterically and have a bunch of crew members, serious men, doing their work, and I’m standing there in my underwear, it’s pretty uncomfortable. But you have to laugh at it.”
“I had spent the last couple of years working in America and I lived in America for the past six years and I was looking for a project that would take me back to Australia,” he says. “This script came along and the character really reminded me of my grandfather, Keith. He was a very hard-working Australian, he didn’t come from much, but was one of the most charismatic and hilarious people you could meet. He was the kind of guy who was friends with everyone.” Liam in Australia is the ambassador for the Australian Childhood Foundation: his parents worked supporting children who had gone through a trauma and now Liam is using his position to give the campaign some star power: “If you want to be a good person who adds to society, you have responsibility. That is something I take very seriously.”
Twenty-five years ago, costume designer Margot Wilson was a student living in Paris when she picked up a roll of red, moire silk fabric during a shopping trip to Milan. She didn’t know why, or what for; she wasn’t even a costume designer then, just a talented young fashion grad from East Sydney Tech on a six-month scholarship to France. When it was time to go home, she took the beautiful roll of fabric back down under with her. “I’ve been carrying that roll of fabric around forever,” laughs Wilson, who designed all of Winslet’s costumes in the movie. “Every time I do a film I think ‘Oh, I might be able to use it here’. And finally, finally, I found a place for it!”
The people of Dungatar almost disappear into their earthy tones of this little town that’s sitting miles away in the wheat belt, and it’s just really been left behind. And then along comes Tilly.
The full Tilly effect climaxes about half-way through the film, when we spot Gertrude and other women going about their day-to-day business in head-to-toe haute couture. Muriel, the grocer’s wife, is up on a ladder changing the lightbulb on a signboard in billowing silk chiffon. The post office girl is draped in glorious jacquard as she does her daily rounds. Gertrude, not to be outdone, flits about in a cape made from 40 metres of diaphanous pleated white silk organza. It is hilarious, and spectacular; a fun antidote to some of the darker times ahead.
“It was an exciting time for fashion. But you know, you go to books and look online, and I was talking to Kate because she was playing the role of the ‘dressmaker’, and I wanted to see where she was at, as far as how she saw Tilly. And she was telling me she’d actually taken on sewing lessons prior to the film, which was fantastic. She recognized turns and interact when I was talking to cutters and all that sort of stuff. That helped her. She said she’s not normally a method actor but in this case, it helped her enormously to be able to be part of all that.”
Not to mention, Winslet’s gorgeous figure was perfectly suited for the Fifties. “Kate celebrates her figure,” says Wilson, who also worked with Winslet on John Hillcoat’s ‘Triple 9‘. “And when you like how you look, and your own figure type, you always wear clothes better anyhow. She had the perfect shape for that.”
Credits: Vulture, Marie Claire UK, Indipendent UK, Clothes on Film