Looking For Grace: the mother of all roles – Radha Mitchell

Actor Radha Mitchell. Picture: David Baylis.
Actor Radha Mitchell. Picture: David Baylis.

WORKING with legendary director Woody Allen 12 years ago was a “seminal” experience in Australian actress Radha Mitchell’s career, but she does not really want to talk about that.

Mitchell may not yet be a household name like other Aussie exports Toni Collette, Russell Crowe or Nicole Kidman, but she has shared the screen with Bruce Willis (Surrogates), Vin Diesel (Pitch Black) and Denzel Washington (Man On Fire).

It was the breakout lead role in Allen’s Melinda and Melinda (2004) that got her name on more people’s lips, but Mitchell said she had been fortunate enough to work with a slew of talented directors.

“If I was to list all the directors I worked with, they have all been incredible,” she said.

“A lot of Oscar-nominated directors and particularly a lot of interesting women directors, who for some reason no one ever brings up in these interviews.”

Promoting her latest film Looking For Grace, directed by Sue Brooks, Mitchell turned her attention to the women she has worked with throughout her 27-year career, taking a moment for a shout out to the sisterhood.

“The first movie I acted in was Love and Other Catastrophes directed by Emma-Kate Croghan; the second was also by a woman, Lisa Cholodenko, in High Art which was a pretty cool movie in terms of that moment in time. I think it defined that ’90s indie cinema in New York,” she said.

She continued to name drop other collaborators Claire McCarthy (The Waiting City), Mimi Leder (Thick As Thieves) and Cesar award-winning French director Pascale Ferran (Bird People).

Mitchell said she did not necessarily seek to work with women.

“Not really but recently I got a producer credit for a movie (Expecting) I helped to cast with Michelle Monahan and that was a first time woman director, LA based,” she said.

“I guess there was some incentive to work with her, not particularly because of her gender but because of the story she had written which I thought was interesting and had a great perspective.”

The versatile actress, who has successfully hopped genres, said appearing in darker films like Silent Hill, Rogue and The Crazies was almost accidental.

“I think you learn a lot about yourself each time you have a new experience; I somehow found myself in the world of thriller and horror (and) I don’t know how that happened,” she said.

“I grew up with an intense perspective and I think I enjoy the intensity. It’s visceral. It’s not about the dialogue, it’s about these emotional states.

“There’s some sort of catharsis in that; there’s a lot of adrenaline in it, it’s as exciting to act in (horror) as it is to watch.”

Striking a balance between comedy and drama in Looking For Grace, Mitchell plays frantic mum Denise, who deals with a marriage that is breaking down while searching for her missing teenage daughter.

She admitted to stealing gestures and expressions from her own mum for her performance.

“I ripped off (some things) from my mum, so that was total plagiarism,” she said.

Looking For Grace is in cinemas January 26.