Friday, 9 September 2011


Transmission Films
Now Showing

*This interview with Alexandra Schepisi first appeared in the August 2011 issue of Cafe Society magazine.

“I thought it was going to be difficult to give him the same respect I would give other directors on set. I thought he would be really hard on me, too, and that I would have to shut up and just do what I was told,” says Alexandra Schepisi, recalling her preparation for her working relationship with the director of the new Australian film, The Eye of the Storm.

The director? Acclaimed Australian filmmaker, Fred Schepisi – Alexandra’s dad. Her fears proved unfounded. “He was enormously respectful and the relationship was entirely professional. I always made an effort to call him Fred on-set rather than Dad, just to separate the director from my father in my own mind. It was fantastic and quite an honour, actually. He is really a wonderful director.”

And Alexandra’s three big name co-stars – Geoffrey Rush, Judy Davis and Charlotte Rampling – weren’t as intimidating as she’d expected either, despite the initial trepidation. “I think I almost wet my pants at the first [script] read-through. I could barely read my script I was so over-awed with my company. It was incredible. But they were not intimidating at all on set; they were really respectful and relaxed and co-operative. We had a really beautiful ensemble working environment.”

“They were so much fun to work with and so extraordinarily good at what they do; hard working, dedicated and there were lively discussions that were ongoing throughout shooting for every scene,” Alexandra recalls. “We were always improving and finding more detail, and always sharing everything between us. It would have been very easy to be pushed out by these big stars but I wasn’t; they were very inclusive and embracing.”

In The Eye of the Storm, an adaptation of a Patrick White novel, Alexandra plays Flora, nurse to the ailing Elizabeth Hunter (Rampling), whose expatriate children, Basil and Dorothy (Rush and Davis), return to their Sydney home to say their goodbyes and, more importantly, claim their inheritance; Flora enjoying a brief affair with Basil.

“It’s a very complicated script full of extremely flawed, complex characters. And Flora was every bit as flawed and complicated as all the other characters,” Alexandra says. “It’s very easy to make them extremely unlikeable, because they are unlikeable a lot of the time, so I found that a very interesting challenge.”

And watching herself on-screen was another challenge entirely, Alexandra describing the experience as “horrible”. “I’ve seen it [the film] a few times now, so it’s getting easier. I can actually see the film now whereas I couldn’t see the film at all, I could just see all the bits and pieces, and all the machinations, and myself, and it just made me cringe. It’s excruciating watching yourself.”

Audiences will no doubt be more forgiving of Alexandra Schepisi’s performance when the The Eye of the Storm opens in cinemas September 15.

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