Jocelyn Moorhouse was living the Hollywood dream when life decided it had other plans for her. Eighteen years on, she’s back, and still able to see the funny side.
It’s been 18 years since Jocelyn Moorhouse directed a movie, and 24 since she burst onto the scene with her first feature, Proof, but The Dressmaker has quickly proved to be the sort of comeback most people can only dream of.
In seven weeks, Australians have bought almost $17 million of tickets to see The Dressmaker. It has enjoyed rave reviews and great word of mouth. And it won four of the 12 awards for which it was nominated at Australia’s Oscars, the AACTAs – plus the People’s Choice Award.
With all that, Jocelyn Moorhouse could be excused a little George Costanza moment – a fist-pumping “I’m back, baby, I’m back”. But that’s not her way. Rather, as we sit down to lunch at what used to be Gill’s Diner but is now Trattoria Emilia (in honour of the gorgeous food of the Emilia Romagna region of Italy), she comes across as bashful, a little surprised and, above all, grateful.
“This has been really healing for me,” Moorhouse, 55, says. “People seemed to be really happy that I was directing a movie again; they said this to me every day. I felt very loved. Now that I’ve had an incredibly beautiful experience, I think I could handle making movies anywhere.”
Moorhouse lives in Sydney with her husband PJ Hogan, director of Muriel’s Wedding, and their children (they have four). She has made movies in Melbourne – where she was born and raised – and Los Angeles, where she was taken under Steven Spielberg’s wing after he saw Proof. There she directed How to Make an American Quilt (1995), and was embraced by its cast of “grand divas”, including Anne Bancroft and Ellen Burstyn. “The grandest of them all was [the poet] Maya Angelou,” she says. “Very tall, very formidable, an intellectual giant – and here I am getting her to vacuum!”…
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