One day, she's doing chores on a farm, the next, she's walking the red carpet in Cannes. Life as an actress is all about extremes, says Rachael Blake, but the highs and lows are easier to handle with actor husband Tony Martin by her side, Susan Chenery writes.
No one was more surprised to find herself on the red carpet at Cannes than Rachael Blake. She looked dazed as hundreds of cameras flashed her image out across the world, there amid the glamour, the press of people against the barricades, the Riviera sparkling in the distance.
Only days before, she had been in jeans on her husband Tony Martin's parents' farm in northern NSW, where the couple lives, in her more accustomed role as an out-of-work actor.
"I only found out I was going about three days ago – it has been so last minute,'' she says just before leaving Sydney. "I never in a million years thought I would be at Cannes. The work I have been doing is becoming lower and lower budget. The idea of me going there was utterly incongruous; it never occurred to me."
Well it happened; the disturbingly erotic filmSleeping Beautyfrom first-time director, novelist Julia Leigh, opened as the most controversial film in this year's line-up, shocking audiences with its graphic look at the life of a young prostitute. Rachael plays her madam.
Still, Rachael, who admits, "I question myself so much'', is fatalistic about all this clamouring attention. She is not expecting to do a Jacki Weaver and suddenly find herself fielding offers from Hollywood.
"I don't have any expectations of it changing my life," she says.
Tall, with deep green eyes and a husky voice, Rachael, 40, first became known on television inWater RatsandHome And Away. "I didn't know what I was doing onHome And Away," she recalls, "but I was working with Isla Fisher and she was fantastic – she sort of took me under her wing. We used to go outside and I would smoke cigarettes and she would help me feel comfortable with the camera because no one teaches you that.''
Yet it was the gritty, confronting police dramaWildsidewhere she really came into her own as the ballsy, blokey Dr Maxine Summers. She had arrived at the audition on a motorbike, smoking roll-up cigarettes. And it was here that she met Tony.
Later, she starred inLantana, the internationally successful film set in a sweltering Australian summer, and more recently as Hazel Hawke in the telemovieHawke. Yet Rachael is not sitting around looking pretty and waiting for the phone to ring. She is out there living, exploring, engaging with the world — ballsy, like so many of her characters she plays.
Last December, they returned to Australia — "we missed our community'' — having based themselves in London for six years. Rachael had tried Los Angeles, but she was never going to do the decorative ingenue thing. She was looking for more depth. She may have classic blonde looks, but she is too gutsy to be entirely feminine.
"I just didn't feel that I was LA material," she says. "I didn't feel that I was young enough and glamorous enough. When it becomes like that, the aesthetic, I just become a bit uncomfortable. I was really interested in longevity and was terrified if it was always about how I looked — and I have always looked older than I am.
Sleeping Beautyis released in Australia on June 23 and will also feature in the Sydney Film Festival from June 8-19.
Read more of this story in the June issue of The Australian Women's Weekly.
Video: Director banned from Cannes for 'sympathising' with Hitler