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Asher Keddie: The girl who played Ita

Asher Keddie: The girl who played Ita

Actress Asher Keddie on Meryl Streep, relationships and why she hates being asked whether she’ll have children.

As a child, Asher Keddie’s first great acting instructor had been none other than Meryl Streep, undisputed queen of the screen.

Asher saw her in the Academy Award-winning film Kramer Vs. Kramer, playing opposite Dustin Hoffman, for which they both won Oscars.

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More than 30 years later, Kramer Vs. Kramer is still her favourite film.

“She [Streep] inspired me,” Asher says. “I think she’s incredible. Her authenticity as an actor is unquestionable. I just really admire her truthfulness to herself.”

Authenticity is an important clue to understanding what Asher Keddie strives for, both on and off the screen.

“I have a fierce need to get to the truth, whether it’s in a relationship with a friend or partner, or my mother or father or sister … I have a fierce need for things to be authentic and truthful, otherwise I’m not interested in the relationship.”

With that search for truth also comes the mess of contradiction, given that in life and art, no person is more interesting than when he or she is plagued by paradox and contradiction.

“I’m full of them,” Asher offers. “They drive me mad sometimes, let alone the people who are in my life.”

Selfless and selfish, I suggest. “Absolutely.” Egotistical but generous?

“Yes, thank you for sizing me up,” she says now with that kettle-about-to-blow laugh of hers, one her husband describes as “a beautiful, dirty, open, naughty child’s laugh”.

“She quite literally cacks herself,” Jay Bowen says. “I will hear her let go from the other room, and I have to come and see what she’s laughing about because I know it’s going to be good. It’s so infectious.”

As is this striving for truth and balance in work and life.

“I’m playing the roles I want to play, the kind of personalities I’ve dreamt of exploring,” Asher says.

Asher and Jay live with their five horses on a property in Victoria’s Macedon Ranges, in the shadow of the famous Hanging Rock, a private universe away from the roar of the crowd.

When the question of children comes up — as it invariably does for this 37-year-old — she often bristles at the judgement implied in the asking.

“Why are we only considered successful if we can juggle family and a demanding career?” she says. “I admire people who can do it, don’t get me wrong. But I feel successful not doing it as well.

“I don’t think, ‘Oh gosh, I won’t be quite there and I won’t be as successful as I want to be unless I’m juggling a couple of kids, a marriage and a career.”

Her relationship with her actor-lead singer husband — a man she describes as an “awesome showman, part Michael Hutchence, part Freddy Mercury” — is, along with their horses and work, fulfilment enough for the time being.

For his part, Jay Bowen is quite clearly smitten with the woman he fell in love with at first sight just over seven years ago.

Jay recalls meeting Asher in 2004 when she appeared opposite David Wenham in the play, Cyrano de Bergerac.

Asher was given the lead female role of Roxanne; Jay, fresh out of acting school, was offered a two-bit role as the “second soldier from the left”.

When he met the blonde from Sandringham, he couldn’t keep his eyes off her. “She was just so compelling,” he says now.

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Not long afterwards, the roles were reversed when Asher invited the rest of the cast to one of Jay’s gigs at a Melbourne pub. When the frontman stepped onto the stage, he saw Asher immediately in the audience looking “gorgeous”, just like that first blush of spring.

He dedicated a song to her called ‘Send Me An Angel’, where, in the chorus, he entreats the gods to Send me an angel, send me an angel, send me an angel, right now. And the gods answered back.

Read more of this story in the November issue of The Australian Women’s Weekly.

Your say: Do you think women need to have children to be considered a success?

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