Stunt driving, visiting China and modelling at New Zealand Fashion Week are just some of the recent “firsts” for popular Kiwi actress, writer and director, Geraldine Brophy.
If you’ve seen the hit New Zealand film Second Hand Wedding you’re sure to remember the bright yellow Mini driven recklessly by Geraldine Brophy’s character Jill Rose as she and her friend Muffy race from one garage sale to the next in their relentless quest for a bargain.
“I did my own driving stunts and I loved it,” laughs Geraldine. “You think there are things that you will never do but this experience reinforced that the world is full of infinite possibilities.”
The movie centres around Jill Rose, whose obsession with second-hand bargains threatens her relationship with her soon-to-be married daughter Cheryl, who becomes concerned that her mother will turn her big day into some kind of “second hand wedding”. A phenomenal success at the New Zealand box office, the feel-good movie took over $1.88 million in just 16 weeks. According to the New Zealand Film Commission Annual Report over 209,000 cinema-goers flocked to see it. Second Hand Wedding also won two major awards at the Qantas Film and Television Awards including Geraldine’s award for Performance by an Actress in a leading role in Film.
Geraldine says she was immediately attracted to the role of Jill. “Glenda Jackson said that the best performance of a role is the version you have inside your own head the first time you read a script. I had empathy with Jill from the beginning as I felt I understood her emotional life, her existence and place in the world. Middle aged women have the potential to be an invisible species. If you don’t have an obsession with retaining youth or aren’t in a position of power then you’re not regarded as all that interesting unless you try extra hard. These are the women who are the mothers, workers, counsellors and who support society yet are often quite unsung. There aren’t many pats on the back for women like Jill, who just get on.”
As a mother to 16 and 14 year-old girls, Geraldine says she could understand Jill’s misguided attempts to do the right thing for her daughter. “Mothers never stop wanting the best for their children although they sometimes mistakenly think that they are the only people who can decide what the best is. It’s all part of being a mother – a job with no training, no salary and no hope of retirement.”
It is surprising to learn that Geraldine and the other actors have yet to be paid for their work on the movie. “There is a misnomer that people think actors are wealthy people. The truth is that actors don’t earn great amounts of money in New Zealand.” She says that most of the people involved in the movie worked under a ‘love budget’ or back-ended contract where they are not paid until the movie starts making money. “Outside of Peter Jackson we’re still a small movie making country running a struggling enterprise. We take a punt on a lot of the work we do – working through the rehearsal and filming period for nothing and hoping we might get paid at the end.”
She believes the simplicity and commonality of Second Hand Wedding is a key to its success. “The great dramatic events for people the world over are usually birth, marriage and death. Very few people have the action-packed experience of Indiana Jones or Batman so they relate to a story that reflects pieces of their own life.”
Geraldine was thrilled to travel to Shanghai for the film’s Chinese release where she says the reaction was just as positive as in New Zealand. “In Shanghai I talked to a group of filmmakers from Rwanda who had made a warm-hearted comedy that proved their most successful film ever. That’s the point of films like this. With love at their core they lift the spirits and show that tomorrow can be full of hope.”
Geraldine has appeared in numerous other films and television shows. She is probably best-remembered as the effervescent Moira Crombie on Shortland Street with roles in feature films including In My Father’s Den and King Kong. She is heavily involved in the New Zealand theatre scene having played more than 150 roles. She is also an accomplished writer, director and producer. “A lot of my work is in the theatre but with a limited audience it is hard to make a living. People don’t flock to the theatre the way they do to a rugby game, although I wish they did.”
Along with acting, writing and directing Geraldine does a lot of MC, charity and voice-over work. She recently directed Kiss of the Spider Woman at the Court Theatre in Christchurch and workshops for her new play The Merry Wives of Windsor Avenue began in November. She is currently playing an evil queen in a Disney series called Legend of the Seeker and when we spoke, had just been shortlisted for the Bruce Mason Playwriting Award.
The success of Second Hand Wedding aside, Geraldine says her first modelling stint was another highlight of 2008. She sashayed down the runway in The Carpenter’s Daughter show at New Zealand Fashion Week earning the “whoops and hollers” of the show’s capacity crowd along with the other curvaceous models.
“It was very exciting backstage and we all came out smiling as opposed to the traditional sulky model pout where it looks like someone has just put two wooden pegs on their nipples. The show was all about strutting and taking pleasure and joy in all of our peacockery – it was great fun.”
The Carpenter’s Daughter label was created by Caroline Mar for New Zealand’s ‘curvy girls’. Geraldine has been its ambassador for around five years. “The range has something for everyone from perfectly lovely outfits for quiet, toned ladies through to more theatrical pieces. The whole ethos is about being gorgeous and that’s what I subscribe to. Too many women beat themselves up about doing the right thing at every turn. I think the best thing to do is to look in the mirror and say, ‘good morning, you are very beautiful’.”
When she turned 40 seven years ago Geraldine declared that she would only dress like an empress from that point on. “I play lots of grungy parts but in my real life I like to dress up and I’m never seen without my red lipstick.”
In a year of firsts, Geraldine also held her first garage sale which she describes as a wonderful pastime. “The funny thing about garage sales is that they become like a wee society with all sorts of characters turning up who know one another. It can be quite an intimate act to go to someone’s house and rifle through their bits and bobs but I rather love the idea that people pay to take away your rubbish.”
Geraldine said about the story :
That is one of the best articles i have ever read about my boring old self! You are accurate in your quotes and perfectly lovely in your construction. Thank you so much, I wouldn’t change a word! Have a lovely Christmas. Geraldine x”
Geraldine Brophy, New Zealand Actress