Miranda Otto
August 1, 2000

Otto Scared That She Might Become Hot
Garry Maddox

There's a new adventure ahead for Miranda Otto. Having finished an American film written by Charlie Kaufman of Being John Malkovich fame, she's bound for a four-month stint on the Lord of the Rings trilogy being filmed in New Zealand.

After a decade building a career in Australia, the star of The Well, Love Serenade and Doing Time for Patsy Cline has been moving into a different world in more ways than one.

If her past includes some critically praised but not widely seen films, her present includes, well, just the No 1 film at the American box office last week.

Otto has a modest role as "the freaky neighbour" in the thriller What Lies Beneath, which stars Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford. Since a role in The Thin Red Line, she's been slowly joining the Australian actresses who have made their name internationally. A guest at the opening of the Brisbane International Film Festival, Otto says she was scared when she first went to Los Angeles. Scared she might become hot. "It's very much eat you up and spit you out. I've heard people go 'Oh, so and so. You remember them? They were really hot. They were up for everything. Now they can't get a job.'"

She went to Los Angeles after Love Serenade to find nobody knew what to do with her.

"I was suddenly struck by the fact that over there it is so much about how you look and whether they think you're hot."

In the Kaufman-scripted comedy Human Nature, Otto plays "the perfect Frenchwoman" alongside Tim Robbins and Patricia Arquette. The plot sounds delightfully bizarre: "A woman is in love with a man in love with another woman - and all three have designs on a young man raised as an ape."

Working on What Lies Beneath, she found Pfeiffer friendly and generous.

Next up is Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings. She's cast as Eowyn and is happy to be playing a human. "Less time in make-up," she says with a smile.

Otto is not surprised Australian males are doing well in Hollywood.

"The breed of young American men that I see in LA are really soft. They've never dug a hole, never changed a tyre. They've been to college and they've studied hard and gone all right. But they're really into that college frat boy thing ...

"People respond to Australian men because they're like men. With all their male foibles and their male strengths. I don't know if there's something like that with women as well. Maybe they're a bit more natural than American women."

She says she doesn't envy the success of other Australian actresses, then she changes her mind: "I do feel jealous about all the beautiful clothes that Cate's got," she says with a laugh.