At 29, Tara Fitzgerald has made quite a name for herself since
her film debut in the acclaimed Irish comedy, Hear My Song, made
six years ago. She even travelled to Australia, to co-star with
Hugh Grant, Sam Neil, Kate Fisher and Elle Macpherson in John
Duigan's Sirens, which she describes "as an unforgettable
experience. It was so much like the character I played in the
film, as we both embarked on this illuminating journey from
England to Australia."
Her latest film, the acclaimed Brassed Off, couldn't be more
different from that Australian, erotic comedy. Set in Yorkshire
in 1992, this socially conscious British comedy-drama is set in a
small coal mining town, home of the brass band that is its pride
and joy. The trouble begins when the Conservative government
threatens to close the town's coal pit. Much of the central
debate centres on whether or not the town band should continue
playing if the pit does shut down. The timing couldn't be worse
as they are busily preparing to compete in the regional
semi-finals of the brass band band championships. Adding to the
stress is the mysterious return of Gloria (Fitzgerald) a local
flugelhorn player who left many years before. Her sudden
reappearance is particularly troubling to her ex-beau and fellow
band player, Andy (Ewan McGregor).
Fitzgerald was drawn to her latest screen character for the
simplest of reasons. "It was the flugel playing more than
anything that I found interesting. So much is given to you by the
mere fact that the first thing we really see her do is pick up
the flugel horn and play. That immediately defines the character,
and I thought it would be fun to convince an audience that I can
do that." The actress also sees Gloria "as an outsider,
has great integrity but is misunderstood."
"I think it's the
music that strikes a chord in so many people."
The film is set in impoverished Thatcher England at a time
when many of the Yorkshire mines were really closing down.
Fitzgerald had no need to research this at all, "because I
remember it all so clearly. I was just starting out as an actress
at the time all this was happening." Though very much a
British story, Brassed Off has enjoyed considerable international
success in both Europe and the US. "I think it's the music
that strikes a chord in so many people."
Fitzgerald first displayed her gamin-like beauty in Peter
Chelsom's romantic comedy, Hear My Song (1991), but she has
earned her stripes on stage and TV as well. The Sussex-born
daughter of a photographer and a poet (and the grand-niece of
actress Geraldine Fitzgerald), had a bohemian upbringing before
entering London's Drama Centre in 1986. "It was a very free
existence. I lived in a flat with my mum and two sisters."
She never knew her father who committed suicide two years after
her birth. "I wish I'd known my dad, but I was lucky in that
my mother remarried, so I had a sense of a father at least."
In the offbeat British production "A Man of No
Importance" (1994), she played an unwed pregnant country
girl who inspires a closeted gay bus driver to try to fulfil a
long held dream of directing a production of Oscar Wilde's
Salome. She re-teamed with Hugh Grant in 1994, in the quaint
British period piece The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill but Came
Down a Mountain (1995), before being cast in Brassed Off.
In 1995 she hit Broadway in Hamlet, playing Ophelia to Ralph
Fiennes' moody prince, "the best personal and professional
experience of my life."
Notwithstanding her considerable success, Fitzgerald has
avoided the Hollywood scene, despite meeting with LA agents.
"I love working in England and relatively close to it. I
mean, the best work is still here. There hasn't been anything in
America that's as yet caught my imagination." Though she is
headed for Canada next month (September 1997) "to do this
sweet comedy in the middle of nowhere." All that, and she
hasn't hit 30.