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FOX, KERRY : THE HANGING GARDEN

Kerry Fox has carved herself an international career, but she remains very much a New Zealander, despite (or in confirmation of which) a house in Sydney’s New Zealand ghetto, Bondi, where she talks to PAUL FISCHER.

New Zealander Kerry Fox is the quintessential acting nomad, based professionally in London, working as a far adrift as Kenya and Canada, but with a house in Sydney's Bondi, and her family in New Zealand. Professionally, Fox is happily enmeshed in the London scene, "and I get a lot of support from the British industry, which is great."

"I still consider myself a New Zealander"

Culturally, however, she continually emphasises her New Zealand ethnicity. "I still consider myself a New Zealander, and I stick to that, and maintain that's who I am." She doesn't want to be mistaken for an Australian "because I don't feel Australian, and I don't feel that I have an Australian nature. In London and here, I tend to hang out mainly with New Zealanders."

At 32, the star of Jane Campion's breakthrough film, An Angel at my Table, regrets not being able to work more in her native New Zealand. "I've only done one other film in New Zealand since I left, which is really sad." Yet the acclaimed actress still feels that she made the right decision to relocate to London. "Since I went and started working there, I really had a feeling that I found my niche."

"another fabulous character" on The Hanging Garden

Perhaps her New Zealand roots are responsible for Fox being drawn to films that reflect a more isolated society. Her latest film, The Hanging Garden, was one of Canada's huge hits, and afforded Fox a chance to work "on another fabulous character" in a small, but interesting film. In order to tell the entire story, the film moves back and forth through three different time frames. There are overlaps in the periods, with characters from the past slipping into their future. It's up to the viewer to determine whether they're real or imaginary - ghosts or physical embodiments of guilt and responsibility.

The film opens in the present, with the wedding of Rosemary (Fox) and Fletcher (Joel S. Keller). It also marks the return home of Sweet William (Chris Leavens), Rosemary's brother, after a lengthy absence. William's appearance - he's thin and handsome - surprises everyone, since, when he left home as a teenager, he was grossly overweight. Now, having started a new life away from his abusive father, he has learned to embrace his homosexuality and to like himself. Also on hand for the wedding are the abusive father, Mac (Peter MacNeill); Rosemary and William's mother, Iris (Seana McKenna); their dotty old grandmother, Grace (Joan Orenstein); and their little sister, tomboy Violet (Christine Dunsworth).

Before long, images from the past rise up to haunt William. As an obese teenager (Troy Veinotte), he began to discover his gay urges one night while engaging in some innocent sex play with Fletcher. Fearing that he might not be "normal," Iris arranged for him to have intercourse with a local woman who was willing, for a little money, to act as an instructor. Meanwhile, Mac's attitude toward his son was shaped by the unpredictability of an alcoholic father - loving one moment, violent the next. Only William's closeness with the younger Rosemary (Sarah Polley) kept him sane.

"She has such great lines"

Fox says she "just loved that script; I couldn't put it down. I thought it was fantastic, funny, unusual and interesting. The relationships between the characters are so awkward and painful, yet also so familial." Fox steals the film as the soon-to-be married Rosemary, whom the actress responded to. "She's the sort of person I admire, who's straight up and realistic. I don't, in a sense, admire the side of her that feels she's stuck where she is, but I liked her bolshy attitudes and the way she faces the situation of what's going on. Plus she has such great lines."

Fox only had two weeks to shoot the film in Canada's Nova Scotia, before heading off to do another film, "an experience which I hope never to repeat again."

"It's been an amazing year"

Fox is rarely out of work, and remarks that 1998, in particular, has been one of several highlights. "It's been an amazing year; I've worked with the Royal Court Theatre company, did a film in Kenya with Richard Harris (To Walk with Lions), another film with Stephen Dillane (The Darkest Light) and with Jude Law (The Wisdom of Crocodiles)."

Not a bad year indeed, but it comes after a series of varied roles in diverse films: after her celebrated debut in An Angel At My Table, she made a couple of Australian films, including Gillian Armstrong's bittersweet "The Last Days of Chez Nous" (1991).

Fox then played one of a trio of South African women in Friends (1993), and travelled to England to co-star in Danny Boyle's BBC drama Mr. Wroe's Virgins. It was through working with Boyle for the first time, that Fox's found her niche, "particularly when I'd first met Danny, I'd just had this feeling I hadn't felt anywhere else, really, because he was a contemporary and a friend, so I felt I sort of fitting in."

Fox did return to Australia firstly in the Rainbow Warrior (1994) miniseries, with Sam Neill and Jon Voight. Returning to domestic drama, she co-starred with Neill and Greta Scacchi in Michael Blakemore's adaptation of Uncle Vanya, retitled Country Life (1994) and transplanted to Australia.

"not repeat myself..."

Fox's next film caused quite a stir: In Danny Boyle's dark, uncompromising comedy Shallow Grave (1994), she played one of a trio of friends who find themselves dealing with a dead roommate and his suitcase full of money. Fox was back to the action genre in The Last Tattoo (1994, with Tony Goldwyn), and in Saigon Baby (1995) played a woman trying to adopt a Vietnamese child. Also in 1995, Fox was seen on American TV screens as a British wife who fraternises with a black American GI in The Affair (HBO). Fox also starred in the acclaimed Welcome to Sarajevo (1997).

So what is Kerry looking for in a role these days? "Just to not repeat myself, and try and find something that'll give me a bit of a fright, and make me go to places that I haven't been."

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