Three times we tried to get together for an interview, over a period of some 18 months,
each time frustrated by the contingencies of circumstance. For example, on the set of A
Wreck A Tangle (still not released), Rebecca Frith was in make up prior to a scene when my
set visit had come to an end. At the inaugural Noosa Film Festival in September 1999, our
interview date had to be aborted at the last minute in favour of a tv commitment that
couldn't be re-scheduled. None of it was her fault.
Finally, then, we make it. A date for a coffee in Sydney's Pyrmont, next to the offices
of Roadshow Film Distrutors, who arrange these things. The air conditioning duct is
blasting air from a grill and Frith has a sleeveless top, which she would, coming down
from Queensland. She shivers. "I've got the Queensland shivers," she says,
rubbing her suntanned arms. Roadshow's Xanthe Bates runs off and gets her own jacket to
wrap Frith's shoulders.
"to get away from the urban angst"
The Queensland thing is a major element in Frith's life these days. Six months ago in
the early half of 1999, Frith made a bold move out of Sydney to a village with less than
2,000 souls, a short drive outside Noosa. It had nothing to do with the then nascent
festival, rather with an urge to return to her Queensland roots and to get away from the
urban angst that was making her feel trapped.
"I needed time out," she says, her cappuccino sitting quietly by her salad
focaccia, "for my emotional and physical health. I had got onto the work treadmill in
Sydney. I was actually born in Queensland, near where I live now, but had stayed on in
Sydney for 12 years after NIDA (acting college). I felt I had to go home - and get a fresh
A brave move for an actress. Did it work? "It's worked beautifully - I've done
five films in 12 months and regained some peace of mind. I'm amazed." Frith is frank
about the fact that the move was not motivated by a partner or by any other factor.
"It was a pretty selfish move. There was no man involved. And I come to Sydney now
with more enthusiasm and more energy and it somehow makes my decisions more focused. I
have to concentrate. . . "
"wears her vulnerability openly"
Her house is opposite the Mapleton Tavern, and overlooks the range towards the ocean.
Her favourite tree is a tobacco tree that leans into the house. She counts the black
cockatoos that fly overhead regularly and walks in the rainforest paths that back onto her
property. "But I can also see the airport so I know that I can get a hit of city
civilisation whenever I need to. . . "
If it sounds like an escape, it is. But Frith did not want it to be just that. "I
had decided that I wasn't running away - but going towards something. To make my work
In the six months she has been in her new environment, Frith has found new strength.
"I feel I have a lot more strength. It's impossible to rid ourselves of our patterns
but I did look at some self destructive patterns and I am a lot happier now."
Frith, an actress who wears her vulnerability openly, is also a complex person with a
ferocious appetite for the arts. She loves to combine travel and the arts; a year ago she
spent three months in New York, "which was my first idea to bring back some
inspiration for me work. It was one of the best things I've ever done. I went on my own
and realised I enjoy my own company. It was a great revelation to discover I don't need
anyone to validate who I am. I got into great conversations and adventures with strangers
and felt great about that."
But her solo trip to New York - or her other trip to Los Angeles, where she acquired a
fascinating watch ring (left forefinger) at the Museum of Contemporary Art - doesn't mean
she wants to be alone. It just means she has reassessed herself and improved her self
image. "Oh, yes, I don't want to be alone all the time. I'm ready for a good
"She's an observer"
But work consumes her still; even as her film, The Missing, opens around Australia on
November 11 (after opening the inaugural Goat Island Film Festival on Nov. 5, 1999), Frith
has just finished shooting Stavros Kazantzidis' Russian Doll, with Hugo Weaving, David
Wenham, Sascha Horler - and Natalia Novikova as the Doll of the tile. "It's a comedy
- I hope! - with fast urban dialogue and I play a Jewish psychiatrist married to David
Wenham, who falls in love with the Russian Doll." (He does, not Frith….)
"She's an observer; while the others are going off like rockets, she watches -
amusedly. A bit like Susan in The Missing, she loves unconditionally."