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Toni Collette: From Muriel’s Wedding to The Mafia Heiress

Toni Collette has come a long way since her breakout role in Muriel’s Wedding in 1994. The Australian actress has carved a successful career in Hollywood by taking on diverse roles that range from dramas like The Sixth Sense to horror films like Hereditary.

Her latest project is Catherine Hardwicke’s black comedy, The Mafia Heiress, which opens in local theaters this Thursday. Collette not only stars in the film but also serves as one of its producers.

The film tells the story of Kristin Balbano, a woman who discovers that her husband is cheating on her and decides to leave California to settle in the Calabria region of Italy. There, she takes on the role of her grandfather, the respected consigliere of a mafia that was left headless.

In an interview with LA NACION, Collette shared her thoughts on the film industry’s change in terms of representation and her experience working on The Mafia Heiress.

A New Take on the Mafia Genre

Collette said that what drew her to The Mafia Heiress was its irreverent comedy sequences and focus on female empowerment. She called the film a glimpse of light that radiated optimism and sought laughter, something that was much needed during the pandemic.

One of the film’s recurring jokes is Kristin’s lack of knowledge about The Godfather saga. Collette said that the film breaks the convention of the usually dark and dense drama that is associated with the genre. Putting a woman who has no idea about the mafia at the top, and who finds her purpose there, in the least expected place, seemed like a great story to tell, according to Collette.

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The Changing Landscape of the Film Industry

Collette has played incredible roles throughout her career, but she knows that female characters with potential were limited outside of her experience. She believes that the industry is changing, slowly but surely. Collette said that everyone is aware that stories have to be told with all kinds of individuals, genders, and races. She believes that the industry has to show everyone so that everyone can be seen.

Working on The Mafia Heiress

Collette did not find any challenges in returning to comedy. She called working on The Mafia Heiress a wonderful experience, saying that the cast and crew made everything easy because they were relaxed and kind to each other. The film was shot in Italy, and Collette said that all the cliches about the food and landscapes you hear are true. She called filming there like being in heaven.

Collette also spoke about working with Catherine Hardwicke again after their first collaboration in I Miss You Already. Collette said that the dynamic with Drew (Barrymore) had to work for the film to also serve its purpose. In contrast, with The Mafia Heiress, Collette said that she met Catherine again from another place and had a much deeper connection at work. She called Hardwicke an incredible director and wonderful person who creates a safe, free environment that allows actors to improvise.

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