Promised world premiered at the Italian Film Festival in Melbourne, the film’s home town. The feature film has seemingly come out of nowhere, made independently and at odds with most new Australian cinema in terms of its themes. Furthermore, it has just passed $100k at the box office, purely through screenings at the Italian Film Festival.
A period film, Promised kicks off in 1950s suburban Australia, where a couple of very young kids are promised to each other for marriage by their Italian born families. Fast forward to the 1970s, and the two kids are now independent thinking adults, with Angela (Antoinette Iesue) studying literature at University and Robert (Daniel Berini) finally home after five years abroad. How will the pair deal with what their families have arranged?
Exploring Australia’s Italian immigrant wave and assimilation, which has influenced our present-day culture enormously, the film benefits from the inclusion of two significant Italian performers in its cast, namely Tina Arena and Paul Mercurio in supporting roles. However, it’s the film’s lead actress and newcomer Antoinette Iesue, who manages to carry this romantic story through to its logical conclusion.
We spoke with Antoineete to find out more.
Can you tell us about where you grew up, how you got the acting bug and how you ended up studying acting at WAAPA?
I grew up in Pascoe Vale, Melbourne. The acting bug came a little later on for me. Originally, I studied to be in Musical Theatre so a lot of singing and dancing. It wasn’t until I attended WAAPA that I even realised I had an interest in acting. I originally auditioned for WAAPA to support a friend! She had told me about this university where you could study singing and dancing full time and I was like sure! I’ll give it a go with you…and I ended up getting in!
You have such a unique surname; can you talk about your cultural heritage?
Both my parents are first generation Australian! My dad’s parents are from a small town in Abruzzo and my mum’s parents are from Sicily. However, my surname is actually French. We have quite a bit of family in Quebec, so we are guessing the French name stems from there.
You are currently based in the US. When and why did you decide to move there? Was there a particular trigger?
I always wanted to live in America, I think I loved the idea of Broadway and I knew there would be so much opportunity over there. I ended getting the Green card in 2015 and by the end of 2016 my partner and I decided to give Los Angeles a go instead of NYC.
Can you talk about how you landed the role in Promised?
I was back home in Australia visiting family for the first time since I’d moved over to LA. My Australian agent sent me through a self tape to put down for Promised and I put it down within the 2 days I had left in Melbourne. I flew back home to LA and within the week they had flown me back down to Melbourne for the final call and chemistry read with a few actors and I pretty much found out I’d booked it within the day – then I had to fly back to LA grab my stuff and fly back to Melbourne to start filming!! It was literally a 3-week process and a whole lot of flying!
What sort of preparation was there for the role in Promised? It’s a period film, was it subject matter that you could relate to, and if so, how?
I started out with a lot of research into that decade (the ‘70s); where we were as a society in Australia, where women were in our society and lastly, where Italian/Australian women were. I’m Italian myself so I used the generations of women before me in my own family to help me understand the subject of arranged marriages/proxy and promised marriages. Even small things like learning how to use a typewriter as Angela is a writer in the film was something that I wasn’t used to and had to prepare for.
There was a lot that I could relate to! I think the exploration of love and marriage and family values/traditions will always be relatable no matter what age we live in. I think with the current generation, a lot of people my age are starting to ask questions and reflect on the people that came before us. I think we are now more than ever trying to learn and grow from those who’ve come before us and I think that’s what Promised gives us the opportunity to do in an easy, light-hearted way.
How did you find playing the lead role in the film?
It was a huge learning curve for me. I’d never been given that much responsibility before within a film. I surprised myself with how comfortable I felt instantly, and I also learnt how much you carry when you are the lead. It’s not just about you and your performance – you are there every day on set and you have to bring as much positive energy to the crew and creatives as you can because at the end of the day that’s what makes a film great. I really did enjoy all ups and even the occasional downs.
What was Tina Arena like to work with? I imagine that acting was something that she was a bit nervous about. Any on-set experiences between the two of you that you could share?
Woking with Tina will always be one of the highlights of my career. I’ll never forget meeting her on set for the first time. I was so nervous to meet her and work with her. It was her very first day on set and the scene we were shooting was an intimate mother daughter scene. Tina was so honest and humble with me within the first 5 minutes. She asked me for advice and listened with open ears and took it all in. Me giving my idol advice on acting was just so insane! We instantly formed a great connection and that scene is still one of my favourites in the film.
Did Paul Mercurio break into dance at all on set?
Ha! He may have busted a move or two while we were shooting but I’ll always remember Paul for the AMAZING food he’d bring us for lunch that he’d made himself! Salamis and prosciutto and spreads!
What are you hoping for in the future?
My hopes for the future are to continue down this path, which I’ve been lucky to be able to do for a while now. I love film and I love working on a script for months at a time and creating something that will last forever.