When organising a time to chat with Helen Dallimore, she reminds us that it’s been almost twenty years since we last spoke, on that occasion for her supporting role in Yahoo Serious’ much-hyped Mr Accident. The film didn’t live up to expectations, and was the last film made by the Young Einstein filmmaker/star. Not Dallimore though. Like everything, a lot has changed in the past two decades, and Dallimore recognises that there’s no point living in the past.
“We are a small country and we have a small industry,” Dallimore acknowledges. “People want to watch Reality TV and they want to watch the big American movies and it’s very hard to get an audience. We don’t have a government support of our culture; that’s not a priority to them. And if you don’t have a supportive culture of artistic development, you’re not going to nurture that and it’s not going to thrive.
“I think all young actors hope that they’re going to be the most successful actor that they can be,” she continues. “We don’t make many movies in this country. To make your living out of being a film actor in Australia is virtually impossible. People have to go overseas. But we do make a lot of television. I’ve certainly done a lot of television over the last 20 years. I’ve done a lot of stage work as well and I feel really lucky to make a living all this time. I guess I look back and I think about how lucky I am actually to still be doing it and not to have had to give it away like a lot of people that I know. We become parents and it’s just hard and you’ve got mouths to feed and all that sort of thing. I feel so lucky that I’ve made a bit of a niche for myself with comedy. In some ways, if you can do comedy, there’s a lot more opportunities for you.”
Making a big impression as Peggy in the Moody series for Jungle Entertainment, Dallimore also appeared in the popular Here Come the Habibs, on which she also got her first taste for screenwriting. “That has supplemented my income,” she says of the writing, which also included work on the recently broadcast Sando. “It gives me something to explore creatively. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed doing.”
Today, we’re speaking with Helen Dallimore about her scene stealing role as Apple in horror comedy Two Heads Creek. The film’s director, Jesse O’Brien, cast Dallimore in the role after spotting her in the crowd at a Melbourne International Film Festival function.
Apple is the matriarch in a small outback town with a deadly secret, and in tune with the tone of the film, Dallimore’s performance is turned up to 11. “It’s certainly a heightened performance, but I think it’s really grounded in truth,” she says. “It’s not cartoony, although there are cartoony elements. It wouldn’t work if that was all it was; there’s depth there and darkness.”
Shooting the Australian scenes of the film in which Dallimore appears sequentially, allowed her to build the character, which culminates in her showstopping performance of Skyhooks’ “Horror Movie”, both exuberant and scary, perfectly in tune with the film. “She’s a villain and so it’s important to chart that. It’s so over-the-top, and I worked hard to get you to really want to see me actually perform it,” she tells us.
Ironically, in between the laughs and the blood and guts, Two Heads Creek also contains a strong subtext about Australia’s treatment of immigrants. “I think that all of us were on board with how critical it is of Australia. We’re all actors, we’re like, ‘Bring it on’. We’re living through a kind of extreme conservatism, and that’s what is really terrifying.”
Two Heads Creek is screening now.