“I don’t remember a time in my life that I didn’t want to be an actress,” says Australian Rebecca Murphy when we catch up over a coffee during her recent family visit to Sydney. “My first word was ‘lights’. I’d watch black and white films with my grandmother and when no one was looking, I’d steal her cigarettes and my mother’s scotch glasses, fill them with water and practice crying in front of the mirror. Pretty soon I was in acting and ballet classes and was fortunate to spend my high school years at a Performing Arts school where I got to be around what I loved all the time. When I finished grade 12, I moved to New York to study theatre and film.
“I’ve always known I wanted to live in the US,” she continues, bringing a bit of LA fashion chic back with her to Sydney. “I love the ‘can do’ attitude and that no aspiration is too big. It’s very easy to be inspired and to feel purposeful and it feels like home for me.”
It’s not an atypical story for an Australian actor, and what followed is why.
“The idea came from being served edible flowers at a trendy LA restaurant,” she says of the short film, The Florist, in which she starred, and also produced.
As an outsider, Murphy was able to get to the heart of LA culture, playing a millennial florist, who wholesales edible flowers to restaurants in the documentary style film.
Her performance earned rave reviews from critics at festivals including Venice and TriBeCa, standing out among hundreds of other films in competition and generating interest in Murphy from Hollywood producers and talent reps.
“We were invited to screen at TriBeCa Film Festival in 2017 and at other festivals in Los Angeles, New York and Sydney,” says Murphy. “It was so fun to be in the audience and witness their reaction to the film.”
The screenplay for a feature length version of The Florist was selected as a finalist for the Sundance Sloan Prize, which combined with the short film’s success led to a feature film adaptation and yet another starring role for Murphy. The feature is the latest in a string of successful collaborations between Murphy and writer/director Andrew Ryan, including her starring roles in The Mirage and Toolies.
“Taking the time to make a short can be a great tool in getting people on board and gives you the opportunity to experiment. For me, as an actor, the short proved to be an invaluable way to test the waters with my character. I initially had a very clear idea of who I thought she was which got completely turned on its head whilst we were shooting. The original ideas and thoughts now looking back were surface level and likely judgements – my acting coach would be shaking his head reading this. The way it played out was totally unexpected and having that experience allowed me to expand on those discoveries for the feature.”
Murphy was able to share an almost completed feature length version of The Florist with us, and we concur. This is a highly effective expansion of the short film – footage from which still opens and closes the feature – building upon its many ideas and taking the protagonist’s journey through to its logical conclusion. It also showcases Murphy’s natural star power, striking the perfect balance between comedy and drama that made the short film a hit. Better still, the film is also a tribute to its ‘70s New Hollywood influences, with its loose style and satirical edge reminiscent of the best work from Hal Ashby and Robert Altman.
Producing and starring in The Florist feature has inspired Rebecca Murphy to take more control of her future projects. “I’m grateful that we’re shifting into a world where women are gaining power and recognition as creators and are no longer reduced to one facet of the industry,” she says. “Nowadays, I find myself mostly inspired by people who wear all the hats like Issa Rae, Amy Seimetz, Brit Marling and Reese Witherspoon. My hope is that I get to keep working with exceptionally talented people and be a part of great stories.”