Sara Wiseman: The Films That Changed My Life

October 12, 2016
The star of TV’s A Place To Call Home and the new theatre production of The Bitter Tears Of Petra Von Kant picks the movies that changed her life.

After completing a Bachelor of Performing & Screen Arts in Auckland in 1998, Sara Wiseman has consistently worked on both stage and screen. Her big break came in 2001 as the lead in the TV series, Mercy Peak, which earned her Best Actress nominations at The 2002, 2003 and 2005 NZ Film & Television Awards. Sara has recently completed shooting Season 4 of the popular period drama, A Place To Call Home, and has also appeared on Rake, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, Outrageous Fortune, The Cult, Shortland Street, The Almighty Johnsons and Crownies. On the big screen, Sara will appear in Human Traces in 2017, and has appeared NerveLove Birds, Sione’s Wedding, Matariki (for which she won Best Supporting Actress at The NZ Film & Television awards in 2011), and The Insatiable Moon, which earned her a Best Lead Actress nomination at the same ceremony. Sara’s extensive stage credits include the New Zealand productions of Death Of A Salesman, Amy’s View, Collected Stories, Cabaret, Ladies Night, Under Milk Wood, This Is How It Goes, Proof, Killer Joe, The Vagina Monologues, and Danny And The Deep Blue Sea. In Australia, she starred in Hate at Melbourne’s Malthouse in 2013, and is currently appearing in The Bitter Tears Of Petra Von Kant by Rainer Werner Fassbinder at The Old Fitz Theatre in Sydney. Here are the films that changed Sara Wiseman’s life…

Film and Television

LABYRINTH (1986) “I could probably quote the entire film for you if you like, I’ve seen it that many times. It caused me so much love slash pain in my teenage years; you know those films that you just wish you were inside? Jennifer Connelly’s Sara(h) – who even had my name and was the same age as me – was swept away into a magical, fantastical world in pursuit of David Bowie…who also happened to be obsessed with her… even serenading her with a love song whilst she danced with him in a ball gown. I mean, come on! I’d lined up David Bowie for myself, until that Iman chick showed up. It is such a rare gift of a film, to have humans interacting with ‘live’ puppets, when today everything is CGI. The logistics of some of those scenes. Extraordinary. I grew up with Jim Henson’s The Muppet Show and it has an indescribable magical quality that CGI will never be able to recreate. P.S. ‘As The World Falls Down’ was my wedding dance song – go figure.”


ONCE WERE WARRIORS (1994) “The moment when Beth Heke discovers her daughter hanging from a tree in their backyard will live with me forever. Up to that point, I had never seen an emotional response like that, on screen, in my life. It sucked all the air out of my body. I wept like a baby in the cinema and walked out in a daze. The film was as far from the American and British imports as you could get. This was a side of New Zealand that had never been shown before. It was provocative, frightening, and rough, and it triumphed with such an exquisite lead female character fighting literally for her soul and life and the wellbeing of her family. This is the kind of cinema I adore. Fresh and affecting insights into worlds with brave, unpredictable characters.”


HEAVENLY CREATURES (1994) “This was the film that made me want to be an actor. A wee naive fledging, I worked voluntarily on this film for a month, from traffic control, to standing in for Kate Winslet, to unit, building sets, dressing up in one of the latex life size ‘clay models’ and dancing in one of the scenes. I was privy to the shooting of the climactic scene when Honora Parker Reiper aka Sarah Peirse was bludgeoned to death by the two girls aka Melanie Lynskey and Kate. Standing on pedestrian patrol in the bush, hearing the sounds of the beating arc through the trees was so affecting. I was in awe of the whole process. Seeing Kate break down and being held by Peter Jackson after the shots were complete, I began to understand the cathartic experience that can happen to an actor. It terrified and excited me. I was hooked.”


BOYS DON’T CRY (1999) “The opening shots of Hilary Swank left me with my jaw dropped like a carnival clown. Hilary’s transformation into Brandon Teena was so complete and so complex, I couldn’t see her craft working; she just was. It was one of those inspired moments of, ‘How the hell?!’ I am so inspired by actors who give over like this. No ego, so much authentic truth, and able to access such vulnerable places to reveal things that most refuse to show. By winning the Oscar, she also allowed that small indie film that deals with such sensitive and, for some, controversial content to be smack bang in the centre of attention.”


ANIMAL KINGDOM (2010) “This cinematic experience captured me in many ways. I went back for more, several times. The script and storytelling, and choice of cinematic coverage of the scenes, were so clean and pared back, yet each image so full and confronting. The shocking moment when Joel Edgerton was shot so early in the story made me love the writing; anything was now possible – how brave and brilliant. For such a dark piece, there was such humour as well. Pope and Smurf are two of the most inspired anti-heroes that I have come across on screen, all credit to Ben and Jacki and David Michod for blowing my mind.”


GALAXY QUEST (1999) “Just so you don’t think I am only into dangerous and dark indie films! I can come back to this absolute genius of a comedy any time that I am feeling crap. This film had me laughing my arse off. Inspired casting takes this hilarious and smart script to even greater places: the brilliantly cast Alan Rickman, Tim Allen at his best, and Sigourney Weaver as you have never been allowed to see her before. And it introduced me to the delight that is Sam Rockwell. I can’t do it justice here…just watch it!”


The Bitter Tears Of Petra Von Kant by Rainer Werner Fassbinder is playing at The Old Fitz Theatre in Sydney from October 11-November 12. For all session and ticketing information, head to the official website.

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