My brother’s orange beach buggy
I grew up in the Lower Hutt in Greater Wellington. Lower Hutt is considered a national joke in New Zealand. It is extremely suburban, not particularly scenic, and has a large river, but no actual beaches. Apparently my high school has a drug problem. I didn’t realize it when I was there.
The highlight of my teens was when I got my driver’s license on the day I turned 15. My older brother had built a beach buggy, as he imagines from the 80’s, out of orange fiberglass, with big wheels and roll bars for passes through the dunes. When I was at work, I used to steal it and pick up my friends. Usually I managed to get where I wanted to go and back without him knowing. We hung out on Petone Beach or Eastbourne, where all the fancy people lived; I always imagined myself as a bit of an artist.
Saturday night fever
Saturday Night Fever came out in 1977 when I was 12 years old. He was too young to see it in the movies. In New Zealand, you could drive when you were 15 years old, but you couldn’t watch Saturday Night Fever. My parents were very fond of ballroom dancing, so they hired their dance teacher: James from James Dance Studios; They called him Jimmy, to teach them how to make disco in the kitchen so … I don’t think it was the song [Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees], but one of the songs on the soundtrack.
That’s probably why I still love to dance in my kitchen. A friend from drama school, Robin, recently came to visit me with her two children. We were having a very kiwi night, with lamb and tons of roast potatoes. His two sons went to my two sons: “Do you know that your mom is dancing in the kitchen?” Very wisely, my son said, “Oh yeah, she always does that.”
Dowse Art Museum
In college, I worked at the Dowse Museum of Art. New Zealand is very culturally advanced as it recognizes and embraces its multicultural Maori and Samoan past. There is no Ikea in New Zealand. All kinds of people buy art. Farmers buy great works of art from New Zealand.
I worked security, a strange job for a teenager, just standing up, making sure no one brushed against anything, touched the art, or knocked it down, because it was really expensive. Mainly, I would watch people. He knew he wanted to be an actor, so he followed people and imitated how they moved and behaved. I eavesdropped on their conversations and mimicked the way they spoke in my head. Accents weren’t much use: we had no foreigners. I remember learning French in school and thinking: “I have never met a Frenchman. Or a German! “The idea that you would ever go to France or Germany was completely otherworldly. But I learned to recognize different personalities by their appearance; I saved their selves somewhere in the back of my brain to use them later.
Olivia Newton-John in Grease
Grease was just PG so I could see that. Olivia Newton-John was great and it was great that she, an Australian, was so successful. A friend and I used to do all the movements and perform all the scenarios. We loved Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee, when they dance on the bed, and Beauty School Dropout, where they all do their hair.
We loved the transformation from a good girl to a bad girl; It was amazing that you could transform yourself, if that’s what you really wanted, and of course the hair. I was about 13 years old and my brother’s girlfriend gave me a late 70s perm because she wanted to be Newton-John. It started my bad girl phase of wearing tons of makeup, super skinny pants, and incredibly high plastic heels, and it put me in the way of smoking a massive amount of cigarettes, stealing my brother’s beach cart, wagging school. and desperately wanting to have sex. With any boy I could find
The other way I desperately tried to have sex with children was when I went camping, at 17 years old. I drove everyone in my father’s car. The boys had to be in one store and the three girls in another. We were drinking ouzo and what is that worm in it? Tequila? I haven’t been able to drink tequila since, and listen to Jethro Tull on our Walkmans and pretend we were really cool.
I remember lying in this remote campground near the beach, really high, pretending to like Jethro Tull to impress the boys. Actually, it was much more in Split Enz, the band the Finnish brothers were in before they were in Crowded House. They wore white makeup and red lipstick with spiky hair and thin bows and were the most famous group in New Zealand in the early 80s.
He also loved Abba. My parents thought they were cool when they danced Abba. My friend and I had our own Abba fan club in the shed. I can’t remember the lyrics and I can’t play a note to save my life, so I wasn’t a member of a very successful fan club. I took six months of singing lessons during the confinement, because it has always been on my bucket list. I worked really hard, but I can’t say that I improved. I always refuse when they ask me to play a character who has to sing.
The Downstage Youth Theater
My first acting job was in a family television drama called Country GP. I was still in my teens, so I must have gotten the role in acting school. I went to the Downstage Youth Theater in Wellington for three years. I drove with my friend Cameron Rose from the Hutt to Wellington in the afternoons after school and on weekends. It’s hard to imagine that when I was 15 years old, I would drive for half an hour, park in the dark, go to a youth theater class, leave at 10 p.m., and drive home.
I play Billie Piper’s mother in her movie Rare Beasts. and I’m shooting a movie in Birmingham called The Color Room, where I play Phoebe Dynevor’s mother from Bridgerton. So I’ve been thinking a lot about my own mother and looking at all these old photos from the Hutt Valley. It seems strange to play mothers, even though I myself have two children. I still see myself as a teenager: smoking marijuana, stealing cars, and desperately trying to have sex with guys.
Rare Beasts opens in theaters and digitally starting May 21
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism