Aussie pours heart into two tough perfs

Critical analysis: “Fiona (in ‘About a Boy’) is a flaky, eccentric, overweight, vegetarian Goth who looks like Rosie O’Donnell on Thorazine. (It’s the kind of walking-accident role the versatile, offbeat Ms. Collette does perfectly, and she does not disappoint.”) -Rex Reed, New York Observer

Awards pedigree: Oscar nominee for supporting actress in “The Sixth Sense” (1996), as well as Golden Globe nominee, actress, comedy/musical, for “Muriel’s Wedding” (1996). The Boston Society of Film Critics has awarded her its supporting actress award for her work in 2002 releases “The Hours” and “About a Boy.”

Upcoming: The U.S. release of Aussie crime caper “The Deeds”; “Japanese Story,” another Australian film, also in the works.

Toni Collette might have just turned 30, but it seems she’s brought a wealth of experience to bear during more than a decade of making movies, having received critical recognition dating back to her very first starring role in “Muriel’s Wedding.”

For the Australian actress’ appearances in “About a Boy” and “The Hours,” she was recognized by the Boston Society of Film Critics as the year’s best supporting actress.

“I was interested in (‘The Hours’) because it was one of the best scripts I’ve ever read,” Collette says. “Having seen it — it’s one of the best films I’ve ever seen. And I’m not saying that in a boasting way because I’m only on for three seconds!”

While Collette only appears in one scene in the movie, the emotional impact is considerable. The scene pairs Collette opposite Julianne Moore as a couple of repressed ’50s housewives.

“It’s the most amazing story about the human condition, our abilities and inabilities to communicate,” Collette says. “I met and fell in love with Stephen Daldry — I’d do anything for him.”

Co-star Moore says Collette was a blast of energy on-set. “When Toni came in, she just had so much power and emotion at her disposal,” Moore says. “She really used all of it and was able to communicate an extraordinary amount in a short period of time.”

Which was precisely the challenge, according to Collette, “having to present such a full person (while) being on screen such a short time.”

Her role in “About a Boy” was equally challenging. In Working Title’s adaptation of Nick Hornby’s book, Hugh Grant stars as a reluctant adult who bonds with an awkward pre-teen; Collette plays the boy’s depressed mother.

She says the tough role — “there was a lot of very deep emotional stuff stretched out over a couple of months” — was eased by the directors and supportive castmates. “I tell you, it’s not much fun playing a suicidal woman!”

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