Toni Collette, the underappreciated but overtly talented Australian actress, has showcased her range for over 25 years. In honor of her birthday and her brilliance in the acting craft, Variety is ranking her ten best performances in movies.
Over the years, Collette has played many fascinating interpretations of mothers, taking on each new role with a visceral commitment. She seems to have the power to dial into a character’s psyche like no other, whether she’s playing a grieving mother in the horror flick “Hereditary” (2018) or a money-hungry widow in the whodunit “Knives Out” (2018).
Collette turned a few heads at the start of her career by portraying a socially awkward woman dreaming of getting married in the indie dramedy “Muriel’s Wedding” (1995) from writer and director P.J. Hogan. She was nominated for a Golden Globe for lead actress in a comedy or musical for her work. Her rise continued with smaller but memorable parts in films such as “Emma” (1996) and “Velvet Goldmine” (1998). Her biggest platform on the awards circuit would come as Lynn, a mother of a boy who sees dead people in M. Night Shyamalan’s classic thriller “The Sixth Sense” (1999). After missing out on all of the critical precursors, Collette’s name would be called by then AMPAS president Bob Rehme and Dustin Hoffman over presumed “lock” Cameron Diaz (“Being John Malkovich”). Her nom remains one of the most pleasant and welcomed surprises at an Academy Awards nomination announcement in recent memory.
Collette’s career has included other accolades. She’s picked up two BAFTA nominations for supporting actress for Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz’s light-hearted “About a Boy” (2002) and Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’ road-trip comedy “Little Miss Sunshine” (2006). The latter film also won her an ensemble award, along with the rest cast at the Screen Actors Guild Awards in the same year.
On television, she won an Emmy in 2009 for her portrayal of Tara Gregson, a mother struggling with dissociative identity disorder in Showtime’s “United States of Tara.” Along with one other nom for that character, she’s also received two other nods for the TV movie “Tsunami: The Aftermath” and the limited series “Unbelievable,” both in the supporting actress limited series category.
On Broadway, she took on the role of “Queenie” in Michael John LaChiusa’s “The Wild Party,” for which she earned a Tony nomination for leading actress in a musical.
This year she’s already popped up in Netflix’s “Stowaway” from Joe Penna and Bleecker Street’s “Dream Horse” from Euros Lyn, the latter of which is being submitted for awards consideration by the studio. We await her upcoming role as Zeena Krumbein in Guillermo del Toro’s dark remake of “Nightmare Alley,” which also stars Bradley Cooper, Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett.
Honorable mentions include: “Miss You Already” (2015), “Connie and Carla” (2004), “Hearts Beat Loud” (2018).