Toni Collette is an Australian actress who is best known for her roles in “Sixth Sense” and “Little Miss Sunshine.” She is also the lead vocalist of the Australian indie band Toni Collette & the Finish.
Collette was born in a suburban town in Sydney, Australia. The young Antonia Collette displayed remarkable acting skills: she had managed to get an appendectomy at the age of eleven after faking the symptoms of appendicitis out of sheer boredom. Her first taste of the stage was in a high school production called Godspell. Her effective portrayal of her role in the latter gave way to a bigger role in an Australian musical production. She left high school at sixteen to pursue a career in theater and musical. Two years later, she attended Sydney’s prestigious National Institute of Dramatic Art, only to leave again after a year and a half when she landed a role in Anton Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya,” a major Sydney stage production.
Her appearance on the major musical led to guest spots on several Aussie TV shows and paved the way to land her a minor role in the 1992 comedy movie “Spotswood,” which starred veteran actor Anthony Hopkins and featured Russell Crowe. Collette auditioned for the role of Muriel, a socially awkward and overweight ABBA-worshipping heroine, in P.J. Hogan’s “Muriel’s Wedding” while participating in the play Summer of the Aliens. When Hogan hesitated to give her the role because of her slim figure, Collette showed her determination by gaining about forty pounds. Hogan gave Collette the main role, and “Muriel’s Wedding” gained domestic and international acclaim. In 1994, Collette was awarded Best Actress by the Australian Film Institute Awards. The film opened more lucrative avenues for the then twenty-two-year-old Aussie.
After staying close to home for two years, Collette finally broke into Hollywood in 1995 by accepting a supporting role in the movie the “Pallbearer,” where she costarred with Gwyneth Paltrow. The two reunited in “Emma” in 1996. She landed several supporting roles and got two Best Supporting Actress awards in the Australian Film Institute Awards for the movies “Lilian’s Story” and “The Boys” in 1996 and 1998 respectively. Collette took on the roles of unflattering women for several years until she managed to break away from her ugly duckling character in the 1998 British/American drama film “Velvety Goldmine,” where she played a fabulous British party girl.
From 1992 to 1998, Collette appeared in movies of little to moderate success. However, in 1999, Collette hit it big when she costarred with Bruce Willis in “Sixth Sense.” The film was widely acclaimed and an international box-office success. Her understated portrayal of a struggling single mother earned her a nomination at the Oscars for Best Supporting Actress. A year later, Collette earned her first Tony Awards nomination for her role as a 1920s burlesque performer in her Broadway debut, “The Wild Party.”
Collette displayed her admirable American accent and chameleon-like acting in the action movie “Shaft,” where she played alongside Hollywood actors Samuel L. Jackson and Christian Bale. She tackled a variety of drama and comedy films, and by 2006, she had played a variety of roles in several movies, including an unhappy wife in “The Hours” with Nicole Kidman and Meryl Streep, a dumpy sister in “In Her Shoes” with Cameron Diaz, and a suicidal mom in “About a Boy” with Hugh Grant. Collette also earned two more Golden Globe nominations for her roles in the highly acclaimed indie movie “Little Miss Sunshine” and in the TV movie “Tsunami: The Aftermath.” “Little Miss Sunshine,” in particular, earned her a lot of love.
After years of playing movie roles, Collette finally delved into the small screen in the Showtime series “United States of Tara.” Her enigmatically comic portrayal of a suburban wife with dissociative identity disorder (DID) earned her critical acclaim and won her an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series and a 2010 Golden Globe Award for Best Actress for a Television Series, Musical, or Comedy.
After the third and final season of “United States of Tara” ended in 2011, Collette returned to the big screen in the 2011 movies “Fright Night” and “Foster.” She reunited with Anthony Hopkins in the biographical comedy-drama “Hitchcock” in 2012. Collette also returned to the Australian big screen in the 2012 comedy film “Mental.” She will soon be back in the stop-motion adventure film” The Boxtrolis,” which is slated for a 2014 release.
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