Since departing these shores in the mid 1990s, following a three year stint playing Angel Brooks on Australian soap Home & Away, Melissa George has established herself as a queen of the US small screen. Notwithstanding a few features, notably Dark City, Mulholland Drive, The Amityville Horror and 30 Days of Night, George’s CV is replete with a score of American tv movies and series, including Roar, Murder Call, LA Confidential, Friends, Charmed, Alias, In Treatment and Grey’s Anatomy. Her latest small screen effort: Australian production The Slap, whose current filming schedule downunder facilitated her participation in last week’s L’Oréal Melbourne Fashion Festival as the event’s official ambassador. Frockwriter caught up with George on Friday night – four years after we chatted to her backstage at New York Fashion Week. This time, she demonstrated that she is as much of an ambassador for the Argentinian fashion industry, as she is for its Australian equivalent, and offered a fascinating theory to explain the sudden proliferation of top Australian models - or at least those hailing from her native Perth.
How are you enjoying the fashion festival?
I’m loving it. I was very moved by Maticevski [L'Oréal Paris Runway 5 show]. The music and the workmanship... I was almost on a film set.
Did you like the pavlova dress at the end?
You know why I loved it? Because every designer has their showstopping piece. It’s not about what you’re going to wear on the weekend. It’s about what item of clothing best represents my vision. And that’s it. The layering and....of course I wanted to wear it on a film set, running through the Scottish Highlands like after a lover. I was on a movie set, completely. I got quite emotional, quite choked up actually.
Are you doing a remake of Highlander?
No, nothing like that. I just think it was so romantic.
So, your impressions of the festival?
It’s been extraordinary. I mean, I think we all have to agree that it’s just been so well put together. The quality of the fashion, the fact that L’oréal has just put on this massive amount of publicity for the week. I mean it’s almost uncanny. I got off the plane from Buenos Aires and I arrived here and I’m like ....
Like... hang on a second this is not normal. This is absolutely not normal and... It’s an honour.
Had you ever been to this festival before?
What are you working on at the moment?
Right now, I'm shooting The Slap. I’ve been shooting since January and then I went away for a month and now I’m back and I continue shooting on Monday. In between fashion shows I’ve been rehearsing with the director. Rob Connolly is doing the next two. We’ve had an array of directors – Tony Ayres, Jessica Hobbs, Matthew Saville. Amazing writers and directors. I love the balance - fashion and acting.
How would you describe your relationship with fashion?
It’s an emotional relationship I find. It’s not about putting on clothes for me. It has to evoke an emotion for me and I have to feel something. I’ve got these gorgeous, thigh-high flat boots... it’s not an Australian brand, it’s an American brand. [Joseph] Altuzarra for Sergio Rossi. And they’re thigh-high and they have croc tips on the toes and when I get up in the morning in New York and it’s cold and I put them on with leggings and a big Céline sweater and I get my New York Post and my coffee... it’s a simple boot but evokes such an emotion in me. And I think fashion creates confidence. It really does. Let’s face it, you can’t walk around naked, right?
Well some people like to.
Some people would like to... in the privacy of your own home.
No I mean the naturists – like you see in Europe. They have entire resorts.
Oh I know.
You see them playing tennis in the nude.
Oh well that’s fine. I mean that I agree with [laughs].
So what else is on the drawing board?
I’ve got a Mandy Moore movie coming up with Martin Freeman, who is shooting The Hobbit right now. And he and I and Mandy shot this fantastic romantic comedy in London [Swinging with the Finkels]. I haven’t laughed that much in a long time. They thought I was drunk the whole time because I was laughing that much. It comes out in June. And then my movie in Scotland, called A Lonely place to Die. I don’t know if it’s going to be called that.
Oh so you did in fact recently shoot in the Highlands? Pity you didn’t have Maticevski on wardrobe.
I just shot a movie for four months in the Highlands. Nothing to do with the gowns at all but it was just an action film. Then that and The Slap, I’m really proud of that. It’s the first time I’ve come home since shooting Triangle. That was an American production. This is an Australian production. It’s the first Australian job I’ve done since Dark City with Jennifer Connolly.
Any other fashion or luxury brand projects in the pipeline?
There’s a couple.... But I think after this, I’m going to take a little bit of a break. Let’s not do more of this for a minute. You can’t get more beautiful than what Daniela Frederici shot [for the LMFF program], the campaign was gorgeous. Nothing really. I’m just busy in Buenos Aires really.
So yes, you live part of the year in Buenos Aires?
In Buenos Aires and New York.
Your husband is Chilean?
He’s Chilean but you know, we just fly over the Andes...
Do you speak Spanish?
I do speak Spanish.
Where do you spend the most time?
I don’t know really, it changes every year. Right now I came from Buenos Aires and I’m going to go back there. And New York’s my heart.
Are there some good designers in Argentina?
Yeah – [Pablo] Ramirez, Liliana Castellanos. Look at this [reaches for a fringed, black alpaca shawl, below, that an associate is carrying for her].
Not to mention the whole Eva Peron legacy.
I live in her neighbourhood, where she grew up and she was buried right near where I live. This is Liliana Castellanos, which is alpaca and then they have the people in the country weave a border.
Is there an Argentinian Fashion Week?
There’s a Sao Paolo one.
You’ll be the face of Buenos Aires Fashion Week next.
Oh I don’t know about that. I don’t look very Argentinian. They always think I’m foreign. What other designers do I love? I love Tramando – look at their website. They’re right in my home. And [Jessica] Trosman is another good one. They’re really cool designers. They’re honestly the future. Everything is made out of Latex and layers.
There would be a very strong leather and leather craftsmanship tradition there.
Oh yeah and the crocodile and the skins and all that, which is not very appreciated in the rest of the world, but it’s Argentina. It’s a big meat-eating culture and everything.... the décor in our place is all animal or cowhide and stuff like that and there’s a French feel, there are a lot of French antiques there. But mixtures, like the Argentinians.
I asked you a couple of years ago about the success of all the Australians in Hollywood. Have you been following the more recent influx of Australian models overseas? They’re everywhere at the moment.
Oh look, they’re the most gorgeous....
Do you know any of the Australian models?
I’m obsessed with models. In fact I can spot them a mile away. I read Italian Vogue, French Vogue, Australian Vogue, I know all their names.
[Joking] Hey you probably comment on my blog. It attracts model obsessives.
I know who you are [yeah right]. They’re divine. They’re all from Perth.
Well that’s right, there have been quite a few from Perth, starting with Gemma Ward. So what’s in the water in Perth?
I think we’re just so far away. There are lots of billionaires... there’s a theory that all the rich miners married supermodels back in the ‘80s and so they all got themselves a hot wife and created beautiful children.
How does Rose Porteous [widow of mining magnate Lang Hancock] fit into that?
Oh yeah, you know, she’s the top of the ladder.