From Amazon.co.uk Terence Stamp as a drag queen--an Aussie drag queen? Darling, you'd better believe it. In Stephan Elliott's delirious exercise in ultra-camp meets outback macho, Stamp plays an ageing trans-sexual who, with two of his equally high-glossed pals, heads off for a cabaret engagement in Alice Springs. Priscilla is their chosen vehicle, a school bus painted an outrageous purple. The culture-clash comedy that ensues is none too unpredictable: the local Ockers, initially contemptuous, soon find the spangled and bewigged trio can out-talk, out-drink and if necessary, out-punch them; everything ends in a warm glow of mutual tolerance and appreciation. Elliott maybe hits the feelgood button a little too hard, but it's impossible not to be swept along by the sheer brash energy of the film. The bitchy dialogue snaps and crackles, the costumes and Fellini-esque dance numbers are to die for, and Stamp and Co.--enjoying themselves no end--play the whole thing to the hilt and some way beyond it. --Philip Kemp
Amazon.com Essential Video A surprise hit in America, this 1994 Australian comedy is anchored by Terence Stamp as a transsexual who, in the company of two drag queens, travels to a remote desert location to put on a lip- synch performance--to the amazement of the locals. Getting there on a pink bus named Priscilla, the trio stop and play for people all over the Outback, getting the same homophobic, bewildered responses. The weak link in the film is dialogue that seems to have been pulled from "Queer Movie Banter for Dummies," all bitchy and cliché-ridden but fortunately salvaged by strong acting. The most fun comes whenever the three are performing; fans of Abba will be particularly pleased. The DVD release has optional full-screen and widescreen presentations, cast and crew bios, optional French and Spanish subtitles. --Tom Keogh
Review A campy ode to alternative lifestyles and the music of ABBA, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is nonetheless rarely played for straight laughs, respecting the dignity of its subjects too much to mock them. Instead, it's a rich study of how smiles and wit can conceal, or fail to conceal, private pain. Like the American movie it obviously inspired, To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar (1995), Priscilla dresses up in drag a bunch of actors who (in retrospect, if not at the time) are more familiar to audiences in macho contexts: British heavy Terence Stamp and Aussies Guy Pearce (a hard-boiled cop in L.A. Confidential) and Hugo Weaving (the villainous agent in The Matrix). The trio has a rollicking good time across the outback, in spite of the vitriol they must often deflect, giving a sadly realistic glimpse of the defensive shield those at society's fringes must assimilate as a given part of their daily lives. Stamp in particular stands out, eloquently weathered for what seems to be his last hurrah. Director Stephan Elliott astutely captures the strange clashing of the big city (the flamboyant road trippers) and the back water (their hosts and hecklers). Beyond being a fond favorite among gay audiences, the film's sensitive character portrayal has earned it a wider appreciation that exceeds cult status. ~ Derek Armstrong, All Movie Guide
On the DVD Audio commentary by director Stephan Elliot Birth of a Queen featurette Never-before-seen deleted scenes Tidbits From the Set The Bus From Blooperville Outtakes Frocks, Frills and Fotos still gallery Original theatrical trailer and more!
Synopsis The usually menacing British actor Terence Stamp does a complete turnaround as Bernadette, an aging transsexual who tours the backwaters of Australia with her stage partners, Mitzi (Hugo Weaving) and Adam/Felicia (Guy Pearce). Their act, well-known in Sydney, involves wearing lots of makeup and gowns and lip-synching to records, but Bernadette is getting a bit tired of it all and is also haunted by the bizarre death of an old loved one. Nevertheless, when Mitzi and Felicia get an offer to perform in the remote town of Alice Springs at a casino, Bernadette decides to tag along. The threesome ventures into the outback with Priscilla, a lavender-colored school bus that doubles as dressing room and home on the road. Along the way, the act encounters any number of strange characters, as well as incidents of homophobia, while Bernadette becomes increasingly concerned about the path her life has taken. ~ Don Kaye, All Movie Guide
The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert Extras
Watch Director Stephan Elliot talk about the film's iconic costumes.
An Interview with Priscilla Costume Designer Tim Chappel
| How much of costume design is your own inspiration / how much is inspired by the character?|
I rarely have creative free reign like I had on Priscilla. Priscilla was one of those rare situations where the powers that be said "Go for it". The characters are my babies. All design is meant to build character and help move the story along. Fortunately Mitzi, Felacia, and Bernardette were outrageous drag queens so that was not only easy bit great fun. Hard as it may seem, there are nuances that aren't obvious. For example when the queens are climbing Kings Canyon each of their headdresses are a distillation of their individual personalities. Bernardette is the Evil Queen, Mizti has lipsticks, rollers and pacifiers, and Felecia has Cupie dolls that are staring at themselves in little mirrors.
What is the process of physically rendering the costumes? Do you build them by hand? Work with a team? Hit vintage stores?
I usually begin by sketching roughs. Then once everyone has had their input - or cocked their leg as it seems more of the time, I do the finished sketches. These get signed off on literally becoming a visual contract. Then they get handed to the Costumier that builds a toile (a practice one). That gets fitted on the talent and we all um and ah--hopefully more ooh and ah if it's working well. Then we have a second fitting to perfect the fit and a final fitting to see the final project.
On Priscilla however I simply grabbed whatever I had around or worked out which costume could be sacrificed and started gluing and sewing and hoping for the best. If something started to break there was always the hot glue gun and a handful of glitter to disguise any lumps and bumps. The costumes were literally finished when they would tear them out of my hands.
Did any of the actors on Priscilla have any costume concerns? Was anyone concerned the costume would overpower their performance?
The actors were all good sports. Terence told us he wanted to look like Holly Golightly but he soon gave up on that idea. He actually looked quite beautiful at times I thought. There was a moment at Kings Canyon when Terrence said that something was bothering his forward and I looked over to see a single drop of blood run down his brow--whoops, with only $12,000 US there was no room for comfort.
What's the difference between cinematic fashion and street (real people) fashion? I.e., does it have to be "bigger" if it's on the screen?
There are lots of differences between what you wear on the street, on stage, or in stills. Each medium requires special attention. For example in film you have to find out what kind of film stock is being used, what kind of filters and the general visual feel that the production designer and cinematographer are trying to go for. Of course the Director is trying to convey very specific ideas and using texture, color and contrast your job is to build, along with your team, that visual statement.
The use of detail is also vital; sometimes you can't even see it but the actor will know its there and much detail, even though you can't literally see it, becomes absorbed in a more subconscious way.
In your opinion, who looked the most beautiful (lead roles) in drag, who was the most fun to work with?
They were all beauties. Guy Pearce had a background in musical theatre so he was prone to stealing the show. They were all great fun and still people I count as good friends.
Any idea the film would take off to become an enormous hit and cult classic as well as meaning so much to fans around the world?
We thought we were basically making a home movie; it wasn't until we had the 15-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival that we knew we had created a DRAG MONSTER!
Where did you get the inspiration and know-how regarding costumes? Was there research involved? How did you get involved in doing this movie?
I started with the music and let it send me in a delirious creative free fall and took notes as I spun. We got to have a buying trip to NYC in '92--WOW. I got to meet Girlina and Lasdy Bunny and all the voguing Queens--we were doing something totally different but Queens are trick everywhere aren't they.
I got involved because Stephan needed a Costume designer who could do everything: design, sew and wear--if necessary. I was working as one of a pair of male backup dancers (an "earring") for a drag-queen troupe called Glamourworld. I used to make all our costumes and we were pretty successful. We even toured Asia going to Hong Kong, Shanghai and Ho Chi Mihn city--all on DragOn Air. How funny is that?
What inspires you--what movies stand out to you as having great costumes?
It all goes in and just comes out this way. I don't consciously look for inspiration. I like to think of myself as a creative distillery.
If you could dress Oscar (of the Academy Awards) - what would you have him wear?
My Oscar was on display in Australia's National Gallery in an Exhibition called "The Sights and Sounds of Australian Film." Oscar had purple hair and a disco tube dress. I butchered a Rock and Roll Barbie. She didn't seem to mind 'cause Oscar looked roool perty!
Beyond The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert
The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
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