MIRANDA TAPSELL Planning a Top End Wedding

Top End Wedding
is the new Australian romantic comedy about Lauren (Miranda Tapsell) and Ned (Gwilym Lee), a young couple that have 10 days to plan their dream wedding. However their plans are thrown into disarray when Lauren’s mother goes AWOL, and Lauren and Ned travel the Northern Territory in search of her. DAVID O’CONNELL spoke to actor and co-writer of Top End Wedding, Miranda Tapsell, about rom-coms, the Territory, and Janet Jackson.

What inspired Top End Wedding?

I met my friend (my co-writer) Josh Tyler when we were teaching acting students. And I figured out that he loves rom-coms, just as much as me. So, we became friends, because we were quoting movie quotes back and forth at each other, and then he told me that have been up to my hometown of Darwin in the Northern Territory. I thought that was amazing, because not many people I’ve made friends with, have actually been up to the Northern territory. It was refreshing to hear how much he loved it. And then he came to me and said, “why don’t you set a film up in the Northern Territory?” I found that hard to resist.

Did you give a nod to any of those rom-coms here?

I don’t think there’s any films that we give a nod to, it’s more the general tropes across the board, and the hilarity that ensues when you get people together for a wedding. Also in the fact that many families invest themselves in the wedding, and the two people getting married. I really, really, wanted that to be the heart of the film.

Was this the first script that you’ve co-written?

Yes. I’ve often dabbled in writing, but would be too hypercritical of myself to continue on. But, because Josh and I were this incredible team, and we had this great rapport, it was because of him that gave me the confidence delve into what I knew so well. And that was the Territory and my love rom-coms.

How would you describe Lauren as a character?

Lauren is a very driven and ambitious young woman, but she’s also very insecure and indecisive. It’s because she has Ned, that she can get through the day to day life in Adelaide. I think what’s the so great about the heart of the story, and what speaks to so many people, is that you can never get by without that sense of belonging. And Lauren finds as in Top End Wedding.

Of course Ned himself is a broken character. They’ve both got that sense of belonging to each other and family.

Absolutely, absolutely, yes. I think what’s a great is because Ned understands that, he’s willing to go on that journey with her.

What was it like filming the dance sequence to (Janet Jackson song) Escapade?

To get a Janet song is really really difficult. She barely says “yes” to any usage in film.

So how did you do it?

The producers asked me to write a letter to Janet Jackson, so I completely fan-girled her. It got back to Sony, and the producers came back to me and said Miss Jackson says “yes”. And I completely lost my mind.

How was it to perform the routine?

I just really wanted to do a fun dancing because I think it was really important to me to show a fun side to Lauren, because she’s actually quite straight-laced when she’s in Adelaide. I wanted to show her free, and that her sisters, and aunts, her cudgerie, really get behind and support her.

That’s really the first glance you get behind that facade for the character, is her hanging with her sisters..

Absolutely. I think anyone that’s organised a wedding understands of pressures that come along with that and I think everyone understands family dynamics. So many people, from different backgrounds, have been able to find parallels with Lauren and Ned’s story. That’s important to me.

One of the big things about this film is the locations of the Northern Territory. Was there any one location that you really wanted to show off on the big screen?

No that’s the thing. When Josh suggested we do a road trip film it gave me the opportunity to show off all the places that I’ve grown up in. I was born in Darwin I grew up in Kakadu I’ve been a Catherine multiple times at school camp and I have family on the Tiwi Islands. So it’s really the best way to show the best of all those places. I’m so glad that so many people felt that they were transported to all those places in the film.

I not sure how long you had to shoot the film, but it must have been a hectic shoot, traveling so much?

We had six weeks, which was crazy. And there was a real sense of camaraderie between the cast and the crew. Everyone is it it to make the film a joy. I love that there was complete selflessness to the way the film was being made. People willing to carry heavy equipment over rocks and go to all these isolated places because they knew how special and unique the territory was. Like nothing else in the world and celebrated in such a joyous way.

Gwilym (Lee) was so eager to come over. He was seeing the territory through these new eyes. So were so many of the crew. I really took it for granted when I was growing up. I’m so glad they saw the beauty in it.

What was it like playing next to the Brian May from Bohemian Rhapsody?

I know, I know. I don’t think many people who are his fans recognise him without the perm. It fits him very well, but I’m so glad he found the time to rip it off and get over to the Territory.

Obviously it was a bit of a Sapphires reunion as well, with Wayne Blair as the director…

Yeah… The Sapphires, Cleverman… he’s also done some stuff in the US as well, the TV adaption of Dirty Dancing. So we’ve grown as creatives since The Sapphires. It’s great to come back and have this shorthand, I guess. It makes the process a lot more enjoyable.

What’s it like sitting in an audience and watching them react to something that you’ve written?

It really warms my heart, especially last night in Sydney, with so many Darwin people in the audience. It was just like a rock concert. So great. So many people were touched by the generosity of film, and the importance of family inherent in the story. It was a really, really, touching night, and I was quite overwhelmed by it.

What’s next for you?

I’ve just wrapped on The Dry, with Eric Bana, which is the film adaptation of the Jane Harper book. And later this year I’ll be the voice of an adorable ring-tail possum called Kerry, in a family animation called The Wishmas Tree.