The Weinstein Company presents The Sapphires, which opens in U.S. theaters March 22. After watching the film, Whogottherole.com got a chance to sit down with director Wayne Blair and lead actress Jessica Mauboy to talk about why this sleeper film from Australia is getting so much international acclaim.
The Sapphires follow four aboriginals girls from rural Australia in the 1960s whose dream is to sing for a brighter future for their family, but have to face the racism and discrimination that’s gripping the nation. When the life changing opportunity arises, the women hit the road to sing for American Marines in Vietnam, their biggest stage yet. Inspired by a true story, The Sapphires is a triumphant celebration of self-discovery, family and music in the midst of overwhelming obstacles.
Along with Mauboy, the film stars Deborah Mailman, Shari Sebbens, Miranda Tapsell, Tory Kittles and Eka Darville.
Check out what Blair and Mauboy had to say about the film in the interview, below.
Why Make this movie and how important is this story to tell?
Wayne Blair We had a opportunity to share this story with the world. It was basically Tony Brigs’ moms story it was sell out stage story. It was politics in Australia at the time that we wanted to bring awareness to.
What’s the reaction back home?
Wayne Blair We made 15 million in Australia and it won 11 Academy Awards—Australian versions. So it’s been a great reaction. It’s sort of interesting to get four aboriginal girls into people lounge rooms, to get them to go see it, and a lot of non-indigenous audiences to go see it. Not just in the cities but in the country towns—In the deep south so to speak. It’s been a great reaction.
Back in Australia, did you guys hear about what was going on over here in America in terms of the racism?
Wayne Blair We did, you guys—the American Civil Rights movement was a great blue print for aboriginal activists in Australia. For example the Freedom rides of 1961, well that mirror in our freedom rise of 1965. Black and white students of the university of Sidney got on a bus and took it about to spread awareness and they did because of what Black people did here in America so successfully to raised awareness. We took a lot from the American Civil Rights movement. So yes it was well know and Dr. King dying was huge this person of color was changing the face of America and also changing the face of the world.
How exciting is this for you? Is The Sapphires your first film.
Jessica Mauboy This is my second film, but this is the big one. It was a big opportunity. I met with Wayne and it was quite nerve racking. But when I read the script if felt very much apart of the story very much apart of what my parents and all the stories that was passed down to me about aboriginal history.
How did these 4 girls come to like country music before soul music?
Wayne Blair They Definitely knew of it. Well Motown emerged in the 60s and country/western music had been around a little bit longer. Especially with Elvis as well and the whole Chuck Berry sort of stuff which is sort of county western rock. But we grew up with it, I grew up with Manny and Charlie Pride and he was country singer of color so our family was all over that stuff.
Where did you do most of your casting?
Wayne Blair I came to LA in the final stages and we cast Chris O’Dowd, and Tory Kittles. Kittles out of the US and O’Dowd out of the UK.
Wayne Blair These four?(Laughs) We went around Australia and seen over a hundred girls, over hundred auditions and We had them for about eight months and these girls had about four or five auditions each and we cut it down to about 6 girls and we worked them just to see the on screen chemistry. So yeah it took us about eight months.
What do you like more? Singing or acting?
Jessica Mauboy Well I’m currently writing in the studio at the moment here I’m working with one of your amazing producers. It’s been very supportive musically over here. I definitely feel very connected with music it’s something I want to do for a very long time. Film, if there is an opportunity, absolutely I would love to do an action film. You know.
Is it better to be here?
Jessica Mauboy The entertainment world in Australia is getting there, it’s growing and with this film we’re seeing a lot of change. So it’s been huge.
Is it more TV than film in Australia?
Wayne Blair Yeah, maybe. We could make 22 feature films a year and you guys could something like 300. How much work must be out here.(Laughs)
What’s next for you?
Wayne Blair I’m going to do a bit of TV when I get back to Australia, then on to the next feature film.