The Justice of Bunny King interview (The Age)

Jojo Rabbit star says Justice of Bunny King is the story of many women

Thomasin McKenzie is somewhere in Auckland, sitting out a fortnight of quarantine for the third time in her young life. This is where she will turn 21, which is hardly every young Kiwi’s dream, but part of the deal for an internationally feted actor; McKenzie’s face is familiar as the young Jewish hideaway in Taika Waititi’s Oscar-winning Jojo Rabbit. Not that McKenzie is the complaining kind. “It depends on the day, where you are at mentally, how well you deal with it,” she says. “But most of the time I’m trying to take advantage of it: to get my affairs in order, you could say, and just figure out where I am in life.”

Also, she says brightly, her father has volunteered to isolate with her; he is in the room next door. Having your dad next door round the clock might not be every young person’s dream either but she says she just feels lucky. Both her parents are notable New Zealand actors; her mother is Miranda Harcourt and her father Stuart McKenzie, who writes and directs, and is her professional mentor. “It’s great for me to have him here. Probably not so great for him. That’s how dedicated he is!” They’re planning a fun 21st, no matter what.

We’re Zooming, of course. Her camera is turned off. She has recently been working on an animated series, she says; one of its chief attractions for her was that she didn’t have to worry about how she looked. “I really think that that is part of it. It’s a real luxury not to have to go through hours of make-up or costume. You can turn up looking completely like a mess. As I usually do in quarantine.” I’ll have to take her word on that.

Top of our agenda is The Justice of Bunny King, the first feature by New Zealand filmmaker Gaysorn Thavat, who came to directing by way of cinematography. Essie Davis stars as the eponymous Bunny, as a woman down on her luck but irrepressibly spirited; we first see her spongeing car windows on an Auckland intersection, working with a cheerful gang of Maori lads half her age.

It gradually emerges that Bunny has been in prison. Unable to find a real job or a house, she is sleeping on her sister’s couch and serving as chief skivvy to her family in return for their largesse. Her own beloved children are in care; she is allowed to see them only under supervision at her assigned social worker’s office “She’s one woman, but it’s actually the story of many women,” says Thavat. “It’s a really common story we have here in New Zealand.”

McKenzie plays her niece Tonyah, whose story is also distressingly common: as Bunny discovers, her stepfather is abusing her. Tonyah says very little, about that or anything else; her shame and fear is in her walk, her glance and in her silence. McKenzie was comfortable with that. “Sometimes verbally I struggle to express myself in my personal life, so it felt quite natural to me to be leaning more on body language,” she says. “And Tonyah is a character who is bottling her emotions up, partly because she just feels very ashamed.” When Bunny is thrown out of the house, accused of making trouble, Tonyah comes too. Bunny may be erratic and combustible but she is a safe place.

Davis and McKenzie were already a team; McKenzie had played Davis’s daughter-in-law in Justin Kurzel’s The True History of the Kelly Gang. “I love Essie, she is such a big presence I think, she has so much strength and grit and life inside of her that it is a real treat to be a scene partner with her,” says McKenzie. “She just draws you in.”

On Bunny King, remembers director Thavat, McKenzie arrived on set only a day before she had to start shooting; there was no time to discuss her approach. “But Thomasin is an amazingly talented actress,” she says. “You can really just put a camera on her and roll. The best thing you can do as a director is let her spin her magic and not get in the way.” When the film was shown at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York in June, the two actresses received a special mention by the judges of the festival’s Nora Ephron Award for women filmmakers.

McKenzie came to the world’s notice only three years ago, when she came to the Cannes Film Festival as the young star of Debra Granik’s Leave No Trace. It was the story of a father and daughter who live in the woods of Oregon. Ben Foster played her father, a former soldier with PTSD that makes living in a house unbearable, while she was compelling as a child of the woods, as diligent as a beaver and as watchful as a faun.

When she spoke, it was with the drawl of the Pacific North-West. It was a shock afterwards to hear her speak in her real voice, the vocal equivalent of hokey-pokey ice-cream. After doing so many accents for different films, she believes her own accent must have shifted. “A lot of people have been telling me recently that I’ve got a very subtle, soft Kiwi accent, which I feel insulted by!” Don’t worry, I say. They’re lying.

McKenzie had never been overseas before, let alone to such a grand event. From her home in Wellington, she travelled with her parents across America to Heathrow Airport in London, where she got into trouble. “In my carry-on, I had a bullet I’d completely forgotten about,” she says, as if this were something anyone might do. A bullet? You were carrying a bullet? “I’d picked it up on my boyfriend’s farm as a memento and put it in the pocket of my bag and then forgotten about it. it was one of the stupidest things I think I’ve ever done in my life but there you go.”

By the end of this year, McKenzie will have three major films launched into the world – Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog, Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho and the recently released Old, by M. Night Shyamalan. That’s a whiff of the awards season, right there. Her forthcoming birthday could be seen as a time for taking stock, deciding what she wants to be as an adult.

“Hmm,” she says dubiously. “I think I’m figuring that out as I go. A couple of the films I’ve done recently have really reminded me how important it is to stay in the moment and stay present, so what I’m trying to do these days is just take things as they come.” As long as she goes on acting, she adds. “My ultimate goal in life is to be in a Miyazaki film. My Neighbour Totaro (1988) is the film I always go to if I’m not feeling so good or missing home.” To voice the English version of a Japanese animation: is there an actor in the world with such a modest ultimate goal? It’s as Kiwi as the bullet story.

She knows she has missed out on some of the waymarks of youth, such as the school formal and going to university, though she hopes to go sometime; she is interested in so many things, from Greek myths to biology. What about campus life? “I have missed out on some of those things but I’ve never wished I wasn’t doing what I’m doing. When I go home to Wellington I get to spend time with friends and do those things that are, as you say, specific to this time of life. But I also think that through acting, you get to experience such a huge range of things. I’ve lived through so many different lives. I feel pretty satisfied with that.”

Turning the tables on homelessness

Homelessness is a growing problem in Australia as well as New Zealand. In 2016, the ABS estimated there are 25,000 homeless people in Victoria, with the majority dossing in overcrowded houses. A state standing committee report into homelessness in March found that while the biggest group were young, there was a growing cohort of older women with no money and nowhere to go. Behind the figures must be hundreds of human dramas but there are very few films on the subject. “Which is odd, don’t you think?” asks Gaysorn Thavat, director of The Justice of Bunny King.

Her film has often been compared to Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake. “He wasn’t homeless but he was on his way to it – it shows the process of how it happens.” But Loach had already made the definitive film on the subject: Cathy Come Home, a BBC Wednesday Play, in 1966. Cathy and her husband are forced from one home after another and finally lose their children. The play was watched by a quarter of the British population, led to a public outcry and the formation of the homeless charity Crisis, and has since been voted the most influential television program of all time.


Harper’s Bazaar: Thomasin McKenzie Is Wasting No Time

The star of M. Knight Shyamalan’s new thriller, Old, defies the adage that youth is wasted on the young.

Thomasin McKenzie is only 21 years old, but lately she’s been thinking a lot about the passing of time. “I think I’m someone who really struggles to be in the moment,” says the actress, who stars in Old, the new M. Night Shyamalan thriller. Recently, at her father’s urging, McKenzie took up meditation. (Sam Harris’s Waking Up is her favorite guided app.) Working on Old, the story of a family whose tropical island vacation turns terrifying when everyone suddenly begins to age rapidly (their life spans each reduced to a single day), helped put things in perspective too. “It made me think a lot about being present and taking each thing as it comes.”

For McKenzie, time is a recurring theme right now. In Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho, a psychological thriller in which she stars opposite Anya Taylor-Joy, due out in October, she plays a young woman who is mysteriously transported back to Swinging London in the 1960s. In Life After Life, the BBC’s upcoming four-part adaptation of Kate Atkinson’s novel of the same name, McKenzie’s character dies and is reborn several times over the course of six decades. “Maybe I’m just supposed to be thinking about time these days,” she muses. “Maybe the universe is trying to tell me something.”

McKenzie auditioned with Shyamalan for her role in Old over Zoom. It was the early days of the pandemic, and she was hunkered down in her native Wellington, New Zealand. “It was quite awkward,” she recalls. “But obviously it went good enough for him.” McKenzie then had two hours to read the script in its entirety as Shyamalan’s projects are famously shrouded in secrecy. “It’s thought-provoking and unlike anything I’d ever read or seen before,” she says. And while a Zoom audition may have been new territory for McKenzie, acting is in her blood: Her mom is actor and drama coach Miranda Harcourt, her father is the writer and director Stuart McKenzie, and her maternal grandmother is actor Kate Harcourt. The third of four children, McKenzie grew up on far-flung movie sets around the world, from Philadelphia to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands. “I think if my family weren’t in the film industry, my life would have been completely different,” she says. “It’s really formed who I am as a person.”

McKenzie herself started acting when she was nine, learning through osmosis rather than through any formal training. Initially, though, she wanted nothing to do with the family business. “I knew that it wasn’t as glamorous a job as you might expect from the outside,” she says. “I wanted to be anything else.” It wasn’t until she was 13, when she played a younger version of sexual-abuse survivor and activist Louise Nicholas in the 2014 film Consent, that she saw the power of storytelling to effect change and decided to pursue acting as a career. “It was a really tough role, and that opened my eyes to the fact that through acting, you get a chance to have a voice.”

It was after starring in Debra Granik’s 2018 film Leave No Trace that McKenzie’s career began to take off. (Granik has a reputation as a star-maker; her 2010 drama, Winter’s Bone, featured a then-little-known actress by the name of Jennifer Lawrence.) A string of critically acclaimed projects followed—David Michôd’s The King; Liz Garbus’s Lost Girls; and Taika Waititi’s Oscar-winning Jojo Rabbit among them. McKenzie’s measured performances consistently stand out, subtle—quiet even—yet soulful and impactful.

McKenzie is building her career by studiously choosing projects that have emotional heft and telegraph larger messages. She’s a compulsive over-preparer. “I’m always scrambling to watch the things that they’re talking about, just so that I come off smart or whatever,” she tells me.

Before filming Last Night in Soho, the director, Wright, sent her a list of some 50 films—horror, classic, and cult, mainly—as suggested viewing to add context and reference points to McKenzie’s preparation; she made it through most of them. “Education is still happening, I feel,” she says. “I’m still learning a lot with every single thing I do.”


Multiple “Old” video interviews

Photoshoot outtakes from 2018 & 2019

I added photoshoot outtakes to two albums in the gallery. Click on the gallery links below to see all new photos.

Thomasin McKenzie on M. Night Shyamalan’s ‘Old’ and Her Amazing and Surreal Past Two Years

Filming outside Basingstoke church for BBC drama Life After Life

I added 15 new photos to the gallery of Thomasin filming outside Basingstoke church for BBC drama Life After Life on 28 June. Click on the gallery link below to see all photos.

Old – Official Trailer

Jane Campion’s Netflix Film ‘The Power of the Dog’ to World Premiere at Venice

Jane Campion, a Cannes legend who remains the only female director to have won the Palme d’Or with “The Piano,” will have her latest drama “The Power of the Dog” world premiere in competition at the Venice Film Festival.

A Netflix Original, “The Power of the Dog” stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons. The movie’s screenplay was penned by Campion, based on the 1967 novel of the same name by Thomas Savage.

Set in the 1920s, the film is about a pair of wealthy Montana brothers, Phil (Cumberbatch) and George Burbank. Phil is brilliant and cruel, while George is fastidious and gentle. Together, they are joint owners of the biggest ranch in their Montana valley. When George secretly marries local widow Rose (Dunst), an angry Phil wages a relentless war to destroy her by using her son Peter as a pawn. Pic is produced by BBC Films, Campion’s Bright Star banner and See-Saw Films.

The Venice Film Festival declined to comment.

Campion is no stranger to Venice, where she premiered “An Angel at My Table,” which won the fest’s Grand Jury Prize in 1990, three years before her “Piano” Palm.

Variety understands that “The Power of the Dog” had been invited to world premiere out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival but Netflix opted instead to have it unspool at Venice, where the

film can compete. As per a rule set by its administration board, the Cannes Film Festival can’t invite films in competition if they don’t have a local theatrical release planned.

Ultimately, Netflix wasn’t willing to have the movie open theatrically in France in order to get a competition slot at Cannes, and an out of competition slot wasn’t deemed a good enough option, either — even if Cannes chief Thierry Fremaux had vowed to welcome Netflix back to the festival with a glamorous gala premiere.

From Venice, Netflix will also bow Paolo Sorrentino’s personal drama “The Hand of God,” another prestige original that marks “The Great Beauty” director’s return to making a film set, and shot, in his native Naples, 20 years after his feature debut “One Man Up” in 2001.

The Lido in recent years has developed a close rapport with the U.S. streaming giant, having launched, among other titles, Alfonso Cuaron’s semi-autobiographical “Roma,” which won the Golden Lion in 2018 and went on to win 3 Oscars, and Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story” in 2019, which scooped one Academy Award that year.

While Venice is ideally positioned at the start of the awards season (“Nomadland” premiered in Venice last year and went on to win the best picture Oscar), Cannes is still revered as the world’s biggest film festival and has served as a prestige launchpad for many Oscar-winning films over the years, including Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite,” which received the Palme d’Or in 2019 and made history by becoming the first foreign language film to win a best picture Oscar.

As previously revealed by Variety, Venice will also host the highly anticipated world premiere of Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune” reboot from Warner Bros.

The 78th edition of Venice is scheduled to run Sept. 1-11 as a full-fledged physical event. Bong Joon-ho will preside over the main jury.


Last Night in Soho trailer

Welcome to Thomasin McKenzie Fan, the latest online resource dedicated to the talented NZ actress Thomasin McKenzie. Thomasin has been in TV shows like "End of Term", "Shortland Street", "Bright Summer Night" and "Lucy Lewis Can't Lose". She has also been in films such as "Leave No Trace", "Jojo Rabbit", "Last Night in Soho", "Old" and "The Justice of Bunny King". This site is online to show our support to the actress Thomasin McKenzie, as well as giving her fans a chance to get the latest news and images.
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