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 ama... more »zement 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. --Tom Keogh 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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Entertaining, rewatchable ... a feast of colours too
William | Australia | 07/04/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"1994 was a big year for Aussie films. PRISCILLA and MURIEL'S WEDDING came out at the same time, and both earned a cult following because of their over-the-top themes. Also, an ABBA revival was happening at that time, and these films featured ABBA music.PRISCILLA has many funny moments, but what makes it so special is the fantastic scenery and colours - truly showcasing Australia's beautiful outback. Overall, the film is a pleasure to watch again and again. It tells the tale of three drag queens who set out across the Australian outback in an old bus affectionally titled "Priscilla". Along the way, they become involved in many outrageous situations. DVD SUMMARY - Originally released as an awful blotchy pan/scan DVD in Australia, the film recently received the treatment it deserved for its 10 year anniversary! Yes, it was recently in it's correct aspect ratio (2:35) and given an anamorphic transfer. While this new transfer is still not 100% pristine (white flecks here and there), it is still a huge improvement on the original DVD release. It's fantastic to see this film in all its widescreen glory after all these years. The colours and scenery will blow you away. The soundtrack has also been remixed in DTS and 5.1 surround sound. This 10 Year Anniversary also contains lots of special features, which is amazing for a film of its age. The bad news is that the new DVD (in pink packaging) is only available in Australia. I recommend overseas buyers getting hold of this version over the current American DVD. The American DVD is only letterbox transfer (ie. not anamorphic) and doesn't include the special features."
A thoroughly enjoyable and shockingly likable film
Robert Moore | Chicago, IL USA | 07/31/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A film like this sinks or swims with the casting of the leads, and luckily, all three main actors are absolutely superb. I have to confess that I hadn't really liked Hugo Weaving before seeing this film. I disliked his role as "Agent Smith" in THE MATRIX, and barely noticed his "Elrond" in THE LORD OF THE RINGS. But I liked him enormously in this one. Of the three leads, he was probably the best and most enthusiastic drag performer. I had previously seen Guy Pearce in L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, RAVENOUS, and MEMENTO, but I have to say that this is probably his finest performance. I have always been a Terence Stamp fan, and I have to say that, unlike the other two actors, he makes a dreadful looking transsexual. Nonetheless, the quiet self-possession and dignity with which his character conducts herself helps Stamp dominate most of the scenes in which he appears. Interestingly, although he plays a post op transsexual, he continues in his performance to speak in a relatively deep, masculine tone. One of the most enjoyable things about the film is seeing the way that the three performers gradually change in the way they interrelate with the others. The most brilliant thing about this film is that at no point does it succumb to the slightest tinge of self-parody or irony. The director as well as the three leads all take their characters with the utmost seriousness, so that the film ends up not being a film about drag queens, but about three individual who just happen to be drag queens, a subtle but crucial distinction. Most of all the film is fun. There are many, many over-the-top moments, and not every one succeeds, but most do. The script is superb, the scenery striking, and the music fun, even if most of the songs are, in one sense, outright wretched."
"A reviewer below said the movie will leave you with "soaring spirits" -- so true! This Australian-drag-queens-on-a-road-trip-with-a-purpose flick will appeal to homos and heteros alike, assuming open minds from both camps. For me the movie brought both laughter and tears of joy -- one of those rare flicks to inspire almost universal goodwill-to-mankind in its viewers. As has been said before (but not enough times), Stamp's performance is brilliant, bringing the right combination of sensitivity, humor, and realism to a character you won't meet on the sidewalk every day. Guy Pearce is a marvelous beauty, out of drag as well as in, and he, too, plays his part extremely well. The ABBA background music complements the darkly fizzy goings-on onscreen. Though the protagonists confront challenges and enemies throughout, including among themselves, the world in which their colorful road trip takes place is benevolent enough to allow them a cheerful ending. That's not the outcome that would be expected in real life -- so let's give a round of applause to the moviemakers for departing from real life. Entertaining and uplifting, this one's a keeper."
"Cult Classic" : Priscilla Eats "Wong Foo" for Breakfast !
Graham Douglas Lincoln | Louisville, KY | 02/19/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Terence Stamp, as a Transexual...need I say more? OK...I will: "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" is a wonderful, frollicking (or is it "frocking?") Adventure. Terence Stamp (of "The Hunger") is fabulous as an aging transexual, with bitter views and a sarcastic, biting sense of humor. His fellow(ette) travelers are performers, en route to the show of their lifetime, across the desert land of Australia....bickering and cat-fighting the entire way. Some of the banter is obviously a politically incorrect portrayal of gay men--the lines are often inspired by the worst-case scenario of gay men bickering--yet, I've met a few of those guys, in real life...so, the PC people will need to suspend their sense of appropriateness and enjoy the entertainment. This is NOT just a movie for "gay culture," as some people think. Straight couples enjoy the film and there are many hilarious scenes that couples can appreciate, together. There are some very Dramatic episodes that make the film more than a Comedy and aspire to give you an understanding of the sub-culture and humanity of the characters (despite personal prejudices). Besides, let's put the Anthropological Dissertation aside and get down to the core of the matter.... "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" is a great movie!Wait'll you see what one Lady likes to do with Ping-Pong Balls ; )"
Andy Orrock | Dallas, TX | 04/28/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Priscilla" is now approaching its 10th anniversary. Rather than comment on the movie itself, I'd like to pay tribute to the amazing triumverate of actors at the center of the story. Because as time goes on, it becomes more and more notable that these three appeared together.Hugo Weaving ("Tick" / Mitzi) - Later becomes Agent Smith in "The Matrix" and Elrond in "Lord of the Rings"...i.e., only becomes a central figure in two of the largest franchises in movie-making history.Guy Pearce (Adam / Felicia) - Later becomes Leonard Shelby in "Memento" (and robbed of an Oscar nomination) and Ed Exley in "LA Confidential" (thought he was better there than Russell Crowe). Plus, he's a legend in Australia for his 1986 - 1990 part in the TV series "Neighbours" (where, most notably) he suited up next to Kylie Minogue).Terence Stamp - (Ralph / Bernadette) - Finest actor of his generation? Perhaps. Later becomes Wilson in "The Limey" (don't miss that), Terry Stricter (founder of Scientology-like 'Mindhead' in the under-rated Steve Martin-penned 'Bowfinger'). Also famous to US audiences as General Zod in the Superman series. Career began as 'Billy Budd' back in the 1962 (!) Peter Ustinov classic.Also here: Bill Hunter, outstanding as usual, as Bernadette's beau "Bob." To me, Hunter was the high point of "Strictly Ballroom" (as Federation President, Barry Fife). Wow, what a great actor. It's wonderful to see this collection of actors, especially in such risk-taking roles. Especially Stamp, whose career has been hallmarked by intensely masculine roles. He has talked at length in various venues (e.g., 'Fresh Air' with Terry Gross) about his trepidation of playing Bernadette & the freedom he felt once he pulled it off.So, if you've never seen 'Priscilla' before or don't think it would be your cup of tea, hopefully, I've given you four reasons here to rent or buy it today."