Sarah Snook will return home to Adelaide this September for an exhibition of the opulent costumes of The Dressmaker. The Adelaide Review speaks with Snook about The Dressmaker and her continuing rise in the acting world.
The Dressmaker Exhibition, which showcases more than 50 of Marion Boyce and Margot Wilson’s intricate and opulent costumes from the film, will come to Adelaide this month after successful turns all across the country. Snook holds an intimate connection with the wardrobe on display as she wore many of the more than 50 of costumes exhibited.
“I’ll be joining the exhibition since my character in the film has probably the greatest transformation from dowdy wallflower into glossy swan, a lot of the costumes were custom,” Snook says. “Marion made a lot of costumes for me, and because of that, a lot of them feature in the exhibition.”
While The Dressmaker is a period piece set in the decidedly unglamorous Australian outback, Snook believes the world of ‘dressing up’ is as important and transformative in the world today as it was back then.
“It certainly changes how people perceive you, which is super weird and interesting,” she says. “I think people unconsciously choose what they wear by how they want to be perceived by the outside world, and whether that is going, ‘I don’t care – I just wear whatever I want,’ that’s still an active choice to be perceived by the outside world as that.”
While ‘dressing for success’ is a relevant experience in daily life, Snook says that simply changing one’s outward appearance is not necessarily a life-changing factor.
Her character Gertrude undergoes a seismic shift in perception throughout the film as a result of her new style, but Snook says that while she is seen differently, her true qualities still manage to shine through. “Gertrude says “A dress can’t change anything” and it’s really like the opposite is true. Unfortunately for Gertrude it doesn’t necessarily change your soul and your personality if you’re a bad egg already,” Snook laughs.
While The Dressmaker will see its US release this month, Snook has been busy on a multitude of projects across the globe. She has just wrapped production on the Hollywood adaptation of Jeanette Walls’ memoir The Glass Castle, where she will star alongside Brie Larson, Naomi Watts and Woody Harrelson, and earlier this year starred in a production of The Master Builder at London’s Old Vic with Ralph Fiennes.
Yet while her star is rising, Snook’s feet remain firmly and humbly on the ground. She says these experiences, and past roles in films such as Steve Jobs alongside world-famous actors are “weird”. “It all feels very fresh, and strange you know. You just do it. Take every day as it arises and keep looking around to see how odd it all is.” She recounts an anecdote from her time filming The Glass Castle where she attended Woody Harrelson’s birthday party. As Snook and her co-stars playing the Walls family were all redheads, they decided to get Harrelson a unique gift to remember them by.
“We ended up getting him a card that had this monkey with red hair on it – just a stupid card, you know, but it’s like, what do you get Woody Harrelson for his birthday? And he opened it and was like, ‘Thanks, guys…’”
Snook seems somewhat surprised at her own ascension in the acting world, but it would appear that her critics are not. Snook’s performances are as widely praised in her Australian work as they are overseas. Most recently,
The Telegraph described her work in The Master Builder as “infinitely complex”. Asked whether this “complexity” is something Snook strives for in selecting roles, she is circumspect. “A role that demonstrates a level of complexity is something I’m more attracted too, yes, of course,” she says, “I mean hopefully, if the script’s not a dog, I’d like to be able to bring complexity to a character that I think is a human in the first place.” “That’s why I like the job,” Snook continues.
“Humans are so weird. We say one thing and do another, or try and do one thing and think we’re being whatever we think we’re being, and we’re being the opposite. That’s fascinating. How do we not learn from seeing other people do that?”
A rare luxury for any actor, Snook is blessed with a wide choice of roles and opportunities both at home and abroad. For the moment she is happily settled in Melbourne, but won’t rule out a shift to the US.
“It’s nice to have a lot of choice, but that can be debilitating in the same way that not much choice can,” she says, “Too much choice can be a bad thing sometimes. I’m just seeing what the next step is and where the wind will take me. I’m trying not to grip too hard, you know – just to let it happen.”
The Dressmaker Costume Exhibition Presented by National Trust of South Australia in association with Film Art Media Thursday, September 1 to Sunday, December 11 Ayers House Museum dressmakerexhibition.com.au