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Melissa George in Metro

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Melissa George

by Andrew Williams, February 9th, 2006

Australian actress Melissa George first found fame in Britain as teenage mother Angel in soap Home And Away. She moved to Los Angeles in 1999 and has appeared in TV series Alias plus films including Mulholland Drive, The Limey and the recent remake of The Amityville Horror. Her latest offering is the Jennifer Aniston thriller Derailed, which is on release now.

Why are Australians doing so well in Hollywood now?

We don't take no for an answer, especially Australian women - maybe because of how the country was created - and we're definitely fighters. When everything's bad, we laugh it off. There's a lot of competition in Hollywood but when we, the Australian actresses I'm friends with in Los Angeles, don't get a part, we just say: 'They weren't ready for us yet' and shrug it off. It also helps that we speak English and just have to change our accents.

Australian soap stars used to go into European pop rather than American films - did you think of taking that route?

I had my share of offers when Angel, my character on Home And Away, was at the peak of her popularity. I got an offer from RCA - it's so funny - because the guy who offered me the deal was Simon Cowell. He was begging me to be a popstar. He really didn't care what I sounded like, which is funny looking back, seeing as American Idol's supposed to be about finding this great singer.

Did he have any songs in mind? He makes all his acts sing Unchained Melody.

I don't remember. He played me stuff in his office and I just remember standing there thinking: 'Is he for real?' I was only 17; I didn't even realise who it was until my manager reminded me last year.

Why didn't you take up the offer?

I've loved Kylie ever since I can remember and it was good for her but, for me, the passion was when they called 'action' and 'cut'. The journey of the human spirit and telling stories gave me a rush. I remember saying to RCA that if they made me the lead in a film, I'd do the soundtrack for them but they just looked at me blankly. I can't sing either, which was another good reason.

Do you mind when people recognise you from Home And Away?

No, it's great. I was on that show with Heath Ledger, Guy Pearce, Julian McMahon and Dannii Minogue - there were so many successful people on it. It's nice that people remember Home And Away but now, because of Alias and Amityville, I've got fans who are teenagers who have never heard of it.

You were in many pilot shows for American TV that didn't get picked up. Was that frustrating?

That's not right. All the pilots I made did get picked up. Kiefer Sutherland and I were about to do a TV series of LA Confidential but they cancelled it five days before filming started, so the pilot was picked up, but the series didn't happen. I got paid in full. The same thing happened with a series called Hollyweird - that was the most well-received pilot episode that year - which was also cancelled the week before shooting. I got paid again. The networks cancelled those shows when they realised it would cost them £1.7million per episode.

Simon Cowell was begging me to be a popstar. He really didn't care what I sounded like

Was it annoying?

Yes, in a way. But when LA Confidential was cancelled, I got Mulholland Drive. Then, when I finished Alias - my character was written out for being too evil - I got Friends, so everything comes with a positive spin.

Do you enjoy doing comedy?

It stressed me out. I like comedy when it's part of a drama and the character just happens to do something funny. I don't enjoy the pressure of being in a broad comedy and having to deliver the laughs. If you tend to be slightly attractive, they don't think you're funny; if you're quirky-looking, then you're funny.

You used to be a champion rollerskater - have you used those skills professionally?

No. So far, it hasn't come in handy, which sucks. I'm going to Oregon to shoot a film that's set in the 1970s and they've written a scene set in a roller disco, so I'm sure I'll get my skates out. It's about a Vietnam veteran who was the first campaigner to get ramps put in restaurants and things for disabled people. It's very heartfelt and moving.

60 SECONDS EXTRA!: We last saw you in Amityville - do you believe in the supernatural?

No. I've got an 'if I see it, I'll believe it' approach and so far I haven't seen anything. It was a fun film to make, though, because there were so many theories about what actually went on in the real-life version of the house.

60 SECONDS EXTRA!: Is it true you're learning Spanish because you want to be in a Pedro Almodovar film? How's it going?

It's going fantastically. I've got a stepdaughter who speaks Spanish, so we speak it all the time in the house. I'm not fluent yet, though. It's hard when you're from Australia; we just tend to speak English and that's it. The Spanish came in handy learning Portuguese for the film I just did in Brazil - they sent us to school for a month to learn the language.

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