Press Archive

Night and Day (UK) | December 7th 2003

Warrior Queen
Miranda Otto tells David Vincent why she was perfect for the role of the film's female warrior, Eowyn.

It was a combination of femininity and steely determination that convinced The Lord Of The Rings director Peter Jackson to cat Miranda Otto as Eowyn, the white lady of Rohan, the largest female role in the trilogy.

'He wanted a pale-skinned, fair-haired woman who could switch between being feminine and having an aggressive physical presence,' she says casting her strawberry- blond hair behind her.

For a moment she looks like something straight out of a Rossetti painting's pre Raphaelite damsel who just happens to have a penchant for slaughtering ocrs when no one is watching.

In Return Of The King, the battle scenes at Pelennor Fields, Minas Tirth and the Black Gate are larger and more brutal than in The Two Towers and Eowyn once again joins the fray, this time taking hobbit Merry with her

'Eowyn is such a perversion of the type of woman you would expect to see in this sort of story,' says Otto. 'When Arragon arrives, you think, OK, this is just going to be a love story, but it is not. It is a tragic story of loss and victory. Instead of having a knight in shining armour save her, she becomes her own knight in shining armour. She saves herself and others. It was easy to identify with her because, although I seem like a feminine person on the outside, on the inside I'm strong- willed.'

In Return Of The King, Otto handles the duality of her role- woman and warrior with aplomb. She is one of the most talented actresses of her generation and it is no wonder Jackson describes her as his 'secret weapon'. The film will undoubtedly give her the worldwide recognition she deserves.

Born in Brisbane, Otto, 35, spent her childhood dividing her time between her father's house in Sydney and her mother's in the industrial town of Newcastle, Queensland. Both parents were actors- Barry Otto is something of a veteran of the Australian acting fraternity, and starred in Strictly Ballroom.

At 17, she landed the title role in the film Emma's War, and she has never looked backed. Hollywood came calling, but there were a few false starts. She had minor roles in Terence Malick's The Thin Red Line and In What Lies Beneath, and just missed out on Cameron Diaz's role in Being John Malkovich. Now with her performance in The Return Of The King, Otto is firmly on the Hollywood A list. Nevertheless, she is adamant that that she and her husband of less then a year, actor Peter O'Brien, will not become sucked into the Hollywood lifestyle. They are about to up sticks and move from their current home in Australia - but are headed for London, not Los Angeles.

The couple married in Sydney just eight months after their first date. Now there is tentative talk of children in a few years time. She is also living life to the full - during the shooting of The Return Of The King, she drank quite a few of her fellow actors under the table.

'It's a complete blur.' she says. 'We certainly went out a lot at weekends. We'd just drink and dance.'

Looking at Otto's skin- it has a luminescent pallor- you'd think that she was tucked up in bed by 9pm every evening with a glass of warm milk. Her flawless complexion is part of the reason why, despite being 35, she is often cast in much younger roles.

'I'm so fair that I didn't go in the sun as a child.' she says 'When all my friends were on the beach, I was going to ballet. The teachers there didn't like you going in the sun, so I never did.'

Now, there are plenty of directors lining up to work with her, and she has already signed up for her next film, The Flight Of The Phoenix, an action thriller set in the Mongolian desert, in which she stars along side Dennis Quaid.

The only other thing that slightly concerns her is the British paparazzi. 'I've heard stories that they try and photograph up your dress as you get out of a car,' she says 'I've been warned,' ''Make sure you keep your legs together.'' I've been practising for the London premiere. So paparazzi, don't even try it.

Thanks to Danae for typing up the article.