For a young woman of a certain age, kissing Harry Potter might seem a dream come true. But for 23-year-old Melbourne actor Lily Sullivan, locking lips with Daniel Radcliffe was only one of several awkward moments while shooting new film Jungle.
“On the first day, he and I got back to the house where we were all staying, had a lovely chat and then when we went to say goodnight, I accidentally called him Harry,” Lily says. “He laughed, but all I could say was I’d known Harry for 12 years and him I’d only just met.”
Needless to say, her friends were extraordinarily jealous of her Potter pash. But Lily has had the sort of career anyone might envy. Plucked from obscurity at 17 to star alongside Toni Colette in PJ Hogan’s Mental, she has gone on to work with other big name talent in a series of acclaimed films such as 2013’s Galore. She plays Daniel Radcliffe’s almost-girlfriend in Jungle, which has been chosen to open this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival.
Later this year she’ll be on our TV screens as Miranda in the highly anticipated remake of Picnic at Hanging Rock. The six-part series promises to bring more depth to the girls’ characters than Peter Weir’s 1975 film allowed.
“They had about three lines each,” Lily says. “We flesh out these beautiful, powerful and twisted young ladies and dive into this boarding school full of girls who are being poked and prodded and groomed for auction. It’s about them finding their sense of self and liberation in a time that was not kind to women.”
Over the course of the shoot, Lily experienced some of this unkindness first hand, suffering the indignity of being squeezed into the constrictive corsets that were considered essential feminine gear in the 19th century.
“It was an education. I feel like that was the way I could understand what it was like to be woman of that time,” she says. “You got an idea of how limited their life was – how long you could sit, how long you could stand, how long before you had to retire to your room. I’m currently living in my pyjamas, which has been a big change.”
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But Lily might not get to enjoy pyjama life for long. This year looks like a turning point, with the gaps between projects rapidly shrinking. A mystery project is due to be announced and she has plans to head to Hollywood to chase up opportunities.
For now, she’s looking forward to seeing Jungle on the big screen at the MIFF opening gala this week. She says she finds its real-life story — in which Daniel’s Israeli backpacker Yossi becomes stranded alone in the Amazon for three weeks – to be extremely inspiring. Even if she has no plans to follow in Yossi’s footsteps.
“Oh my god, I’d be useless,” she says. “I can barely get from Brunswick to Fitzroy without getting blisters on my feet.”
- Jungle screens at MIFF’s opening night, August 3.
- Picnic at Hanging Rock will premiere on Foxtel’s Showcase channel later this year.