The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)

Twenty-six years ago today, the film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert premiered. You have to see this movie.

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert 001

Title: The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Directed by: Stephan Elliott
Produced by: Al Clark, Michael Hamlyn
Written by: Stephan Elliott
Starring: Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce, Bill Hunter
Music by: Guy Gross
Cinematography: Brian J. Breheny
Edited by: Sue Blainey
Production Companies: PolyGram Filmed Entertainment
Specific Films: Distributed by Gramercy Pictures
Release date: 10 August 1994 (In United States), 8 September 1994 (In Australia)
Running time: 103 minutes
Budget: A$1,884,200 (US$2 million)
Box office: $29.7 million

Anthony “Tick” Belrose (Hugo Weaving), using the drag pseudonym of Mitzi Del Bra, is a Sydney-based drag queen who accepts an offer to perform his drag act at Lasseters Hotel Casino Resort managed by his estranged wife Marion in Alice Springs, a remote town in central Australia. After persuading his friends and fellow performers, Bernadette Bassenger (Terence Stamp), a recently bereaved transgender woman, and Adam Whitely (Guy Pearce), a flamboyant and obnoxious younger drag queen who goes under the drag name Felicia Jollygoodfellow, to join him, the three set out for a four-week run at the casino in a large tour bus, which Adam christens “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”.

While on the long journey through remote lands bordering the Simpson Desert, they meet a variety of characters, including a group of friendly Aboriginal Australians for whom they perform, the less accepting attitudes of rural Australia in such towns as Coober Pedy, and are subjected to homophobic abuse, violence, including having their tour bus vandalized with homophobic graffiti.

When the tour bus breaks down in the middle of the desert, Adam spends the whole day repainting it lavender to cover up the vandalism. The trio later meet Bob, a middle-aged mechanic from a small outback town who joins them on their journey. Before they arrive at Alice Springs, Tick reveals that Marion is actually his wife, as they never divorced, and that they are actually going there as a favour to her. Continuing their journey, Adam is almost mutilated by a homophobic gang before he is saved by Bob and Bernadette. Adam is shaken and Bernadette comforts him, allowing them to reach an understanding. Likewise, the others come to terms with the secret of Tick’s marriage and resolve their differences. Together, they fulfill a long-held dream of Adam’s, which, in the original plan, is to climb Kings Canyon in full drag regalia.

Upon arrival at the hotel, it is revealed that Tick and Marion also have an eight-year-old son, Benjamin, whom Tick has not seen for many years. Tick is nervous about exposing his son to his drag profession and anxious about revealing his homosexuality, though he is surprised to discover that Benjamin already knows and is fully supportive of his father’s sexuality and career. By the time their contract at the resort is over, Tick and Adam head back to Sydney, taking Benjamin back with them, so that Tick can get to know his son. However, Bernadette decides to remain at the resort for a while with Bob, who has decided to work at the hotel after the two of them had become close.


Award Category Subject Result
(1994 AFI Awards)
Best Film Al Clark, Michael Hamlyn Nominated
Best Direction Stephan Elliott Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Nominated
Best Actor Terence Stamp Nominated
Hugo Weaving Nominated
Best Cinematography Brian J. Breheny Nominated
Best Original Music Score Guy Gross Nominated
Best Production Design Owen Paterson Won
Best Costume Design Tim Chappel, Lizzy Gardiner Won
Academy Award Best Costume Design Won
BAFTA Awards Best Costume Design Won
Best Original Screenplay Stephan Elliott Nominated
Best Actor Terence Stamp Nominated
Best Production Design Colin Gibson, Owen Paterson Nominated
Best Makeup and Hair Angela Conte Won
Cassie Hanlon Won
Strykermeyer Won
Best Cinematography Brian J. Breheny Nominated
GLAAD Media Award Outstanding Film – Wide Release Won
Golden Globe Award Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy Terence Stamp Nominated
Outfest Audience Award for Outstanding Narrative Feature Stephan Elliott Won
Seattle International Film Festival Golden Space Needle Award for Best Film Won
Golden Space Needle Award for Best Actor Terence Stamp Won
Writers Guild of America Best Original Screenplay Stephan Elliott Nominated

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