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

Twenty-seven 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.

 

Awards

AwardCategorySubjectResult
AACTA Award
(1994 AFI Awards)
Best FilmAl Clark, Michael HamlynNominated
Best DirectionStephan ElliottNominated
Best Original ScreenplayNominated
Best ActorTerence StampNominated
Hugo WeavingNominated
Best CinematographyBrian J. BrehenyNominated
Best Original Music ScoreGuy GrossNominated
Best Production DesignOwen PatersonWon
Best Costume DesignTim Chappel, Lizzy GardinerWon
Academy AwardBest Costume DesignWon
BAFTA AwardsBest Costume DesignWon
Best Original ScreenplayStephan ElliottNominated
Best ActorTerence StampNominated
Best Production DesignColin Gibson, Owen PatersonNominated
Best Makeup and HairAngela ConteWon
Cassie HanlonWon
StrykermeyerWon
Best CinematographyBrian J. BrehenyNominated
GLAAD Media AwardOutstanding Film – Wide ReleaseWon
Golden Globe AwardBest Actor – Motion Picture Musical or ComedyTerence StampNominated
OutfestAudience Award for Outstanding Narrative FeatureStephan ElliottWon
Seattle International Film FestivalGolden Space Needle Award for Best FilmWon
Golden Space Needle Award for Best ActorTerence StampWon
Writers Guild of AmericaBest Original ScreenplayStephan ElliottNominated

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