Actor Gracie Otto has made her feature-length directing debut with the The Last Impresario, a documentary about British theatre and film producer Michael White which is released in Australia on June 26. Gracie, daughter of Barry Otto and sister of Miranda Otto, chatted to me about party-hopping with White, directing and her famous last name.
Tell me about your new film.
It’s a documentary I made about a man [Michael White] who I met at a party during the Cannes Film Festival, four years ago. I just followed him on his journey.
Who is he?
He’s he’s one of the biggest British theatre producers. He produced Rocky Horror Picture Show, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. He started so many people’s career. John Cleese was going to be a lawyer and Michael was like, “You should be an actor” so he did and 20 years later they did Monty Python.
What in particular made you follow him?
He’s 79 years old, he had a walking stick and he walked into the party and was the centre of attention. Everyone were like, “Oh he is really famous”. People seemed to love him and know him and he was taking me out to meet people like Mick Jagger and just incredible types of people. I just ended up going out to all these parties with him.
He’s friends with some influential people. Who were some of the people you interviewed for the film?
I interviewed 65 people for the film. There is Anna Wintour, Kate Moss, John Cleese, Naomi Watts, Yoko Ono, Lorne Michaels and more.
Who is the most interesting?
Yoko Ono was probably like one of my favourites… she was great; she’s known Michael since the 60’s when Michael put her first show on, the first show she did. At the time, males were getting all the opportunities and Michael was a champion of women.
Do you prefer acting or directing?
I like both [but] I like directing because it’s my own thing. I really love acting but I feel like I need to improve on auditions. I feel like once I get the role, I’ve got a job and I can be totally focused on it [but] until you’ve got the job, I find it really hard to prepare for an audition. When I work on things I’m very committed and I put everything into it. With this documentary I could just pick up the camera and try to create the opportunity, whereas in acting you are waiting for some one else to tell you that you’re good or you’ve got the part. So you’re kind of at the mercy of other people.
Growing up in the industry, was film always in your blood?
No… I loved sport. I played for Australia in soccer and New South Wales in softball. So I was never really interested in acting. I liked going to theatre and to go and see dad. It was only really decided to [follow that path] when I was doing English Extension at school and you could make a film as one of the options.
Do you think having your famous last name was a help or a hindrance when you first started out?
I don’t know. I mean you never know what people will say about you. I’m sure there are some people who are like “Oh that’s because she’s related to that family”… So for me, I’ve never seen it as positive or a negative. Probably it is a positive because I’ve grown up in the industry – I’m sure if my dad was like a plumber or had a different job I’d have a different upbringing. So I was obviously exposed to a lot of things without even realising that I was. I feel like it can help but you still have to prove yourself at the end of the day.
Do you like working with your sister and father?
Yes. Well, I’ve never worked with Miranda. I mean, I was an extra in Lord of The Rings years ago. But my dad was in two of my short films and then we both were in Three Blind Mice but we weren’t in the same scene.
What’s the best advice your father has given you?
Oh God. I don’t know if dad has ever given me any advice! [Laughs] Dad lives in the 1800’s! I mean, he’s great. He’s my number one fan. I guess, my mum gives more advice than dad.
What’s the best advice your mother has given you?
I think her favourite one is “reputation is everything”.
Where do you see yourself in five years time?
Well, hopefully not living at home! [laughs] I don’t know. I mean, I really love Sydney but I love to travel… But I’ve never been to Spain or Brazil. So there are a few places like that that I’d like to tick off the list.
WE WENT TO The Chauvel cinema, Paddington.
WE ATE popcorn.
WE DRANK a lemon lime and bitters and white wine.
GRACIE WORE a Camilla and Marc dress.