By James Manning and Andrew Mercado
Goalpost Pictures had originally planned to have their motion picture biography of Australian singer Helen Reddy, I Am Woman, in Australian cinemas earlier this year. However the shutdown of cinemas during Covid-19 lockdowns meant that wasn’t possible. Instead the movie will now premier August 28 on Stan.
It should be enough to motivate people to sign up to the streaming platform if they don’t already have access. Goalpost have a track record when it comes to music movies – the company’s slate includes The Sapphires.
Producer and Goalpost founding partner Rosemary Blight told a Mediaweek podcast that movie has been slated for a US release in September.
I Am Woman is a project Blight has been planning for some time. She has known director Unjoo Moon for many years. “We grew up together in the film industry,” Blight said. “She was at film school in Australia and made ads before she went to the US. She came to me and pitched me the project. Unjoo sat beside Helen at an awards dinner and spent the night talking to her. She left that dinner searching for anything on Helen Reddy. There was nothing on her. Some women get lost in history without an opportunity to have their story told.”
In our podcast Andrew Mercado and Blight talked about how big a star Reddy was in the 70s. “She was right at the top of her game. She was bigger in the US perhaps than Australia. Australians might be surprised by the level of her success and what she had to go through and the decisions and choices she made.”
The project has been underway for a long time. Writer Emma Jensen went to Las Vegas and saw one of Helen Reddy’s last shows about five years ago. Blight saw Reddy’s last Australian show at the Enmore Theatre five years ago.
Tilda Cobham-Hervey as Helen Reddy
The producers got it right in the casting with Tilda Cobham-Hervey sensational as Helen Reddy. Blight explained: “Tilda was in Adelaide and I went there with Brian Jones our music producer. We put her into a studio and got her to sing songs. She actually has a pretty good voice. That was just to loosen her up. Tilda and Unjoo then had conversations around performance and who Helen was. We then did some old-fashioned screen tests with the cameras we were actually shooting on. We did whole make-up tests and tried ageing her. In the movie she goes from Helen as a young woman through to the age of 49. Tilda had such an ability to embody the character at whatever age she was.”
I Am Woman soundtrack
Blight: “The movie has Helen Reddy songs in it, sung by Helen. But when Tilda Cobham-Hervey sings Helen Reddy songs we had to find a voice that worked for Tilda. Brian Jones our music producer went around the world looking for a voice that would sit within Tilda’s body. He ended up finding a young woman from Western Australia, Chelsea Cullen. She was just right. It was very interesting when Chelsea met Tilda. They are both exactly the same height and both their mothers were dancers. We pre-recorded it all with Chelsea and then filmed it. It works really well. The biggest compliment we got was when Jeff Wald, Helen’s former husband and producer, watched the film. Every time Tilda sang he said he didn’t know it wasn’t Helen.”
Helen Reddy in Washington
Blight explained how the production managed to recreate the scenes of Helen Reddy attending a protest rally in Washington.
“We actually shot that in Centennial Park. There was a storm coming and we were afraid we would have to shut down. We only had 300 people maximum and we were moving them around an area of Centennial Park so they could be duplicated in CGI. It was amazing we could recreate that in Australia in cutting edge post-production.”
Also in the podcast Blight explains how they recreated New York’s Carnegie Hall in Sydney’s Enmore Theatre.
Photos by Lisa Tomasetti, Hugh Hamilton and Tony Mott