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Black Sheep interviews Julia Leigh

An interview with SLEEPING BEAUTY writer/director, Julia Leigh

When we first meet Lucy in Australian author, Julia Leigh’s directorial debut, Sleeping Beauty, it isn’t long before we realize that her life in no way resembles a fairy tale. She runs back and forth between thankless jobs, classes and paid medical experiments, all before flipping a coin in a bar to assess which of the guys she is talking to, to go home with. The fairy tale is clearly over and her hardships have hardly even begun.

“This concept of a ‘Sleeping Beauty’ is an enduring one,” Leigh tells me over the phone when I inquire about where she drew her inspiration from for the film. “It was already out there in the ether. I just responded to it and transformed it.”

This would be a mild assertion, to say the least. The concept you and I know involves a sleeping princess who needs her Prince Charming to come along and wake her up with a kiss. In Leigh’s interpretation, it involves beautiful, young women, who are voluntarily drugged into deep sleeps and who are then taken advantage of by older men with particular sexual appetites. Regardless to say, Sleeping Beauty has angered some audiences.

“The world is a strange place,” Leigh explains of her decidedly different take. “I was after a heightened realism, not strictly naturalistic. I trust this is signaled by the title and by the fairy tale elements in the film.”

The beauty from the title is played by Emily Browning, who, with her wide eyes and skin as white as snow, is captivating throughout the film, always poised and in control despite the debauchery that surrounds her. “Emily is such a great actor,” Leigh begins. “We did a lot of rehearsal and by the time we got to set, we were all pretty comfortable and we all knew what we had to do. She understood the role and she gave herself to it.”

Leigh wants to make more films in the future, as well as writing more novels, but first, she has high hopes for her first film, despite its difficult subject matter. “I hope the pace of the film allows the audience to use their imagination. Sometimes people are dreading their own imaginations, or fears or secret desires. I hope its involving in some way.”

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