Anne Lambert: It's been no Picnic
This article was submitted by Nelson Boisvert. Thanks, Nelson!
Haunted by the past: Lambert has a frightening legacy
from her part as Miranda.
The chilling atmosphere generated by Picnic At Hanging Rock hasn't really
ended for its star, Anne Lambert.
Like any young actress, Anne Lambert was devastated when the director rang
to tell her she didn't get the main part. After a long week of
disappointment and mixed feelings about a smaller role, Lambert received
"The other girl was too big," she was told, and the main part was hers. The
director was Peter Weir, the movie was Picnic At Hanging Rock - and Anne
Lambert could never have imagined that 25 years later she would still be
known as "Miranda", the ethereal, mysterious beauty who disappeared among
some rocks with her school friends and never came back.
Such was the impact of the movie when it was released in 1975 that
Lambert's ghost-like beauty in white Victorian clothing, with long, flowing
hair and angelic voice, was burnt into the minds of a movie-going
There can be no doubt a second phone call changed one woman's life forever.
Meeting Anne Lambert in the flesh was a strangely nerve wracking prospect.
Perhaps it was the horror of the story itself, perhaps it was her sheer
screen presence amid such a powerful Australian tale. But when she came
into view, it was hard to ignore tingling hands and a tight chest. In a
strange way it seemed as though Miranda was alive after all, and there was
an immediate sense that Lambert was aware of the crazy thoughts running
through a stranger's mind.
She sported dark sunglasses under the Sydney sunshine, but didn't move to
take them off once inside a cafe in Elizabeth Bay. Despite engaging in
pleasantries, there was a sense of slight mistrust, a wariness from her
about meeting someone new.
The actor is about to star in The Private Visions Of Gottfried Kellner at
the Griffin Theatre - a play which marks her return to stage after giving
birth to her son nine years ago. Her last five years have been spent living
in the country.
No matter what role she is now playing, Lambert knows she will be asked
about Miranda. When she turns 44 later this month, she will still be
recognized for the character she played when she was 19.
"For years I didn't really appreciate how big it was going to become, just
how big it still is," she said. "That image of Miranda seems to have been
woven into many people's fantasies. It has become iconographic, which
hasn't got a lot to do with me."
There is no resentment at all from Lambert. Her affection for Miranda is
evident when she talks about the role. She still has her costumes from the
movie and laughingly admitted "clutching onto them" whenever requests come
from museums to display them.
"I've lived with the Miranda thing all my adult life, it's hard to imagine
myself without it. Then again, I'm usually out there living my life and
being a mother, where the idea of being Miranda doesn't exist."
After first mention of the impact of her character, the reasons behind
Lambert's initial sense of unease started to become clear.
She revealed the town she lived in, but asked it be mentioned only as
"country NSW". Soon afterwards, there was a quick, half-joking aside about
her "one loony fan".
When probed, Lambert revealed an alarming legacy of the Picnic At Hanging
Rock phenomenon. She admitted that one fan "had been a problem".
"It is a downside, but really anybody runs the risk of attracting some kind
of obsessive fixation. Like the guy who reads the news (Ross Symonds) - if
you stick your head up, it can happen. Contrary to what people think, you
don't have to be sexy or special, it can happen to just about anyone."
The most incredible realization came when Lambert talked of the harassment
matter-of-factly, as though her movie had been released last year. It was
hard to fathom the reality of the time gap since she appeared as Miranda -
a quarter of a century between then and now.
Has this affected 25 years of Anne Lambert's adult life?
She nodded when this startling length of time was mentioned, but said the
past decade had been her most worrying when she returned home after living
in England for more than eight years.
"The worst time was when I came back to Australia a decade ago, but now
I've lost him. I have to be very careful. I'm not listed in the phone
directory, I'm a silent voter, that sort of thing." Perhaps understandably,
Lambert wasn't too keen to elaborate on the situation.
"It can be a really serious problem and I don't want to talk about it too
much because it fosters the whole thing. If you recognize them, they start
to believe some sort of relationship exists."
It was hard to move on to another topic after an actor has admitted to the
frightening impact of one famous film role.
It was Lambert herself who changed the atmosphere. It was easy to forget
about Miranda when she finally took off her sunglasses and spoke of her
affection for her son, her passion for acting and her vision for a movie
industry that tells stories about real women.
Considering she got her original movie part because she was thinner than
another girl, Lambert holds no illusions about the power of looks in the
"I was a bit stupid when I was younger, I thought being an actress was
about having a gift and practicing your craft. That how you looked should
be unimportant. It's taken me a long time to realize that's bulls---, that
how you look is extremely influential. Unless you've got great tits and
good teeth, you're not going to get a good part. Some people come out and
make a difference occasionally, but nothing's changed.
"That's why I feel inspired. I think it's wrong. It's not fair and it can
affect you, your sisters or your daughters. I'm serious about one day
producing things in praise of older women."Lambert said her interest in
producing films heralds her personal realization that growing older can be
But whether or not she can find true freedom from her most famous character
is another story.
When asked if she would offer any mature words of advice to herself as a 19
year old actress, Lambert talked of looking at fame with "ruthlessly clear
Her words were perhaps the most haunting indicator of the hidden price she
has paid. "Be very, very careful. Never assume that no-one's going to be
dead-obsessed about you."
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