» Holy Smoke! (1999)

» Synopsis

On a trip to India, Australian Ruth has a spiritual awakening and embraces the teachings of a guru named Baba. Back home in Sydney, Ruth's mother and father are appalled to learn that their daughter now answers to the name Nazni and has no intention of returning. Mother visits her daughter in India in hopes of convincing her to come home. Mother pretends to arrange a meeting with Ruth's father, who has been pretending to be ill, and this trick lands Ruth in the clutches of P.J. Waters, an American exit counselor who deprograms members of religious cults. Waters begins to loosen Ruth's belief in Baba's teachings, but P.J. finds himself sexually attracted to Ruth, and in time she allows him to seduce her. Ruth soon turns the tables on P.J., as she discovers that sex allows her to make mincemeat of his long-held beliefs as a macho, misogynist male.

» Information

Director: Jane Campion
Writers: Jane Campion, Anna Campion

Kate Winslet ... Ruth Barron
Harvey Keitel ... PJ Waters
Julie Hamilton ... Mum
Sophie Lee ... Yvonne
Dan Wyllie¹ ... Robbie
Paul Goddard ... Tim
Tim Robertson ... Dad
George Mangos ... Yani
Kerry Walker ... Puss
Leslie Dayman ... Bill-Bill
Samantha Murray ... Prue
Austen Tayshus¹ ... Stan
Simon Anderson ... Fabio
Pam Grier ... Carol

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Posters, Promotional Stills, On the Set and Screen Captures

Released on: October 8, 1999 (New York Film Festival)

» Trivia

Filmed in Australia and India.

On a fellow actor's advice, Kate Winslet drank 3 vodka-and-tonics for a scene involving her being drunk.

According to an interview following the shoot, Kate Winslet admitted that in the urination scenes there was bag taped to her leg to pull off the effect. Finally she got frustrated and asked Jane Campion if she could just urinate herself. Campion did one take this way, but the urine was harder to control than Winslet had thought, and the take was scrapped.

» Kate on the film

"I would never accept a role that wasn't going to stretch me or challenge me in some way. I'd say Holy Smoke! probably did that more than anything I'd ever done. It took me to places I didn't actually know I could go to, and that's what I want my career to be all about."

About the scene where she has to stand naked and pee: "It was a difficult scene. When I read the script and I saw this scene was there, I laughed hysterically. I just couldn't believe it. When it came to shooting it, I had been sort of putting it off, and pretending it wasn't going to happen. And suddenly, I am there naked, peeing and thinking "Oh no!" It was really hard to do, but I've always loved the fact that it was there, and it's such a sort of turning point for the character I play in the movie that I've always felt sort of good, that it should be there."

"I thought nothing would get more challenging than Titanic. But I was completely wrong, because Holy Smoke is all about people in rooms."

"Everyone was going on about the journey, the journey of the story. Jane would say, 'This is really an important part of the journey'. And I would get sick of this word—journey. I'd go, 'Fuck off with the fucking journey. I just need to do this my way'. But seeing the film reminded me of how much of a journey it was."

"It wasn't really me weeing. I was rigged. It was so funny. What they did was rig a saline-drip fluid bag at the center of my back. And then there's this tube, which you wedge up your bum. I wanted to do one take where it actually was me weeing. But unfortunately, when you stand and wee yourself, it just all goes down one side of your leg. And you need to get it down the middle."

On playing an unlikable character: "Jane Campion taught me that. She asked me, 'Do you need to be liked?' and I said, 'Yes, but I don't really care. I don't care if I'm criticised'. She said, 'Do you want the audience to like you?' I said, 'I think I do. I like to make nice people'. 'Well, forget it', Campion said, 'Ruth's not a nice person. You'll have to get over wanting to be liked'. I will always be grateful to her for that."

"It's very dramatic, but also very funny in parts, I had to face a tough auditioning process with Jane Campion, which I actually found very exicting to do because she really tests you."

» Reviews

"...Original in every sense... [Viewers] will embrace its thematic and stylistic complexity..." — Variety - David Rooney

"...Winslet is the rare actress who can rage at the heavens and reach for them at the same time... [Holy Smoke! is] a knockabout fusion..." -- Rating: B — Entertainment Weekly - Owen Gleiberman

"...A loopy contemporary comedy... Winslet gives a particularly bold, uninhibited and magnetic performance..." — Movieline - Stephen Farber

"...Provocative, frequently hilarious... [Winslet and Keitel] stray into territory that lesser (and less courageous) actors would avoid..." -- 4 out of 5 stars — Premiere - Chris Cronis

"...A high-risk, darkly comic triumph... [The] film traverses a tremendous range of emotional terrain... At once hilarious and serious, cruel and tender, and bristling with vitality, Holy Smoke! is the right movie for the millennium..." — Los Angeles Times - Kevin Thomas

"...Winslet and Keitel are both interesting in the film..." — Chicago Sun-Times - Roger Ebert

"...The real story in this underrated original is Keitel's co-star, Kate Winslet. Sexy, snotty, vulnerable, and, above all, contentious, her character is the catalyst..." — USA Today - Mike Clark