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TIFF 2015 Women Directors: Meet Gillian Armstrong – ‘Women He’s Undressed’

TIFF 2015 Women Directors: Meet Gillian Armstrong - 'Women He's Undressed'

Gilliam Armstrong was born in Melbourne and studied filmmaking at Swinburne Art School and the Australian Film, Television and Radio School. Her films include “My Brilliant Career,” “Starstruck,” “Mrs. Soffel,” “High Tide,” “The Last Days of Chez Nous,” “Little Women,” “Oscar and Lucinda,” “Charlotte Gray” and “Death Defying Acts.” (Press materials)

Armstrong’s latest film, “Women He’s Undressed,” will premiere at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival on September 15.

W&H: Please give us your description of the film playing.

GA: “Women He’s Undressed” is a feature documentary about an extraordinary but forgotten Australian costume designer, Orry-Kelly, who won the Oscar three times for his costume designs in “American In Paris,” “Les Girls” and “Some Like It Hot.” He also created costumes for some of the most iconic films of all time, including “Casablanca,” “42nd Street,” “Maltese Falcon,” “Now Voyager” and “Mame.” He dressed Marilyn Monroe and dated Cary Grant and designed costumes for over 280 films in a career that spanned the Golden Age of Hollywood and into the ’60s.

W&H: What drew you to this story?

GA: It is about the celebration of a life and an art — a man who was uncompromising and fought for honesty and integrity in his work and life.

W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

GA: Our subject is no longer alive, nor were many of his friends and contemporaries.

W&H: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theater?

GA: That Orry-Kelly was an extraordinary talent and lived an authentic roller-coaster of a life. They should go see all those wonderful films, too!

W&H: What advice do you have for other female directors?

GA: Keep working hard. Prepare. Be brilliant, original and persistent.

W&H: What’s the biggest misconception about you and your work?

GA: That I am only interested in so-called “women’s issues.” I would prefer to be called a filmmaker and a humanist.

W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.
GA: We have Australian government funding, cinema distributor and Foxtel Cable.

W&H: Name your favourite woman-directed film and why.

GA: “The Piano,” written and directed by Jane Campion. Beautifully directed in every way: casting, performances, story, camera work and music. It is completely compelling, tense, erotic, poetic and, finally, uplifting.  

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