Whoosh! Issue 23 - August 1998

IAXS project #098
By Mark Allen
Copyright © 1998 held by author
2211 words

Introduction (01-07)
Film Synopsis (08-20)
Reception in Australia (21)
Harry Sinclair's Point of View (22-23)
Danielle Cormack's Point of View (24-25)
Accolades, the Soundtrack, and Conclusion (26-27)
Conclusion (28-31)

Topless Women Talk About Their Lives


[1] Hands up for everyone who thinks this is going to be an in-depth analysis of the hot tub scene from A DAY IN THE LIFE (39/215). Wrong. It is actually the title of a fun New Zealand movie by writer/director Harry Sinclair.

[2] Danielle Cormack, who has appeared on Xena as Ephiny, the Amazon warrior, plays the main character in this movie. Cormack was first seen as Ephiny in the episode, HOOVES AND HARLOTS (10/110). In a way, it could be said that the movie was especially written for her.

[3] The movie is the continuation of the storyline from a twenty-part TV series of four-minute episodes written by Harry Sinclair. While trying to write a script for a movie, he decided to start shooting something for fun on weekends with a bunch of actors and friends who would agree to work for free.

[4] The first five episodes were picked up by New Zealand network, TV3, who provided funding for the rest of the series. TV3 began showing them at 11 PM on Friday nights, and they soon picked up a cult following.

I'm sure this is Xena's fault, too.

Ant's (Ian Hughes) current problem is getting rid of the coat hanger that's wrapped around his neck.
[5] The main character in the TV series is Ant, [played by Ian Hughes, who also played Diomedes in THE BLACK WOLF (11/111), and Melas in CALLISTO (22/122)] who has written a film script for a movie called, you guessed it, Topless Women Talk About Their Lives. Early in the series, Danielle Cormack's character, Liz, is walking with her friend, Prue, [played by Willa O'Neil, seen as Gabrielle's sister, Lila, in SINS OF THE PAST (01/101), THE PRODIGAL (18/118), and THE BITTER SUITE (58/312)], along a beach reading some of the script to Prue. After deciding it is a load of garbage, Liz throws the script into the surf.

[6] A passing German tourist who has asked Liz and Prue to take a photo of him "standing on the same beach where they filmed The Piano, notices the script and picks it up. The German tourist just happens to be a film maker, who takes the script back to Germany, and makes the movie, much to Ant's surprise. By the end of the TV series, Ant is being honored in Germany as a new talent, although he cannot read the (German language) reviews of his movie he has been sent.

[7] Ten months into the TV series, Ms. Cormack discovered that she was pregnant. When she told Harry Sinclair this, she expected to be written out. Instead, Mr. Sinclair asked the New Zealand Film Commission for immediate funding, to use Ms. Cormack's pregnancy as the focus of the movie based on the TV series.

Say 'We'd rather be in ancient Greece!'

Hail, hail, the gang's all quirky: Prue (Willa O'Neil), Liz (Danielle Cormack), Ant (Ian Hughes), and Neil (Joel Tobeck)

Film Synopsis

[8] The movie starts with a repeat of the scene of Liz and Prue walking along the beach to introduce new viewers to the unlikely way the film script was turned into a movie in the original TV series. After the title sequence, the action turns to Liz waking up. She suddenly remembers she is late for a doctor's appointment for the termination of her pregnancy.

[9] When the doctor announces that she is one week too late for an abortion, Liz must face up to the responsibility of having a child. She surprises her current boyfriend, Geoff [played by Andrew Binns, Hippocrates in IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE (24/124)], with her news, and he surprises her by saying that his girlfriend is returning from Europe next week, and that he intends to return to her!

[10] To add even more drama to her life, ex-boyfriend Neil [played by Joel Tobeck, who also played Ares' nephew, Strife, an "Edward Scissorhands" look alike, and a production assistant in Yes Virginia There Is A Hercules (H74/415); Tobeck was also in Lucy Lawless' short movie Peach, along with Ian Hughes] reappears, asking if he is the father. After Neil creates a scene at Liz's office, Liz is sacked by her less than understanding boss.

Don't worry, if the delivery's rough, I'm sure there'll be a Warrior Princess around to help out.

Neil offers Liz a shoulder
[11] After telling Neil that he is the father, Neil offers to marry Liz, and is relieved when she turns him down. Liz then decides to visit the father of the baby's real father, spoilt rich kid Kerry. She asks him for money to help her during the pregnancy, and to guarantee her silence. Rather than be angry with this situation, Kerry's dad is happy to know that he is to become a grandfather!

[12] To complicate matters even further, Geoff has been dumped by his suspicious girlfriend (whose friends have been keeping an eye on Geoff while she was away), and now wants to help Liz raise her child. He has even learned how to knit so he can make booties for her baby.

[13] It comes as a welcome diversion when Prue asks Liz to be "The Best Woman" at her wedding to her Maori boyfriend Mike, (Shimpal Lelisi). Just before the wedding comes the Auckland premier of Ant's movie.

Then came the miracle of the bowling balls at the YMCA...

A topless woman talks about her life in the Auckland premiere of Ant's movie.
[14] As Liz had predicted, it is truly awful. Watching a number of topless women speaking some of the lamest dialogue ever written is very funny. Ant is overcome by all the attention and leaves the theatre, along with a large number of audience members, who have walked out as well!

[15] As friends of Prue, Ant and Neil accompany Liz to Mike's home village and take part in the Maori wedding ceremony. The next day, Mike tells Ant that everyone thinks his movie is a load of garbage, and that Prue had told everyone to say they liked it so as not to hurt Ant's feelings. Ant is shocked by this revelation and refuses to talk to either Liz or Prue. When Prue finds out what Mike has said, she tells Mike that she wants a divorce, after only one day of marriage.

[16] Meanwhile, Neil surprises Liz by offering to help her with her pregnancy. He proposes that they live as a couple who stay together just for the sake of the baby, and skip all that loving bit of the start of a relationship. How romantic!

[17] Ant, however, is troubled by feelings of humiliation from the poor reaction to his movie. After becoming very distrustful of women in general, Ant moves in with Mike and tries to sort his life out. When Mike asks Ant to visit Prue and ask her for forgiveness, Ant discovers an unusual way of reuniting them -- he accidentally stabs Prue with a pocketknife!

[18] Just before the baby is born, Neil confesses to Liz that he really does love her and wants to marry her. After telling Neil that she loves him too, she confesses to Prue that she was lying because she did not want to hurt his feelings. She also has to try to ward off the advances of Geoff, who is trying hard to become a sensitive guy.

Wow, those centaurs really kick!

A very pregnant Liz
[19] All this drama is quickly forgotten when Liz goes into labor and chooses to make her own way to the hospital. Liz finds a very depressed Ant about to commit suicide, and asks him to help her get to the hospital. Instead, time runs out and Liz ends up having the baby in a very unusual location, a veterinary surgery, with a distressed Ant looking on.

[20] At the close of the movie, Liz is surrounded by friends visiting her in the hospital. The happy ending is made bitter sweet for the audience, as we know that one of Liz's friends has been killed in an accident without knowing Liz has had the baby.

Reception in Australia

[21] When the TV series was shown in Australia, it was in a half-hour block of five episodes over a one-month period. This was a mixed blessing. While it was preferable to see the whole series in four weeks, and not twenty, this time compression did create one annoying side effect. Just as the viewer was starting to enjoy an episode, the end credits would appear, and then the next story would start. It was like fast forwarding through an episode of Melrose Place (TV, 1992-present), which is not a bad way to watch Amanda and company.

Harry Sinclair's Point of View

[22] In an interview in the Sydney Morning Herald in November of last year, director Harry Sinclair discussed his very relaxed approach to script writing. "Honestly, I would get up at five in the morning, and we would be shooting at seven, and I would think, 'What the hell are we going to shoot today?' When I have a lot of time to sit and think about things, I have a good idea, but the next day I make it slightly worse. I have a strong tendency to criticize the life out of my ideas".

[23] The actors got the scripts on the day of shooting, which would save them from worrying about their lines! "If you've got the right actor, and they're saying reasonably good lines," said Sinclair, "then you should be able to let them go".

Danielle Cormack's Point of View

[24] In an interview with the Australian edition of People magazine, Who Weekly, in January, Danielle Cormack commented on the unique way the TV series started. At the beginning "...there was no money involved, but that wasn't the motivation. It was more the people that I was going to be working with, and it sounded like Harry had some really interesting ideas".

[25] Although she has enjoyed the praise for her role in the film, she is also relishing the thought of one-day showing her now 17-month-old son, Ethan, his role in the movie. "It's a great 21st gift. Here you go sonny boy, forget the family photographs, here's the film".

Accolades, the Soundtrack, and Conclusion

[26] At the 1997 New Zealand Film Awards, TWTATL won 8 out of the 10 major categories, including, Best Film, Best Director (Harry Sinclair), Best Actress (Danielle Cormack), Best Actor (Joel Tobeck), Best Supporting Actress (Willa O'Neil), Best Supporting Actor (Andrew Binns), Best Editing (Cushia Dilton) and Best Screenplay (Harry Sinclair).

[27] The soundtrack of the movie is available on the New Zealand label, Flying Nun, and features Kiwi bands The Chills, Superette, The Bats, Straitjacket Fits, The Clean, Snapper, and Chris Knox.


[28] As you can tell from the above plot details, Topless Women is not your typical, sweet Hollywood comedy. There is a dark edge that runs through the movie, which helps to make it seem more realistic, sometimes painfully so.

[29] Certainly Liz is no saint, and probably deserves some of the things that happen to her. She deceives Neil into believing that he is the baby's father, just so that she has someone to help her during her pregnancy. Neil then has to suffer the embarrassment of having a drunk Kerry bragging about his prowess in the bar where Neil works, with an apologetic Liz smiling weakly to confirm the truth of what Kerry has just said.

[30] As there are very few New Zealand movies that get shown in Australia, and when I learned about the unique origins of this movie, and the involvement of a number of Xena and Hercules actors in it, I was curious to see how good it would be. While it's no Hollywood big budget blockbuster, this movie is quite entertaining. I soon stopped trying to think of the actors' previous TV roles, and quickly accepted them as the troubled characters on the big screen.

[31] Harry Sinclair has written a dark but authentic view of modern life, where the relationships that occur can often be more chaotic than anything created by an asteroid or giant lizard! When this movie makes its way near you, take a look at it. You should enjoy it.


Harry Sinclair interview. Cinema Papers. Issue 122. Dec 1997.

Harry Sinclair interview. Lauren Martin. Sydney Morning Herald. Nov 15 1997

Danielle Cormack interview. Who Weekly. No 307. Jan 12 1998.

Topless Women Talk About Their Lives TV series review. Tina Kaufman. SBS Television's Aerial Magazine. November 1997

Internet Movie Database

Thanks to Marie Zielinski for her help with the career details of Willa O'Neil and Joel Tobeck.


Mark Allen Mark Allen
I was born in Port Pirie in South Australia in January 1966. I grew up in southern New South Wales before moving to Sydney in 1984. As a keen TV and movie viewer, I have enjoyed many great shows over the years, and put some of that wasted knowledge to good use as regular competitor in a weekly trivia night held in a local bar that ran for 5 years. Apart from being a keen Xena fan, I am also interested in other shows including, Dr. Who, Red Dwarf, Star Trek, and the X-Files.
Favorite episode: THE GREATER GOOD (21/121) THE DEBT I & II
Favorite line: Xena: "I have many skills". MANY EPISODES
First episode seen: SINS OF THE PAST (01/101)
Least favorite episode: GIANT KILLER (27/203)

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