Toni Collette Explores Darker Side in 'Night Listener'

Night Listener i i

In the dark, psychological drama The Night Listener, Toni Collette portrays Donna Logand, a manipulative, blind woman who is caring for a teenage boy. Anne Joyce/Miramax Films hide caption

itoggle caption Anne Joyce/Miramax Films
Night Listener

In the dark, psychological drama The Night Listener, Toni Collette portrays Donna Logand, a manipulative, blind woman who is caring for a teenage boy.

Anne Joyce/Miramax Films
Little Miss Sunshine i i

In the independent comedy Little Miss Sunshine, Collette plays Sheryl Hoover, the comparatively normal matriarch of a dysfunctional family. Eric Lee/Fox Searchlights Films hide caption

itoggle caption Eric Lee/Fox Searchlights Films
Little Miss Sunshine

In the independent comedy Little Miss Sunshine, Collette plays Sheryl Hoover, the comparatively normal matriarch of a dysfunctional family.

Eric Lee/Fox Searchlights Films
 

It's a big summer for Australian actress Toni Collette: She has two new films, in which she plays two very different mothers.

In the zany comedy Little Miss Sunshine, Collette plays the harried but supremely practical and good-natured matriarch of the dysfunctional Hoover family. The film follows the family during a madcap road trip to their daughter's beauty pageant.

Fractured family is also at the center of Collette's other summer film. In The Night Listener, a movie in which people are rarely who or what they seem, Collete explores the spooky side of the maternal instinct.

Collette's character, Donna Logand, pursues a friendship over the phone with a popular New York radio host, played by Robin Williams. The two share a fondness for Donna's adopted teenage son (Rory Culkin), a street-smart boy with AIDS and a horrifying history of sexual abuse. Soon, Donna's story and her motives start to seem suspicious and, perhaps, pathological.

The Australian actress talks about how she's drawn to characters when she can identify with their emotional states, including the manipulative Donna.

"I used to do things to get attention, as most actors do," Collette says, recalling an incident when she was 11 and pretended to have appendicitis — to the point where doctors removed it.

"And this is the kind of thing that my character does," Collette says. "I think she had a really tough upbringing, and I think everyone deserves love and she didn't get it, and she goes out of her way to get it."

Toni Collette: A Selected Filmography

Little Miss Sunshine (2006), directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris

The Night Listener (2006), directed by Patrick Stettner

In Her Shoes (2005), directed by Curtis Hanson

About a Boy (2002), directed by Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz

Changing Lanes (2002), directed by Roger Michell

The Sixth Sense (1999), directed by M. Night Shyamalan

Velvet Goldmine (1998), directed by Todd Haynes

Clockwatchers (1997), directed by Jill Sprecher

Emma (1996), directed by Douglas McGrath

The Pallbearer (1996), directed by Matt Reeves

Muriel's Wedding (1994), directed by P.J. Hogan

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