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Inside ‘I Am Lady’: A brand new biopic tells the story of Helen Reddy and her well-known track

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Helen Reddy’s “I Am Lady” was the unofficial anthem of the women’s liberation movement within the Nineteen Seventies. It was a chart-topping hit that earned the singer a Greatest Pop Vocal Efficiency, Feminine Grammy award in 1972.

Now the track and Reddy’s story are on the heart of a brand new biopic, I Am Lady, which will probably be accessible to look at through video on demand Sept. 11. Directed by Unjoo Moon, the movie stars Tilda Cobham-Hervey because the singer, Evan Peters (American Horror Story) as Reddy’s former husband and supervisor Jeff Wald, and Danielle Macdonald (Patti Cake$, Dumplin’) as Reddy’s good friend, journalist Lillian Roxon.

“It’s such a rare story. I used to be simply so shocked {that a} film hadn’t been made about her,” Cobham-Hervey tells Fortune. “Earlier than I learn the script, I knew the track ‘I Am Lady’; I knew the identify Helen Reddy, however I didn’t know a lot about her life.”

Cobham-Hervey, who solely met Reddy towards the top of filming, researched the singer by studying her autobiography The Lady I Am, wanting up supplies on-line, and watching previous interviews and performances. She additionally labored with voice and motion coaches to ensure she captured the correct vitality whereas portraying Reddy on movie, even taking a lesson with a respiratory coach “to breathe like a singer.”  

“I sang stay on the day, although my [singing] voice isn’t within the movie,” she explains.

I Am Woman Tilda Cobham-Hervey
Tilda Cobham-Hervey as Helen Reddy within the new biopic “I Am Lady.”
Lisa Tomasetti—Courtesy of Quiver Distribution

Although Cobham-Hervey is Australian, identical to the singer, imitating Reddy’s speech patterns wasn’t the best job.

“She has such a selected accent of that point and such specific rhythm to her voice that in some methods, that was very difficult,” she says. “It actually felt like doing an accent although we’re each Australian.”

Moon, who had hung out with Reddy in earlier years, additionally served as one thing of a useful resource to the actors.

“I spent lots of time with Helen even earlier than we began writing the script,” says Moon, including that they’d go for walks, get lunch collectively, and that she was capable of be a part of Reddy throughout one thing of a revival tour. As soon as the scriptwriting course of started, Reddy and her household left it to the filmmakers.

“I used to be actually capable of let her know that I wasn’t going to be making a documentary,” Moon says. “However I did say to her, ‘Helen, I completely promise you that I’ll honor the spirit of who you might be, the life that you’ve got, and the impression that your music has had on folks.’”

The movie particulars Reddy’s transfer to the U.S. as a single mom within the Sixties, the struggles she encountered earlier than recording her hit tune and changing into a star, and the unstable relationship she had with Wald. It additionally depicts her friendship with Roxon, a fellow Australian dwelling stateside and the writer of the groundbreaking Lillian Roxon’s Rock Encyclopedia, which was revealed in 1969. Cobham-Hervey describes the friendship as “the opposite love story” within the film, saying that doing the scenes involving the 2 ladies was a “beautiful a part of the filmmaking expertise.”

Macdonald, who occurs to stay with two of her “greatest girlfriends”—which she describes as a fortunate state of affairs amid pandemic-related lockdowns and quarantines—feels the identical method.

“I really like that we get to see how impactful friendships are on-screen and what it does for us, and the way we be taught and develop from them,” she says.

I Am Woman Helen and Lillian
Cobham-Hervey as Helen Reddy (left) and Danielle Macdonald as Lillian Roxon in “I Am Lady.”
Lisa Tomasetti—Courtesy of Quiver Distribution

For Macdonald, taking part in Roxon was one thing of a departure from her different roles, although these components have additionally concerned portraying robust feminine characters.  

“She’s somewhat older, so she form of simply appears to have it somewhat bit extra found out,” Macdonald says, including that different characters she’s performed usually appear to be on a journey of progress. “With Lillian—she has it in spades. She was assured, she was outspoken, she was form of the queen of the underground New York rock music scene.

“She actually simply form of owned it, owned herself, knew herself,” she continues. “And that was enjoyable to play and in addition form of scary to play as a result of I nonetheless really feel like I’m making an attempt to determine it out. Lillian simply looks as if she is aware of all of it, and I’m like, ‘I’m nonetheless not there but.’ Nevertheless it was enjoyable to carry that out and simply calm down into it.”

Although the movie follows a big interval of Reddy’s life within the U.S., it is extremely a lot an Australian manufacturing by and thru—and was filmed in Australia as nicely, except a few days in Los Angeles.

Moon has lived within the U.S. herself, and different members of the filmmaking crew had additionally hung out there and grown aware of specific structure and settings, in order that they had been in the end capable of finding methods to re-create earlier eras of the U.S., in addition to sure cities.

I Am Woman
Helen Reddy (as portrayed by Cobham-Hervey) moved to the U.S. from Australia to pursue her goals of stardom.
Lisa Tomasetti—Courtesy of Quiver Distribution

“We just about shot by all of the streets and suburbs of Sydney, Australia, to re-create America. It’s attention-grabbing as a result of lots of People don’t know we shot in Australia,” Moon says, including that one main impediment—although the crew discovered methods to chop round them—concerned Australian birds. “I imply that was tremendous annoying. Since you’re presupposed to be in Los Angeles and all of the sudden you’ve received a kookaburra within the background.”

Making the film in Australia was one thing of a deal with for Macdonald, who has been dwelling within the U.S. and dealing on American productions. “My America and my Australia collided,” she says, whereas mentioning that her American buddies visited her whereas she was on set in Australia. “I’m solely used to filming within the States. So that is the primary time filming at house, and my household was on set. It actually felt like a melding of my two worlds—life was imitating artwork there for positive, and it felt particular.”

Moon describes Reddy’s story as “quintessentially Australian,” pointing to Australians who depart house and go to Hollywood with huge goals. “She was the primary and paved the best way,” Moon says.

It’s additionally a narrative that has relevance to ladies right this moment, the actors say.

“I feel it’s a very essential factor to simply look again on the ladies that got here earlier than us and have fun all that they did,” says Cobham-Hervey. “I don’t suppose that we’d have issues just like the Me Too motion and the Time’s Up motion if it wasn’t for folks like Helen who fought for issues which have made my life potential, the best way it’s right this moment.”

“It’s form of wonderful to see our previous and our historical past and be taught from it,” says Macdonald. “I felt impressed. Once I was doing the movie, I used to be like, ‘Sure, this makes me wish to be vocal. This makes me wish to converse up.’

“I hope that folks get that feeling out of it.”

I Am Lady is accessible to look at on VOD beginning Sept. 11.

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