Hobart-born Essie Davis has enjoyed a distinguished stage and screen career since graduating from the National Institute of Dramatic Art in 1992, bringing a diverse range of characters to life.
“One of the things I have loved so much about the career that I have had is that pretty much every character I have played is diametrically opposite to the one before it,” she has noted.
You need only compare her role as a traumatised mother in The Babadook (2014) to the glamorous detective Phryne Fisher in the hit TV series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012-2015) to agree. More recently, Davis has been breaking up fights between siblings Ned and Dan Kelly in True History of the Kelly Gang (2019) – directed by her husband, filmmaker Justin Kurzel, who also cast her in his adaptation of Assassin’s Creed (2016).
Davis’s notable TV credits include The Slap (2011), Cloudstreet (2011), The White Princess (2017), and as the rum-loving theatre actress who befriends Arya Stark in the sixth season of Game of Thrones (2016). But it’s the aforementioned Miss Fisher that has attracted a legion of devoted fans, who were instrumental in taking the character to the big screen via a successful crowdfunding campaign.
The film, Miss Fisher & the Crypt of Tears, sends the super-sleuth on a globetrotting adventure to exotic locations where she must unravel a mystery amongst rising tensions in British mandated Palestine – the perfect assignment for a character that doesn’t play by the rules.
“She’s very naughty and will break the rules to make things right,” says Davis. “She can speak many languages, she can dance a tango, she can drive a car, she can fly a plane. She used to work as an ambulance officer in the first World War. She can scale a building, she can break all the rules to get what is right for the underdog in the world, and for the women of the world.”
Screenwriter Deb Cox adds, “We wanted to make a film that’s part action adventure, part murder mystery with a bit of an epic feel and the kind of exotic international backdrop that an exceptional woman like Phryne Fisher deserves.
“Miss Fisher is such an interesting character that in exploring ideas for the film we could have gone with a conventional murder mystery set in a mansion or on a train, but Miss Fisher is an action sleuth. She’s always been like that. She’s not Miss Marple. She climbs buildings, she runs around in fast cars, she has a gun. So, we were dealing with a hybrid character and a hybrid genre which lends itself to a big screen adventure.”