Although gay Australians are generally aware of local queer cinema, few Aussies, not to mention inbound travellers, realise just how often Sydney has appeared as a backdrop on the little and big screens.
From Number 96, The Sum of Us and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert to Muriel’s Wedding and Strictly Ballroom, the city is teeming with locations featured in gay or camp movies and television shows.
Australian gay cinema truly began with director Frank Brittain’s drama The Set. Shot in Sydney in 1970, the cult classic was the first movie to tackle homosexuality as a main theme.
Another trailblazer was television’s Number 96, the first soap opera to feature a regular gay character. Launched in the early 1970s, the series’ opening credits were filmed at Moncur Flats, 83 Moncur St, Paddington.
The 2012 comedy, A Few Best Men, takes a lighter, more tongue-in-cheek approach to homosexuality. The script describes Daphne (Rebel Wilson) as being 13 percent lesbian.
Director Stephan Elliott’s movie tells the story of a young English lad’s unusual wedding in Australia that goes from bad to worse thanks to his unruly mates. Much of the action takes place at the Yester Grange estate in the Blue Mountains.
In the 1990s, Elliott directed worldwide hit The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Two drag queens and a transsexual cross the Outback in a bus on their way to a cabaret gig.
Elliott’s ‘road movie in a frock’ kicks off with a tragedy when Bernadette (Terence Stamp) loses her partner, Trumpet, to peroxide fumes — he asphyxiates while dyeing his hair!
Trumpet’s funeral scene was filmed in Camperdown Cemetery on Church St, Newtown.
A stone’s throw from Camperdown, at 35 Erskineville Rd, Erskineville, is the Imperial Hotel, the setting for the send-off scene in Priscilla. This is where Adam (Guy Pearce) christens the bus ‘Priscilla’ by smashing a bottle of champagne over the roo bar, before he, Bernadette and Tick (Hugo Weaving) set off for Alice Springs.
The blow-up doll tied to a kite you see crashing in China at the end of the movie was filmed at the Chinese Garden of Friendship in Darling Harbour.
The date scene in The Sum of Us where Harry (Jack Thompson) proposes to Joyce (Deborah Kennedy) was shot near Darling Harbour’s Harbourside Shopping Centre.
The Sum of Us depicts a father and son’s close bond and their individual struggles to find love. The movie filmed in Rushcutters Bay Park, the setting of the footy game, and in the Royal Botanic Gardens. Jeff and his father, Harry, live on Campbell St, Balmain.
Although much of P J Hogan’s colourful ABBA campfest, Muriel’s Wedding, is set in Queensland, principal photography was done in New South Wales. After leaving Porpoise Spit, Muriel (Toni Collette) gets a job at Videodrama, a video store that originally operated at 135 Oxford St, Darlinghurst. Her roommate, Rhonda (Rachel Griffiths), works at Euro Star Dry Cleaning & Laundry opposite, at 100 Oxford St.
The scenes featuring Muriel trying on wedding dresses were shot at the House of Jean Fox at 48 Macquarie St, Parramatta. The store has since moved.
Grotta Capri, at 97-101 Anzac Pde, Kensington, is the restaurant where Muriel slurps her Orgasm cocktail while her bitchy friends reveal plans to holiday without her on Hibiscus Island. The
Sea World Resort on the Gold Coast stood in as Hibiscus Island though some scenes were filmed in Sydney at Le Beach Hut, 179 Russell Ave, Dolls Point.
One of the highlights of Muriel’s Wedding is, of course, the wedding. This took place in St Mark’s Anglican Church at the corner of Darling Point Rd and Greenoaks Ave, Darling Point.
Another ‘camp as Christmas’ hit of the 1990s is Baz Luhrmann’s glittery dance comedy and directorial debut, Strictly Ballroom. The movie looks at the backstage backstabbing that occurs in the world of competitive ballroom dancing.
The dance sequences were shot in venues including the Kogarah RSL Club, 254 Railway Pde, Kogarah, and Petersham Town Hall, 107 Crystal St, Petersham.
The dance school run by Les Kendall (Peter Whitford) was a set built on a soundstage in Mentmore Studios, Rosebery. The rooftop sequence featuring Scott (Paul Mercurio) and Fran (Tara Morice) dancing to Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time was filmed above a business at the corner of Victoria and Marrickville Rds, Marrickville.
The scene where Fran’s family teaches Scott how to dance the paso doble was shot near the railway tracks in the Pyrmont Goods Yard. The tracks and sets were torn up shortly after filming was completed, making way for the Star Casino complex.
On the night the paso doble number was filmed, two government officials showed up for an inspection.
One of them pointed towards the milk licence vendor number painted on the milk bar set and said accusingly, “That vendor number doesn’t exist!”
“Neither does the milk bar,” a crew member replied glibly.
By LUKE BRIGHTY