Priscilla superfan Philmah Bocks has thoughts on new sequel

Philmah Bocks and the original trio from Priscilla Queen of the Desert
Images: Supplied (left), MGM (back)

One of Australia’s biggest Priscilla, Queen of the Desert fans, drag queen Philmah Bocks, has weighed in on the upcoming sequel to the film and the legacy of the original 1994 film.

It’s the 30th anniversary of the 1994 drag classic The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert. The old girl has unexpectedly roared back into the headlines.

This month, it was revealed the long-lost original Priscilla bus was found in country New South Wales. A professional restoration is now also planned.

Then, director Stephan Elliott surprised everyone by confirming a sequel with the original cast is in development.

‘This is going to change the face of drag’

Drag performers Philmah Bocks and JoJo Zaho (see below) travelled to film with Priscilla on the Northern Rivers farm where the bus was found.

Philmah talked with JOY 94.9 about the film’s legacy as well as its surprise sequel.

She vividly remembers first seeing the film as a drag newcomer and still considers herself a “product of Priscilla“.

“I still have the advertisement from the local paper. It was a Bobby Goldsmith Foundation fundraising event on September 7, 1994,” Philmah recalled.

“I saw Priscilla at the Capri Theatre in Adelaide, dressed as Carmen Miranda.

“I distinctly remember thinking, this film will change the face of drag in Australia.

“The whole taboo of going to a drag club was quite big throughout the early 90s. All of a sudden, we were projected onto big screens and then small screens.

“People finally understood the humanity behind being a drag queen. I think that was the big shift in people’s perspectives.”


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A post shared by Philmah Bocks (@philmahbocks)


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A post shared by Philmah Bocks (@philmahbocks)

What will a Priscilla Queen of the Desert sequel look like?

Director Stephan Elliott said in an era of drag bans and Trumpian politics, now was the “perfect” time for a Priscilla sequel.

He confirmed the cast would return for the new film, set both in Australia as well as overseas.

“You have to remember that Tick had a kid, now that kid has grown up and he’s got his own family,” Stephan told The Guardian.

“I don’t want to repeat myself, so it’s taken me a long while to come up with something… There’s something that needs to be said about tolerance.”

Philmah Bocks told JOY 94.9 that she has theories of what a Priscilla sequel could look like and where it would need to go.

“I think what’s going to happen is they’re going to introduce a new generation of characters that resonates with the current movement of drag,” she said.

“If they just centred the story around the three characters as they currently are, people will lose interest. I don’t think they’re current enough.

“My guess is that Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce… won’t be pivotal to the central part of the story.

“We’ve seen it happen with remakes and redos of classic films. Ghostbusters introduced younger characters to engage with the new audiences and the new generation, with the older characters for the diehard fans. Star Wars is also another example.”

Philmah agreed, “The story is not finished. As much as we’ve celebrated our progression, we still have a long way to go.

“Drag is political, I think. There’s no way around that. Drag is a statement in itself on so many levels.

“There’s some current messages that need to be shared and put to a song and dance.”

Priscilla is an antidote to Americanised drag

Philmah Bocks said the original 1994 film has three secret weapons: the feelgood coming-out story between father and son, the disco soundtrack and Tim Chappell and Lizzie Gardner’s Oscar-winning costuming.

“Every time I come out on stage in a Gumby outfit or a thong dress, or something random or crazy on my head, I always see people smile,” she said.

“As soon as you see those costumes and hear that music, you’re taken straight to Priscilla. It’s not going away.

“I continue to celebrate it just for the joy it brings people and the history that it tells.”

Cast of Priscilla Queen of Desert
Image: MGM

That history is important, Philmah Bocks said, because of a “new wave” of Americanised drag.

“Without sounding like an old fart, I hang on to Priscilla to educate the children on where we’ve come from,” she said.

“There’s a bit of larrikinism that I still love about Aussie drag that I don’t necessarily see anywhere else. That’s iconic for our culture, and especially our drag culture.

“At the moment there’s a movement on what an American version of Australian drag should be.

“I love that the visibility and celebration of drag is much bigger now. But in that process, do we lose a bit of ourselves and our culture?

“That’s why I hang on to Priscilla so much because it’s part of my history, my culture, and certainly the generation before me.”

Lots more on Priscilla:

‘Save the queen’: How the Priscilla, Queen of the Desert bus was found

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert sequel confirmed with original stars

‘They booed’: Stephan Elliott recalls horror first Priscilla screening

‘Hire locals’: Outrage over RuPaul’s Drag Race stars’ Priscilla shoot

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Jordan Hirst
Jordan Hirst

Jordan Hirst is an experienced journalist and content creator with a career spanning over a decade at QNews. Since 2012, the Brisbane local has covered an enormous range of topics and subjects in-depth affecting the LGBTIQA+ community, both in Australia and overseas. Today, the Brisbane-based journalist covers everything from current affairs, politics and health to sport and entertainment.

QNews, Brisbane Gay, App, Gay App, LGBTI, LGBTI News, Gay Australia

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