Stephan Elliott revisits Priscilla for film’s 30th anniversary

Lizard drag outfits from Priscilla Queen of the Desert
Image: MGM

Director Stephan Elliott and key crew members from The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert will reunite and revisit the iconic Aussie flick at a panel event this weekend.

Priscilla is celebrating her 30th birthday this year. It’s been three decades since the feelgood comedy officially premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May 1994 and later became a crossover sensation, winning an Oscar for its costumes.

In the gay cinematic classic, drag queen Anthony (Hugo Weaving) must take his act on the road and invites fellow performers Adam (Guy Pearce) and Bernadette (Terence Stamp), who’s trans, to come along.

The three queens travel across Australia in their bus named Priscilla, performing for both enthusiastic and homophobic crowds on the way to Alice Springs.

This Saturday (March 9), the Bangalow Film Festival in Byron Bay is hosting a screening of Priscilla and a 30th anniversary retrospective panel.

Director Stephan Elliott will join Owen Paterson (production design), Cassie Hanlon (make-up), Michael Gates (costumes) and Guntis Sics (sound) to talk about how they made the film.

Lismore drag queen Maude Boate will also deliver a special performance paying tribute to the film’s legendary soundtrack.

Stephan Elliott remembers Priscilla was booed

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Stephan Elliott recalled showing Priscilla, Queen of the Desert to a gay audience in San Francisco before its official Cannes premiere.

“That did not go well. They began to boo, they began to hiss,” he recalled.

“I’m sitting there dying, thinking, ‘Oh my god, we’re dead in the water.’ I got up on stage and they just came at me.

“They said I was ‘laughing at gay issues.’ I ‘didn’t take on HIV.’ There were ‘no male sex scenes there.’ The crowd was very, very, very, very hostile.

“I lost my temper on stage and said, ‘You know what, people? If you want to make that film, you make that film, and you and your 10 mates can see it. This film was made for a wider audience. I’m sorry if you don’t like it.’

“Basically, ‘You can all go get f__ked,’ and I literally stormed off stage.”

‘A celebration of gay life’

Fearing the worst, a “terrified” Stephan Elliott then took Priscilla, Queen of the Desert to the Cannes Film Festival. There, the audience loved it.

“The room absolutely exploded. The audience went nuts. I knew then that I’d made the right decision,” he said.

“I really was not making a gay film full of politics, I was making a celebration of gay life.”

The film’s legendary soundtrack was also a happy accident. Stephan recalled he and Priscilla were in the right place at the right time.

“[Polygram Records] picked up the film for no money, buying half the rights from the Australian government,” he said.

“Polygram said, ‘Oh, by the way, you have to use our [music] library. That’s the deal.’

“It turned out Polygram had recently acquired the Motown catalogue, which included ABBA. Talk about a chocolate box that fell from nowhere — all those songs!”

The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert is streaming in Australia on Prime Video and 9Now.

Later in the year, the Broken Heel Festival will also celebrate Priscilla’s 30th at the annual celebration in the film’s spiritual home of Broken Hill.

Read more on Aussie queer films:

Broken Heel Festival to celebrate Priscilla’s 30th birthday

Stephan Elliott tells us about making Kylie comedy Swinging Safari

Of An Age’s Goran Stolevski’s new film is about queer chosen family

Aussie actress stars in wild lesbian road trip flick Drive Away Dolls

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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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