Tilda Cobham-Hervey is mesmerising in Helen Reddy biopic ‘I am Woman’
It’s unsurprising that director Unjoo Moon decided on I am Woman as the title for Helen Reddy’s biopic.
This song has found its way into the annals of pop culture after becoming an anthem during the 1970s feminist movement.
The Australian-American singer, songwriter, author, actress and activist carved out a very successful career for herself with many firsts added to her legacy.
Sadly, she passed away at age 78 in September last year.
That said, her story is a powerful one of a woman who defied the odds, refused to bow down to a sexist male-dominated industry and pursued a musical career with unbridled passion.
Although many people are au fait with her music, her life story is inspiring.
For the biopic, Australian actress Tilda Cobham-Hervey was cast to play Reddy.
She said: “Of course, I knew the song, I am Woman. I didn’t know a lot about Helen; I didn’t know she was Australian as she was so massive in the US. It was very special to go back and learn about her history. She was probably the first Australian woman to go and make it as a singer and as a creative person.
“It’s amazing to know that she was Australian and that she was the first Australian to win a Grammy and the first woman to have her own TV show in the US.”
“It was really exciting (to play her) but also quite nerve-racking.”
Cobham-Hervey did her best to learn about Reddy.
“I read her books. I listened to every interview she did. I watched her performances endlessly to really get to know her as best I could and I listened to peoples stories about her,.
“I just absorbed as much as I could. Then I worked on her voice. We are both Australian but she has a very particular quality to the way that she spoke and I really wanted to capture that and also her musicality.
“I tried to embody the way she walked, the way she held herself, her choreography and learning her songs and working on her voice.”
What helped her get into character, too, was the script, which was based on a lot of research, as well as Unjoo’s first-hand interaction and knowledge of Reddy.
Cobham-Hervey said: “I think it was very important for this story to have a strong female team behind it. Unjoo spent so much time with the family, with Helen, for years before they even started writing the script.
“It was important to have that support earlier on, and Unjoo’s passion was very contagious, and her sort of drive to really make it as much of a celebration of Helen as she could and, of course, her knowledge of her life and every titbit as she spent so many years learning about her, was very helpful as well.”
Evan Peters plays Jeff Wald, Reddy’s husband/manager. While he managed many heavyweight artists, his substance abuse issues eventually led to Reddy losing much of her fortune.
Despite meeting Evan two days before they started filming, the actress had nothing but praise for her co-star.
“Evan is incredible. He was so present on set.”
Another co-star she loved working with was Danielle Macdonald, who was cast as Lilian Roxon, an influential journalist and author.
“I mean that was the easiest, there was no acting required when playing her friend. We got along so well from the very beginning. I see that relationship as the other great love story in the film.”
What also made the movie special was having Reddy’s real-life granddaughter, Lily Donat, make a cameo. She played a Greenwich club singer.
“That was amazing. Lily is so incredible. The song she sings and her beautiful voice. Danielle and I were so moved watching her perform. It was really nice to have the family involved in the film as well.”
When the film was completed, the actress got to meet Reddy in person.
“I made a decision to not meet her until the film was completed. I met her once we finished filming, that was so special. She was my hero after spending so much time recreating moments in her life.”
I am Woman is a movie that celebrates the life of an icon. It is wonderfully cast and directed and deserves an audience.
I am Woman is available on Box Office.