Australian director Jocelyn Moorhouse first burst onto the international film scene with Proof, her 1991 directorial debut. A searching and refreshingly original black comedy about a blind photographer (Hugo Weaving) and his relationships with his obsessive housekeeper (Genevieve Picot) and a friendly dishwasher (Russell Crowe), the film earned instant critical acclaim in Australia and abroad. The winner of six Australian Film Institute Awards -- including Best Screenplay and Best Director for Moorhouse -- Proof also won numerous prizes at international film festivals from Cannes to Tokyo, effectively announcing its writer/director as a new and exciting talent.
A native of Melbourne, Moorhouse began making Proof in the mid-'80s. Fascinated all her life with blindness, photography, and in her words "having a reality without visual knowledge," she initially envisioned the film as a short, but decided to make it into a feature after being told that she wouldn't be able to secure funding for a short piece. It took five years before Proof went into production and when it did, it was with a 1.1 million dollar budget jointly provided by Film Victoria and the Australian Film Commission. Shot in Melbourne over six weeks in the winter of 1990, Proof was first seen by a Cannes Film Festival advisor who was surveying possible Australian entries for competition; the film was initially rejected but later accepted after Moorhouse made some cuts.
Proof's critical success -- it was screened at over 50 international film festivals -- opened any number of previously locked doors for Moorhouse. These new opportunities were amply reflected in Moorhouse's subsequent film, her first "big Hollywood picture," How to Make an American Quilt (1995). Featuring a hugely talented ensemble cast that included Anne Bancroft, Kate Nelligan, Winona Ryder, Dermot Mulroney, and Alfre Woodard, the film centered on a young graduate student (Ryder) who learns a bevy of life lessons from a group of older women over the course of one summer. Quilt met with starkly mixed reviews that ranged from vaguely approving to one reviewer's comment that the film could not have possibly been made by the woman responsible for Proof.
Undeterred, Moorhouse took on another "woman's film" for her next project, an adaptation of Jane Smiley's award-winning novel A Thousand Acres. Based on Shakespeare's King Lear, the film, which starred Jessica Lange, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Jason Robards, revolved around the dysfunctional family ties between an old man and his three daughters. Like Quilt before it, A Thousand Acres (1997) met with very mixed reviews and was not the success it was anticipated to be.
When Moorhouse next appeared, it was as the screenwriter for Unconditional Love (2001), her second project with her husband, director P.J. Hogan (the two had previously collaborated on Hogan's hit Muriel's Wedding (1994), which Moorhouse produced). A drama about a recently divorced woman who teams up with the lover of a dead pop star to find the pop star's murderer, it starred Rupert Everett, Kathy Bates, and Jonathan Pryce.