Hollywood’s roster of strong female leads just got a bit stronger, thanks to a big-dreaming white girl rapper from Jersey and the extraordinary Australian actress who brought her to life. This week’s Sundance Film Festival is awash in fresh indie talent, but none more buzzed-over than Sydney native Danielle Macdonald, whose turn as a feisty wannabe MC has Hollywood blowing up her phone.
Macdonald stars in Patti Cake$, the breakout feature from director Geremy Jasper, whose previous credits include music videos for Florence + The Machine and Selena Gomez. The film centres around Patti Cake$, a.k.a. Killa P, a smalltown New Jersey bartender with dreams of big-time hip-hop stardom. “We are both really passionate about something—rap in her case, acting in mine—and we want to be able to do what we love,” Macdonald told The Verge in a recent Q & A. “Also, we happen to be in industries that don’t promote the body types we have.”
The 25-year old actress moved to L.A. from Australia in 2010, and was quickly cast as a lead in ABC Family’s groundbreaking but short-lived drama Huge. (Unfortunately, her American working papers didn’t come through in time to actually accept the part.) She went on to score a role alongside Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Banks in the 2015 crime thriller Every Secret Thing. Her scene-stealing performance as a sullen teen fresh out of juvie caught the attention of director Jasper, who immediately knew he’d found his Killa P. “This film is a love letter to… these really tough soulful Jersey women,” Jasper said in an interview with the Sundance Institute. “Women with big mouths who don’t give a shit; who love to tell dirty jokes and laugh really loud… they don’t care what you think about them.”
To play Patty Cake$’ lead, Macdonald spent over a year listening to Notorious B.I.G. and Nicki Minaj and working on her Jersey accent. She practiced raps in her closet and learned how to rhyme with the help of Jasper and Brooklyn rapper Skyzoo. Judging by the reactions of the film’s Sundance audiences, her efforts paid off in a big way. The Hollywood Reporter is calling her “Hollywood’s next big thing,” while the festival’s director told The New York Times she was the most talented performer he’d seen since J-Law in her Sundance breakout Winter’s Bone. Variety might have put it best: “If Patti Cake$ really did exist, this movie would make her star.” Fortunately Danielle Macdonald is real as they come, and we’ll definitely be seeing her again soon.
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