How A Hollywood Vet Keeps It Cool

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toniEmbedPhoto: BEImages/Gregory Pace.
Watching Toni Collette's career is like watching a friend make it big — she has a vibe that makes you really want to root for her. The fact that she often plays a shy underdog (who eventually emerges from her chrysalis) makes her all the more lovable. In real life, though, she's a woman who already knows very well what she wants, and how to get it.

Her newest film, A Long Way Down, makes that agency over your own life a particularly relevant topic as it follows the paths of an unlikely band of would-be suicide victims from all walks of life. We found a minute in her busy day to talk with her about how she keeps balance in her own life. And, it turns out, she has some pretty good tips to share.

You've played a lot of women who, though strong in some ways, tend to put their own desires at the bottom of the list. How does it feel to be in that role?
"Exhausting. I'm interested in playing them. They're really quite a mixed bag in terms of what they're going through and how they respond to life. In Maureen's case in A Long Way Down, I think she's just so beautiful — the thing with her is she's just an altruistic person who gives and gives and gives, and she doesn't know how to receive. This story for her is about someone kind of learning how to interact with other people and, therefore, life."

In your own life, how do you break out of a rut?
"I think for anyone it's a matter of being present. We're all different, but one thing I think that people in general — and certainly myself — can do is meditation. I also have a job which is very varied, and I still find it exciting, even though I've been doing it for more than half my life. I feel very lucky for that. I really appreciate it and I get to learn from each character that I play. Also, music is the most evocative tool, really. If you put on some happy music and jump around the room, have a dance, have a boogie, you can't get really get away with being miserable at a time like that."

What's the most important quality in a friend?
"I think the thing that helps people connect the most is the thing you can't really see or talk about — the energy, a similar sensibility. Someone with a good sense of humor counts, and an ability to be together and be comfortable."

Is it important to have a best friend?
"Friendship is probably the most important thing in life. It's really important to have some kind of connection with someone who you feel you understand, and who gets you."

What are your daily rituals?
"First thing I do in the morning is I drink a shitload of water. The last thing at night is I check on my children. "

What do you think adults can learn from children?
"They're just so present and playful. One of the benefits, or the aims, of meditation is to allow yourself to be present, and kids just do that naturally. That's pretty inspirational. Also just the incredible, overwhelming amount of love that you can feel. I didn't know that I could feel that."

Is there one celebrity you haven't met who you really want to be friends with?
"I wouldn't mind hanging out with Tom Waits!"