Tuesday June 11, 2008

Olivia Tracey Is 'Hollywood-Hot!'

'Red Roses & Petrol' is set for cinema release this summer

By Seán McCarthy N.U.J.

Being 'Hollywood-Hot' is my way to describe Olivia Tracey's acting career right now, at this present time Summer 2008. The Irish actress who has worked steadily for years to gain a foothold on the Hollywood scene has finally arrived as a force to be reckoned with in the entertainment industry, and THE IRISH EXAMINER is thrilled to get the latest scoop about her new movie. Having been 'Tracing Tracey' for some years now as a journalist, I too am amongst those who admit to have been scooped up during the Eighties alongside every other Irish hormone-driven lad by her sheer sex appeal and her unique, most stunning beauty. Seeing Olivia Tracey coming out of an elevator at a grand Manhattan hotel is like catching a glimpse of Maureen O'Hara, Marilyn Monroe, or even Garbo herself in their hay day. I have been witness to all the heads turning, all open-mouthed and salivating. "Did ya see that?! That was Olivia Tracey! Wow!" Unforgettable.

Olivia Tracey seems to stand on her own in this category, when you think about it. What other Irish beauties adorning the silver screen do we have that are stunning to look at, glamorous in a thoroughly Irish fashion, and working in Hollywood? Well there is of course Susan Lynch and Catherine Farrell, both Irish, and both appearing alongside Olivia Tracey in the new film 'Red Roses & Petrol'. And yes, they are well-healed actresses, and beautiful. But there has always been something quite extra-ordinary about Olivia Tracey that goes back to a finer world of big shiny cars, and famous film stars. Olivia is one of those actresses ... dripping in allure and mystery, sensuality and sincerity, and we are so fortunate to be around to see her perform during these, the years of her emergence as a true Irish star. I have so many questions for Olivia, as I pick up the phone to call Hollywood to speak with the star. I ask her about a provocative new Equinox Fitness Clubs advertising campaign appearing cross billboards and glossy magazines "globally" at the moment, and designed by the renowned and award-winning Fallon Worldwide advertising agency. The Equinox "Happily Ever" Ad Campaign is the result of a unique collaborative effort between Equinox Fitness Clubs, Fallon, a worldwide leader in advertising, and Ellen von Unwerth, a legendary photographer and long-time fashion fixture. "I had a wonderful time on the shoot of the new Equinox ads, Seán!" says Olivia, whose image adorns the new commercials. "Just fabulous, really!"

"We're thrilled to work with people who are as impassioned about creative as we are," says Equinox Creative Director Bianca Kosoy. "It's been an amazing collaboration."

Famed photographer Ellen Von Unwerth felt drawn to the concept of the campaign-her first in the fitness arena.

"I really liked the whole idea," she says. "I believe in working out. In my life, yoga has really helped me to be fit, and it's also given me more confidence. That's part of the message. You look good, you feel good, and you have more fun, more unexpected adventures. This is not about a normal, everyday life."

Olivia Tracey's new Equinox ad campaign features a photograph of the actress surrounded by a group of scantily clad hunks. It's all part of the journey for Irish actress Olivia Tracey. On top of the world and now living and working out in Hollywood CA, here comes Olivia Tracey to the big screen like you've never seen her before, and the new Equinox fame is only a small part of this year's big surprises for Olivia Tracey fans worldwide. For the woman who seems to have it all is also a very hard and dedicated working actor, who has earned herself a nice big meaty film role.

When Sinead's brother the playwright Joseph O'Connor witnessed his play Red Roses and Petrol staged at the Irish Arts Center in New York several years ago, Irish actor and former Miss Ireland Olivia Tracey would have had no idea, at the time, that one day she would receive a phone call in relation to O'Connor's play that would change her life forever. In a well-healed Dublin accent that carries sweet little clues of her new home of Hollywood, Olivia "tells me all", as we chat together about her latest release the film Red Roses & Petrol. In this highly anticipated new Irish movie, Olivia Tracey plays the lead role of tormented widow Moya Doyle alongside legendary actor Malcolm McDowell, who tears across the screen as her tragic husband Enda Doyle in this high-stakes independent movie. Of course, just like in the movies, it all started with a phone call:

Olivia in her element, appearing in a current ad campaign for Equinox Fitness Clubs, photographed by renowned European photographer Ellen Von Unwerth

"Do you know, I had not seen the play Seán," says Olivia. "It was staged in New York at the Irish Arts Center but I never got to see it back then, because I wasn't in New York at the time. But the Celtic Arts Center here in Studio City, Los Angeles ... I got a call from them to say that film Director Tamar Simon Hoffs was having a reading of this Irish movie script. She was looking for a woman to play the lead role in it, and ideally she was hoping to get 'the real deal' ... the real Irish person! So I picked up the telephone and made a call to 'Tammy' Simon Hoffs, thinking that this was going to be a five-minute phone call about the script and the reading for the film. Well, an hour and a half later the pair of us were still on the phone, and it turned out we were neighbours. Tamar literally lives two blocks from where I live! By the time we were finished our phone call together I just said I would pop around and pick up the script, no need to send it in the post to me!"

Olivia's new film 'Red Roses & Petrol', in cinemas this July 2008, is the rollicking tale of the 'Doyles of Dublin', an Irish clan with more than its share of problems, but whose diverse family members all pull together when father Enda Doyle gets news of his impending death due to illness. An all-star cast headed up by Malcolm McDowell and Olivia Tracey also includes Catherine Farrell (Colin's sister), Greg Ellis, Max Beesley, Susan Lynch, Aubrey Morris (Clockwork Orange), Robert Easton ('Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea'), Sean Lawlor and Heather Juergensen. This is a strong and emotional roller coaster of a movie, with a cast so obviously dedicated to the story itself that one feels immediately wrapped up in events onscreen.

Olivia Tracey gives a thoroughly remarkable performance as Moya Doyle, a struggling housewife in the arms of a nervous breakdown, who discovers a video tape made by her late husband Enda, played by Malcolm McDowell, in which he attempts to make amends for the failures in his life. But there's so much more to this story, originally penned by playwright Joseph O'Connor, and rewritten as a film script by Director Tamar ('Tammy') Hoffs, that you'll just have to go see it when it comes out in cinemas this Summer 2008. The film carries several plots and sub plots ... all of which converge in one way or another through the confessions and denials of a Dublin family gathering over the ashes of their dead father. Well worth the wait, the film premieres globally at a cinema near you.

The film was shot in Ireland and California during a three-week period, with the entire interior of an Irish house, the Doyle family home, being erected out in California. The production was a spirited effort from all involved after funding originally fell through from the Irish Film Board and the movie's Director Tamar Simon Hoffs was urged by her famous pop singer daughter Susannah Hoffs of 'The Bangles' to keep going and make the movie, whatever it took. And so, as actor Malcolm McDowell says of the birth of Red Roses & Petrol the film ... "the little engine that could" began to gather steam.

"The minute I met her, I liked Tammy. She's a tiny little frame of a person with a head full of silver white hair and big brown eyes, kind of baby face, and she's tiny ... but she is this huge force of energy, so warm and friendly and lovely. I liked her and immediately felt comfortable with her Seán, and was delighted to show up a couple of nights later over at Tamar's house in Los Angeles for the script reading. Malcolm McDowell was there, and again I remember him being extremely nice and just lovely to be around and very friendly. That was all in September I recall, and then I heard nothing for a few months. Then suddenly, I was being offered the lead role! All of a sudden everything went into orbit. I was so happy to get a role like this, because in Ireland generally I would never get a role like this because it's very much a character role. There's not a 'shade' of Miss Ireland in this role I play in Red Roses & Petrol ... not a glimmer! The crown is definitely dead and buried when you see me in this part! My character Moya Doyle is very much the dowdy widow, you know, wearing the house smock and slippers, the raincoat and the headscarf, the practical down to Earth mother. "

This film role in Red Roses & Petrol for Olivia Tracey is certainly a departure for the stage and screen beauty, and one only has to trace back through the past two decades to realize just when the journey to stardom began for the Dublin beauty. The year 1984 was an exciting one for Dublin born actress, Olivia Tracey. It marked her career switch from schoolteacher to top model, all further compounded by her Miss Ireland triumph in August '84. She attracted infinite media attention, enjoyed overnight celebrity, and did her country proud with a 6th placing in the Miss Universe Pageant, where she was also voted "Best Body in a Bikini," and her "Magnificent Seven" finalist placing in the Miss World. By her reign's end she was co-hosting a primetime show on RTE Television "Murphy's Micro Quiz'M", as well as live announcing on Channels RTE 1 and 2. There were also emcee engagements across the country and countless modeling assignments from runway to print and product endorsements. She then proceeded to establish her own image consulting business along with a time as fashion editor for Ireland's popular "Woman's Way" magazine.

Her theatrical career began in 1988 with the title role of Cinderella in the Christmas pantomime, a musical family show in the prestigious Gaiety Theatre, Dublin. The next year she was back on the same stage as Maid Marion in Babes in the Wood, followed by a slew of leading roles in theatrical productions such as Mamet's "Sexual Perversity in Chicago", Dickens' "A Christmas Carol", and the particularly noted and notable "Lady Chatterley's Lover", the D.H. Lawrence classic which attracted cancellation lines and interminable press coverage, all of it controversial and centering around a photograph of Olivia Tracey in what was then a most provocative pose wearing nothing but a sheer night slip. Naughty! But lovely too! The photograph caused such a stir in Ireland, that the story of Olivia's appearance overshadowed much of the brilliant work Olivia was doing onstage itself.

1994 brought her to New York, where she launched her lifelong ambition to reside and act in the United States. Her first break came from The Irish Arts Center with the role of Dunya in Geraldine Aran's black comedy, "The Donahue Sisters". A break of another kind came from The Irish Echo newspaper where she procured her own social column, another forum to expand her profile among the New York Irish. She also contributed to Ireland's best selling Sunday Independent Newspaper as well as penning a few articles for the prestigious New York Times.

She continued her writing in Los Angeles, where she moved in 1997, while simultaneously pursuing her acting career. Television commercials have been many, as have modeling assignments with the renowned Ford Model Agency. Film credits include, among others, Angelica Huston's "Agnes Browne", Jim Sheridan's "In America", Michael Bay's "The Island" and Curtis Hanson's Warner Bros movie "Lucky You" where she features as Isabel, the chic, French lady on the arm of L.C., played by screen legend, Robert Duvall. Television credits include "Windfall" (NBC), "The Handler" (CBS), "Gilmore Girls (WB), Guiding Light (CBS) and The Ambassador (BBC). The role of which she is most proud, however, is tormented widow Moya Doyle in 'Red Roses and Petrol':

"Organically, it happened that I was delivering my lines the way my mother would say them. It just happened naturally that way ... even when I was studying the script on my own, I was speaking them the way my own mother would say them. Actually, my mam got to see the movie at the Galway Film Festival, and she was highly entertained. She thought it was great!" says Olivia. I venture to ask her if her mother might have thought Olivia was 'taking her mother off' in Red Roses & Petrol, to which the actress laughs heartily and long:

"She did see moments of herself in it ... but my mother is somebody who is well able to laugh at herself, you know, even when we're having a laugh at home in Ireland. She's a very distinguished woman, my mom. Victorian-like. But I didn't bring that side of her to the screen, the Victorian lady-like characteristics. My character Moya is a little bit 'rough around the edges' ... whereas my mother is more like Mrs. Bouquette from the TV comedy 'Keeping Up Appearances' ... she's still going strong at 88, she just turned 88 and she's doing great. I love her so much ..."

Olivia's new film has a history of struggle and eventual realization as a motion picture, as you will learn when you visit the films main release website RedRosesAndPetrol.Com

Off-set and relaxing, Olivia takes a break from her busy schedule and visits New York. "I love coming back to New York City. I miss my old turf here!" (Seán McCarthy)

Over a nice cup of tea, I caught up with Red Roses & Petrol director Tamar Simon Hoffs, who told me she simply had to make this movie, struggle or no struggle, and her daughter and singing beauty Susanna Hoffs, lead singer of 'The Bangles' was there to support her every move. It was Susanna who kept her own mother inspired: "If you love material enough," says Tammy Hoffs, "you expect the film to be a joyful production, without difficulties. And so it was with Joseph O'Connor's play - I was very moved by it and believed in its deep layers of truth about family. Having said that, let's face it; making movies is not for the weak of heart. Filmmaking is the most complicated and multitasking job that I have undertaken other than being a mother and wife to my brood. And a big brood is essential for the making of films, because it is strictly a team effort. But with actors like Olivia and Malcolm, Max, Heather and all the cast there can be no worries, except 'could we get the job done in 18 days' and an unthinkably low budget? Red Roses and Petrol is a family love story on screen and off. Its film life began when Tamar Simon Hoffs saw Joseph O'Connor's celebrated play in New York. The play's sharp observations of family life and witty exploration of characters facing personal tragedy were an irresistible combination for her. "It deals with my favorite subjects - love and family," Tamar Hoffs says. "Joe O'Connor's wickedly funny, dark take on the emotions that surface when this Dublin family reunites for their father's funeral just turns everything you usually associate with mourning upside down. But, there is much more to Red Roses and Petrol, as each family member, provoked by another, peels back layer upon layer of unpredictable secrets in a domino effect of revelations. And I recognized every member of the family. The sweetest thing about this movie has been getting the job done and sitting in the theatre, as I have done so many times, and listening to the laughter, and yes, the tears. It's been worth every moment of production to have this wonderful result, and Olivia is just everything I envisioned Moya Doyle would be, and so much more " saysTamar Hoffs.

I would have said Olivia Tracey was a strong actor years ago, having witnessed several of her many performances across stage and screen in Ireland during the eighties and early nineties. She was good then, but now, I would have to say that Olivia Tracey has definitely arrived in Hollywood on the heals of this film and her highly memorable portrayal of Joseph O'Connor's character Moya Doyle. I myself was working as a radio newsreader in 1984 when Olivia was crowned Miss Ireland. Every seventeen year old had a poster of Olivia Tracey stuck on their bedroom wall right next to one of Debbie Harry. Olivia was, and still is in many respects, a walking, talking 'representative' of Ireland. Back in 1984 in metropolitan Dublin, interviewing stage and screen celebrities was a daily task in our busy radio newsroom. Oddly enough though, I never got a chance to sit down with Olivia Tracey and have a good natter until now. But having seen the film Red Roses & Petrol myself, I can honestly say that the wait to interview Olivia Tracey has been worth every year of the quarter of a century that it has taken. Olivia is striking as Moya Doyle, even though the role of Moya Doyle has been a glamourless one for the actress also famous for her piercing eyes, a flock of blonde hair, that tiny little waist, and those long beautiful Dublin legs.

Miss Ireland 1984 delivers a moving and emotional performance as Moya Doyle, full of true-to-life Dublin mannerism and articulation. Tracey steps out across the screen as if she has suddenly found a type of warmth, a place to be fully accepted for who she is, and what she has to give to an audience. I was instantly taken by surprise to watch Olivia Tracey make her mark on this film. I'm waiting eagerly for her next role, because I think Olivia Tracey is one of those actors who will simply measure up to any good role, such is Olivia's love of life, the performing arts, and achievement.

Olivia rocks the screen on this one, no doubt, and plays so comfortably with quite a few far more seasoned actors around her in this film. I would even go so far as to say that the film is given far greater credibility with Olivia in it, than had she not played Moya Doyle. It's as if the Red Roses & Petrol were waiting for Olivia Tracey to show up, and not the other way around. Make way deHavilland ... Move over a notch Spencer, and get acquainted 'Sex and The City'. Olivia Tracey has suddenly arrived and is Hollywood-Hot!

Red Roses & Petrol comes out this summer. For more information visit

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