Hannah Diviney in Audrey

Hannah Diviney in Audrey. Photo: Supplied

Hannah Diviney on her Audrey character, representation and premiering the film at SXSW

"I want everyone in the industry who knows about Audrey – because of the festival – to commit to hiring more disabled creatives both in front of and behind the camera."

Meghan Markle, Selena Gomez and Daisy Ridley are just a few of the phenomenal women at SXSW in Austin, Texas this year, and now we can proudly add our own Editor-In-Chief Hannah Diviney to that list.

Over the weekend, Hannah joined the cast and crew of her new film, Audrey for its premiere at (just casually) one of the most celebrated culture, innovation and tech festivals in the world.

Described as a 'dramedy', Audrey follows Ronnie Lipstick (Jackie Van Beek), a mum-of-two who's living a life she never wanted thanks to a derailed acting career, an unmotivated husband (Jeremy Lindsay Taylor) and two daughters who she struggles to connect with. But things take a huge turn when an accident lands her eldest daughter Audrey (Josephine Blazier) in a coma. It's then that Ronnie gets a second chance at the life she actually wanted by taking on her daughter's identity.

Playing Norah Lipsick who is Ronnie's younger daughter, Hannah has made her first foray into movies after her acting debut in SBS TV show, Latecomers. Here, we chat to her about her Audrey character, on-screen representation, and premiering the film at SXSW.

Hannah Diviney and Josephine Blazier in Audrey

Hannah Diviney and Josephine Blazier in Audrey. Photo: Supplied

The cast and crew of Audrey at SXSW 2024

The cast and crew of Audrey at SXSW 2024 in Austin, Texas. Photo supplied

How did the opportunity to star in Audrey come about and what made you decide to say yes?

The opportunity came about through Latecomers (my first acting gig) actually.  While I was doing promotion for that, the creative team behind Audrey saw me doing the rounds in the media and thought I would be a good fit for the character of Norah. They offered it to me, without needing an audition which is incredibly rare and normally only reserved for actors with names and reputations. Saying yes was easy on the one hand because getting to act in a feature film and represent my community in that way is an incredible opportunity/dream but on the other, it took a lot of daring and guts because it meant living away from home for the first time and relying solely on carers for six weeks which I’d never done before. 

Can you describe your character Norah?

I play Norah Lipsick, the 15-year-old often overlooked younger sister of Audrey. Like most 15-year-olds, she’s desperate to belong and be seen, and that’s not something she finds easily at school or in her own family. Audrey is the centre of the Lipsick universe and that often means Norah’s ambitions, desires and needs are left to exist only on the fringes. With that as motivation, Norah is whip-smart, incredibly dry, witty, sarcastic and full of this wonderfully snarky bravado that she wears like armour. At her heart, she’s just a tender, enthusiastic lonely dreamer of a kid who is sick of sitting on the sidelines in her own life and in the lives of those around her.

What is your favourite thing about Norah and how similar are you and her?

My favourite thing about Norah is her humour. Getting to craft one-liners for her in collaboration with our incredible writer Lou Sanz was one of my favourite parts of the process. We’re similar in the way that we view the world (a lot of Norah’s reactions were dictated by my own and I shaped her alongside Lou) but she is far more reckless (in the best kind of way) and quirky than I think I have ever let myself be.

When it came to filming the movie, which of your co-stars were you closest to on set?

As a first-time film actor, I learnt so much from watching how other people approached their roles and inhabited their characters. If I had to choose who I learnt the most from, it would probably be Jackie Van Beek who played my mother, Ronnie. She has a very similar career trajectory to the one I want to emulate and pursue, in the sense that not only is she an excellent actor to work with, but she’s also a great writer and director in her own right and that trifecta of space is where I want to be creatively. 

Hannah Diviney at the Audrey premiere at SXSW 2024 in Austin, Texas. Photo: Supplied

How does it feel to premiere the film internationally at SXSW in Austin, Texas? How monumental is this moment for you as a young Australian woman and disability advocate?

Like a dream! The most surreal experience ever, I think. To know that our weird little movie has a home and has support from one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world is mind-blowing. I can’t tell you what it means to be platforming disabled experience and perspective on a stage that big and that sought after.

Historically, disabled voices have been made very quiet in this industry and I indent to be as loud as possible. I’m incredibly keen to network and engage with as many people as I can in the hope that they realise the immense benefit of adding disabled talent to your story and world, even beyond using disability as a plot point or driving narrative.

I want everyone in the industry who knows about Audrey – because of the festival – to commit to hiring more disabled creatives both in front of and behind the camera.

Ultimately, what do you hope audiences take away from watching this film?

I hope they laugh, I hope they see the true tenderness hidden in dark comedy, I hope it makes them think and feel uncomfortable and sit with that. Again, not only do I want more work and visibility of disabled creators engineered by those in the industry, but I also want to see more space given to films helmed by female writers and female directors. Women have so many tangents of story to tell and it’s about damn time we were given the means to do so. 

Directed by Natalie Bailey, 'Audrey' will premiere in Australia later this year.