Claudia Karvan for “Risk”

Still one of Australia’s most alluring screen performers, Claudia Karvan tells Paul Fischer that despite her successes, she continues to fight for the good roles, the latest being the manipulative femme fatale in the Aussie thriller Risk.

It is hard to believe that beautiful Claudia Karvan, one of the rare mainstays of Australian cinema, has resisted the move to Hollywood.

Sitting in her Sydney hotel, the poised star of the new Aussie film Risk puts it this way. “By saying that, I think you’re giving me too much credit for control – or ANY actor really – over their own career. If one has a film that is successful and sells to America I suppose one can follow it over, but that’s never happened to me.” Yet she has also resisted moving to the States anyhow. “But that just doesn’t sound very attractive to me.” Karvan, who has been acting successfully since her first major stint at age 14 with High Tide, admits to not being “fiercely ambitious but rather ambitious in other areas beyond that kind of Hollywood stardom.”

As a teenager, this eloquent actress was not sure if acting was what she wanted to do, seriously. By the time she had reached her early twenties, the now just turned 30-year old, made her mind up. “The passion really grew about that time”, she says, after being a bit “disconcerted with the whole business and disliking the lack of security.” Since those early days, Karvan says she hopes she “has gained a lot of experience and with that comes a mild amount of confidence and less insecurity.” Now, she says with a faint smile, “touch wood, things are chuffing along quite nicely, thank you very much”.

The challenge for Karvan, who still calls Sydney’s eastern suburbs home, is to find, within the small microcosm of Australian cinema, challenging roles. “An example of that is Risk, about which I’d get extremely excited and so did everyone at my agency.” But the female lead in that film nourish thriller certainly did not get handed to her on a silver platter. “I had to do two auditions for that.”

Risk, the new film from Alan White, director of Erskineville Kings, stars Bryan Brown as personal-injury insurance-assessment veteran John Kreisky. Overlooked by his employers, he’s cooked up a scam with lawyer Louise Roncoli (Karvan) using fake insurance claims. Their greed has put them in a tight spot, but it’s nothing that can’t be fixed by third party Ben Madigan (Tom Long), an innocent new employee who’s reluctant to get involved in anything shady – until he meets the very sexy, seductive and manipulative Louise. It was both Louise and the script that attracted Karvan to this project. “The script was based in characters, but also had a really good narrative through-line, which is hard to come across.”

Though Karvan says she has played “bitchy, cynical, rich girls” before, not one who uses her sexuality in the kind of “manipulative way or as single minded as Louise Roncoli.” The actress didn’t need to do much research on lawyers “because I’ve got a few friends who are lawyers”, but she felt “it was also a stylised piece and she’s a modern femme fatale in a film noir sense, so obviously there’s a lot of creative license too.” She laughingly dismisses the notion that this film might enhance an already negative image of lawyers. “I wouldn’t take it that seriously”, she says laughingly.

Though successful, Karvan still fights hard for every acting gig that comes her way, and still gets nervous before every audition. “I need a stiff Vodka just to settle my nerves; I find it a very difficult process. It’s exciting once you’re in there, but the build up is the killer, not to mention the horrible wait.” At the moment, Claudia has been hard at work on the new TV series The Secret Life of Us “which I think intellectualises TV on a very different level.” She will also be seen in the miniseries My Brother Jack, not to mention one of many Aussies in the next Star Wars. In between, she relaxes by surfing [“I’m a crappy surfer but I love getting out there”] and just hanging out, which she hopes to return to in between those many nail-biting auditions.