For Strykermeyer that moment came in March 1995. Stryker and Cindy Pastel were living as drifters. They had a nomadic existence living out of their suitcases and other friend’s houses, while performing nightly at Sydney’s Albury Hotel. Stryker recalls receiving a phone call early one morning from the film’s production company. ‘Stryker, you’ve won… you’ve won!’ For Stryker had indeed won in Edinburgh that night, the BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) award for Best Make-up for The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
The ground-breaking Australian film was based on the unique and wonderful Miss Cindy Pastel, one of Stryker’s closest friends and a true iconic legend of the stage. The film’s writer/director Stephan Elliott met with Pastel and was fascinated with his story and drag life whilst bringing up his son, Adam. It is sad and unfortunate that there is no recognition of Pastel in the film’s credits as the film seemed to suggest that it was a work of fiction, when clearly it was based on a living character and fact.
‘The script was written in 12 days. It was very easy. So many of the lines fell out of drag queen’s mouths or when people attacked me when I got too pushy. It actually wrote itself!’ the film’s director/writer Stephan Elliott said in the documentary Ladies Please.
Stryker was contacted by Stephan to be part of the make-up team. ‘I arrived at the casting director’s interview and was asked to produce a resume of my work. I replied I did not have one. My work is already out there, just ask anyone on Oxford Street, who is the best make-up artist in town. Feeling that I had I flunked out, I put it behind me only to be told a couple of days later that I was hired. I was given the title of Hair/Make-up/Drag Consultant and responsible for Guy Pearce’s (Mitzi) look. We did two weeks pre-production and six weeks on location travelling on the bus,’ Stryker told OiP.
‘There were some great moments on the set, some punch-ups involving stars, but the most touching were the scenes between Terence Stamp (Bernadette) and his love-interest Australian actor Bill Hunter. Stamp only agreed to do the film if his lover was to be Bill Hunter. Unfortunately for Bill, he had difficulty in remembering lines –this could be partly due to the hearty appreciation of Fosters – so for the most part, his dialogue and scenes are adlibbed. The tears were all real. An amazing actor and it was a privilege to witness his technique on set and to see how his character evolved.’
‘Not trained in make-up, I learnt my craft, copied and watched others before developing my own style, but I owe a lot to Miss Audrey Woodstock-Rose. However, as I was already a known Sydney drag queen and the Drag Queen consultant for the actors, this created certain tensions in the make-up van as the other two female make-up artists had spent eight years learning their craft. Mine was learnt on stage!’
‘One particular incident marred my experience on the set. I had a call from the director – an unusual moment – and I thought “woo!” as it was Hugo Weaving’s scene and not Guy’s. When I arrived on set, Stephan said, “Tied it up!” which left me wondering what he meant. What he really meant was let’s tie this scene up and he needed someone in the shoot and to my delight it was me. We then shot the (Wo Man Beauty Products scene) and I sprang from the set full of excitement. I recall running back to the make-up van… “I’m in a movie…I’m in a movie!” only to find to my horror the other two make-up artists down on all fours, ratting through my make-up box. They had assumed, and wrongly, that I was stealing brushes and make-up. Their shock at seeing me catching them out, froze them in an awkward silence. My heart went thump and I felt violated and angry. This incident happened two weeks into the shoot and that silent mistrust then fell over the van for the rest of the film shoot, but I also felt that it empowered me in another direction and that was just to create, create and create! And I did,’ Stryker explained.
Indeed, Priscilla, Stykermeyer and all those who worked on the film can hold their heads high, for Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is a unique testament to high camp culture and without a doubt one of the most proudly Australian feel-good films of the last decade.