When I was in Year 12 back in 1996, one of our English texts was Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta…and gee whiz it was a good one. After a string of pretty boring books like Charles Dickens’ Hard Times (ugh), this book was a breath of fresh air for us students on the verge of adulthood and even had a bit of cheeky inside-the-jeans romance action. So awesome.
For me, it was extra special because it was so relatable. I’m a first-generation Australian born of Italian migrant parents and this book resonated with me on so many levels. While I wasn’t from a single parent family like the main character Josie, I identified with all of the blessings (and restrictions) of growing up in a “wog” family. The strictness, the modest curfews and the ‘making of the sauce’ were all major elements of my own upbringing and like Josie, I grew up with lots of Aussie friends who had so much more freedom than I did.
When I saw a VB long neck, it reminded me of pasta sauce, not beer. Salami and prosciutto were dietary staples (NOT Cabana) and in those days where Tip Top reigned supreme in the school yard, it was Ciabatta or nothin’. Doing anything behind your parent’s back left you with a guilt hangover that lasted months, you weren’t allowed to sit in the “good room” at home and Saturdays were devoted to cleaning – you know, just in case Sunday brought visitors.
Unlike many film adaptations, the movie (released in 2000) was bloody unreal. True to the book, it dealt with some pretty heavy issues like teenage pregnancy and sexuality, depression, suicide, peer pressure, migrant families, friendship and first love. It was an absolute cracker and a movie I could watch over and over again.
Almost 16 years after its release, here’s a look at what the main characters have been up to ….
Pia Miranda as Josie Alibrandi
Pia continued her acting work after playing the role of main character Josie, which she won an AFI for. She has appeared on shows such as The Secret Life Of Us and Time Of Our Lives and has most recently been seen in Aussie prison drama Wentworth. She was married in 2001 to partner Luke Hannigan and has a six-year-old daughter, Lily.
Great Scacchi as Christina Alibrandi (Josie’s mum)
An Italian-Australian acting veteran, Greta has had a long and successful career in television, film and theatre. She has most recently been seen in War & Peace for the BBC. She has a daughter, Leila (to American actor Vincent D’Onofrio) and son, Matteo.
Elena Cotta as Katia Alibrandi (Josie’s Nonna)
Elena was nominated for an AFI as Best Supporting Actress in Looking for Alibrandi and in 2013 at age 81 won the Volpi Cup for her portrayal of an Albanian immigrant in Via Castellana Bandier. Now 84 years old, Elena has been acting in Italy and Australia since 1951.
Kick Gurry as Jacob Coote
Kick (real name Christopher) has appeared in Garage Days, The Alice and Tangle among others since Alibrandi, and most recently starred in Edge of Tomorrow with Tom Cruise in 2014 and CSI: Cyber in 2015.
Matthew Newton as John Barton
Matt Newton has starred most notably as Terry Clarke in Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities among other bits and pieces. He has been at the centre of controversy in his personal life, following several assault charges, issues with substance abuse and battles with mental health issues.
Anthony LaPaglia as Michael Andretti (Josie’s father)
Anthony has had a massive acting career, staring in acclaimed Aussie film Lantana directly after Alibrandi, as well as having a central role in the US show Without A Trace from 2002-2009. He was married to fellow actress Gia Carides from 1998-2015 and has a daughter named Bridget. We love him best as Joe from Empire Records.
Leeanna Walsman as Carly Bishop
Leeanna, who played racist and privileged character and Josie’s enemy, Carly Bishop, has had a long career as an actress. She has appeared in Aussie mini-series such as Jessica and Catching Milat, shows such as All Saints and White Collar Blue and had a recurring role on Wentworth.
What was your curfew?