Almost all locations used for filming were the genuine locations where the events occurred. The tea shop where Honorah Parker ate her last meal was knocked down a few days after the shoot ended. According to director Peter Jackson, when they got to the location of the murder on the dirt path, it was eerily quiet; the birds stopped singing, and it didn't seem right. So they moved along a couple of hundred yards.
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Melanie Lynskey and Kate Winslet were so strongly into their roles that they would interact with each other as their characters off screen.
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A picture on the wall in Pauline's bedroom is a photograph of the real Juliet Hulme.
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All of the journal voice-overs are direct from real diary entries made by Pauline Parker. The characters in the stories (if not the stories themselves) and make-believe world are also authentic.
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Since the Parker-Hulme murder had been an infamous crime that was strongly sensationalized in New Zealand history Peter Jackson decided rather than do a film that would be a historical look back at the crime to instead create a drama about Parker and Hulme's intense friendship. In addition to reading Pauline Parker's diary, Jackson and company undertook a nation wide search for anyone who had known the girls and interviewed them to get a closer look at their lives.
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Co-writer Fran Walsh suggested the idea of making the Parker-Hulme murder into a film to director Peter Jackson. Walsh said she had a fascination with the murder since childhood.
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Most of the cast was selected because of their physical resemblances to their real-life characters.
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Melanie Lynskey was cast as Pauline Parker two weeks before filming began. Co-writer Fran Walsh discovered her at the last minute while scouring local high schools for Parker lookalikes. Upon being cast, Lynskey was shown Kate Winslet's audition video and was told: "This is how good you have you be."
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Kate Winslet was one of 175 girls who auditioned for the role of Juliet Hulme.
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One of the photographs that Juliet Hulme puts on display in the woodland shrine is that of tenor Jussi Björling, who was (in real life) greatly admired by the girls' tenor idol, Mario Lanza.
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One of the widest points of speculation is whether or not the real Pauline and Juliet had a sexual relationship, with Pauline's diary implying strongly that they did and Anne Perry insisting they did not. Peter Jackson instructed his actresses to perform their love scenes as if they were two devoted friends role-playing as their favorite fictional characters.
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Producer Jim Booth passed away shortly after the production was complete. The film is dedicated to his memory.
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When Pauline visits Juliet at the hospital, she admires the red knitting on which Juliet is working. Juliet tells her "it's for you." Several scenes later, when Juliet and Pauline are seated on the bus during the "The Ones That I Worship" poem, Pauline is wearing the now-complete red sweater.
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The film received restricted or adults-only certificates from most countries' film rating boards, but a lenient PG rating in its native New Zealand.
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The first Peter Jackson film to receive an Oscar nomination, a few years before The Lord of the Rings trilogy took away several Oscars through the years.
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In a September 2020 interview, Kate Winslet recalled a very embarrassing moment during filming when she and Melanie Lynskey were topless and about to do an intimate scene. "One of the camera boys, as we're lining up a shot, and we're both in our little undies, naked from the waist up. I heard him as an aside say to someone else, 'Well, I guess it's hard-dicks day, boys.' I was like, 'Uh,' but I did this weird thing that you do when you're younger of just going, 'Well, that wasn't very nice, but we'd better not say anything. And so I just carried on. I must have sort of buried it, because I had forgotten. But now it's crystal clear. I can actually remember what the guy looked like. I remember his name, and he really was a nice guy, but when you're younger, you do this nonsense thing of just thinking, 'That's what men say.' And they do it sometimes like they're breathing." Winslet said that because she never had an actress looking over her early in her career, she took it upon herself to provide that support for others.
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The film received 10 nominations at the New Zealand Film and TV Awards and earned nine awards. The curious fact is that the film wasn't awarded as best picture nor did it receive a nomination.
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Information and details presented in this film are hugely expanded upon with much further research and detailed facts in the 2011 book "So Brilliantly Clever: Parker, Hulme and the Murder That Shocked a Nation" (published in the States as "Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century") by Peter Graham.
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Time listed this film as one of their 10 best films of 1994.
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The film was later parodied in The Simpsons: Lisa the Drama Queen (2009). Lisa Simpson meets a girl named Juliet Hobbes, who resembles Juliet Hulme. Emily Blunt who provided the voice of Juliet Hobbes, later provided the voice of Juliet in Gnomeo & Juliet (2011).
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The shrine that the girls build in the woods includes the following: Mario Lanza (operatic film tenor), James Mason (actor), Mel Ferrer (actor), Jussi Björling (operatic tenor), and Orson Welles (actor). These also figure in the fantasy sequences.
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Both Melanie Lynskey and Kate Winslet went on to find fame and popularity in roles with the character name of Rose: Lynskey in Two and a Half Men (2003) and Winslet in Titanic (1997).
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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Throughout filming, Melanie Lynskey was in awe of Kate Winslet's acting and preparedness, much like the dynamic between their respective characters.
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Kate Winslet's sister Anna Winslet appeared in The Cater Street Hangman (1998), which was written by Anne Perry (the woman formerly known as Juliet Hulme).
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Juliet Hulme was revealed to be mystery writer Anne Perry who came forward and revealed her real identity in 1994 during the making of the film, but all attempts to find Pauline Parker failed. In 1997, Pauline Parker was finally traced to a rundown cottage on a farm near Strood, Kent, England, where she ran a children's riding school. Since assuming the name of Hilary Nathan, she has become a devout Catholic and devoted her life to handicapped children.
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Before the murder, Juliet is seen pacing nervously around Pauline's bedroom, saying "Your mother is rather a miserable woman...I think she knows what's going to happen. She doesn't appear to bear us any grudge." This line was paraphrased from a statement by the real Juliet to her psychologist prior to the trial, when the two girls were being evaluated for an insanity plea.
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Unbelievable though it may seem, the real-life murder was much more violent than the one in the movie. Only the first eight blows are depicted in the film. Honorah Parker suffered around 45 different wounds on her face and skull, and had been found face upward as opposed to what was shown in the movie. Furthermore, she had been held down by the throat during most of the attack.
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Until 1973, homosexuality was considered a mental disorder associated with deviant behavior including, but not limited to, murder. Because of the closeness of Hulme and Parker's friendship, there was a lot of speculation about whether or not they were lesbians. When Hulme was asked during the trial if she and Pauline had had sex, she replied, "How could we? We are both women." To this day, Anne Perry (the name Juliet assumed after prison) continues to insist that there was never a sexual element to the friendship.
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Nowhere in the film is it stated that Juliet Hulme is the same person as famous mystery writer Anne Perry, or even that she changed her name after the events. While Perry insisted that her true identity was an "open secret" amongst New Zealand literary circles, her connection was not confirmed until after the film was released - in part because the film revived interest in learning what had become of the two girls.
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