The reviews for Sarah Murdoch’s first movie were so bad the international model and wife of media mogul Lachlan Murdoch never acted in another film.
Murdoch appeared in the 2001 stinker Head Over Heels, a ‘romantic comedy-thriller’ which did not even recoup its modest budget, with a credit under her maiden name Sarah O’Hare.
The Sydney beauty was already famous as a catwalk model, magazine cover girl and Wonderbra Woman, as well for her marriage to Rupert Murdoch‘s eldest son two years earlier.
Her supporting role opposite teen heartthrob Freddie Prinze Jnr in the Hollywood flop was not only Murdoch’s debut feature film appearance but the result of her first movie audition.
The reviews for Sarah Murdoch’s first movie, the 2001 stinker Head Over Heels, were so bad the supermodel and wife of media mogul Lachlan Murdoch never appeared in another film. The couple is pictured together in New York three years after her Hollywood acting debut
The Sydney beauty was already internationally famous as a catwalk model, magazine cover girl and ‘Wonderbra woman’, as well for as her marriage to Rupert Murdoch’s eldest son when she tried her hand at acting. She is pictured in a Wonderbra campaign in 1997
Asked at the time by the IGN Entertainment website whether she preferred modelling or acting, Murdoch was clear about where she saw her future.
‘Acting, definitely,’ she said. ‘I think as soon as I was on the set, as soon as we started filming the movie, I knew this was what I wanted to do. I absolutely love it.’
But as journalist Paddy Manning writes in his new biography The Successor: The High-Stakes Life of Lachlan Murdoch, the 28-year-old was not destined for a career on the big screen.
At the Sydney premiere of Head Over Heels in the Village cinema complex in the city’s central business district, Murdoch told reporters she was ‘so scared’ of how the audience would react to the film.
Sarah Murdoch’s hoped-for Hollywood break in a supporting role in Head Over Heels opposite star Freddie Prinze Jnr was not only her debut feature film appearance but her first audition. She is circled behind Prinze Jnr in a publicity shot from the film
‘She had good reason to be nervous: as it turned out, the critics were scathing,’ Manning writes in his book.
‘Bravely, even the Murdoch-owned Sunday Territorian ran a review titled “Head Over Toilet Bowl” with the opening line: “Every so often you see a film that totally recalibrates your crap-o-meter”.’
Head Over Heels, directed by Mark Waters – who would go on to make the 2004 hit comedy Means Girls starring Lindsay Lohan and Rachel McAdams – featured Murdoch playing a model called Candi.
Murdoch had previously appeared in a cameo as ‘The Woman’ in the Friends episode ‘The One With Ross’s Library Book’ which aired in the US in November 2000.
Head Over Heels, she seemingly hoped, was going to lead to bigger things for Murdoch.
‘It was so amazingly lucky, I can’t tell you,’ she told IGN Entertainment of getting a part in the film.
‘It was such a great movie to do as my first movie because it’s a comedy, first of all, and the director was just amazing.
‘He gave us so much freedom, and we really got to play a lot on set and just kind of see what happens. And you kind of see from my character, it’s kind of wacky.’
Murdoch’s character Candi is one of four struggling models sharing a New York apartment who are joined by a new roommate, art restoration expert Amanda Pierce, played by Monica Potter.
Head Over Heels achieved a worldwide box office of $13,127,022 against a $14million budget and was panned by critics, with an average rating of 3.4 out of 10 according to review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes
Amanda has a crush on Prinze’s character, Jim Winston, and learns he lives in an apartment across the hall. One night she witnesses Jim apparently kill a woman but police find no evidence of a crime.
Amanda and her new friends then begin their own investigation into Jim, who turns out to be an undercover FBI agent. Jim is investigating a Russian diamond smuggler who happens to also be one of Amanda’s clients.
The plot becomes increasingly ludicrous as the Russian captures Jim, Amanda and her roommates before they escape and take him down at a fashion show, receiving commendations from the FBI.
Heed Over Heels would prove to be Murdoch’s first and last film.
It took $US13,127,022 at the box office against a $US14million budget and was panned by critics, with an average rating of 3.4 out of 10 according to review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.
‘Head Over Heels is being blasted by critics as a huge mess,’ Rotten Tomatoes declared. ‘The plot and jokes are idiotic, while the toilet humour is gratuitous and more gross than funny.’
As Manning makes clear, Murdoch was in no way responsible for he film’s failure but she did not pursue her acting ambitions any further.
The Successor: The High-Stakes Life of Lachlan Murdoch by Paddy Manning is out now in Australia and is published by Black Inc
‘Sarah only had a supporting role and could hardly be blamed for the terrible script, but she nonetheless gave up her acting career and never appeared in another film,’ he writes.
A Murdoch family spokesman said Sarah would not be commenting on why she never appeared in another film.
Her Hollywood aspirations might have been over but she could easily have become a television star.
Murdoch successfully filled in as co-host of Today alongside Karl Stefanovic in a four-month stint that ended in March 2007.
She went on to host the reality series Australia’s Next Top Model on Foxtel for three seasons from 2009 to 2011.
In the finale of the 2010 series she was involved in an awkward mix-up, incorrectly announcing runner-up Kelsey Martinovich as the winner over Amanda Ware.
Murdoch, who has two sons and a daughter with Lachlan, is an arts patron and noted fundraiser for charities, particularly those benefitting women and children.
The Successor: The High-Stakes Life of Lachlan Murdoch by Paddy Manning is out now in Australia (Black Inc.) through Booktopia and in all good bookshops. The book will be published in US and UK on November 15.