Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, The (1994): Stephan Elliott’s Campy Aussie Comedy, Starring Terence Stamp, Guy Pearce, Hugo Weaving (LGBTQ)

The flamboyant costumes, fabulous music, and Terence Stamp’s tender performance as a transsexual, contribute a lot to the joy of experiencing the campy Australian comedy, Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Priscilla the Queen.jpg

Theatrical release poster

The film is described by its director Stephan Elliott, who last year made the dreadful Frauds, as a “musical comedy and road movie with a difference,” which is a polite way of saying that its main characters are drag queens.

A trio of performers rent Priscilla, a dilapidated bus forever promising to break down, on a trip from Sydney to a gig in a remote Northern town. They have gained fame for lip-synching l970s disco songs and strutting their stuff in gaudy costumes. Along for the ride are Tick/Mitzi (Hugo Weaving), who now fears his young son will discover who he really is; the aging transsexual Bernadette (Terrence Stamp), facing his boyfriend’s death and growing old alone; and pretty boy Adam/Felicia (Guy Pearce), whose gig is to flaunt his outrageous outfits on the roof of the bus.

Gay Directors, Gay Films? By Emanuel Levy (Columbia University Press, August 2015).

The three queens make their way into the Australian outback, where they expectedly encounter macho men, desert rats, ruffians and friendly aboriginals. Structured as a melodrama, the movie’s message is too obvious; it’s about having fun and coming to terms with our personal demons, no matter who we are. Unfortunately, the screenplay is only intermittently witty. The movie’s biggest laughs are based on the hideously colorful costumes (hot pink, red, and yellow) and the campy performances.

Inevitable comparisons were made between this Australian product and “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar,” a comedy produced by Steven Spielberg, which features macho actors Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze and John Leguizamo in drag.

Oscar Nominations: 1

Costume Design: Lizzy Gardiner, Tim Chappel

Oscar Awards: 1

Costume Design


Bernadette (Terence Stamp)
Tick/Mitzi (Hugo Weaving)
Adam/Felicia (Guy Pearce)
Bob (Bill Hunter)
Marion (Sarah Chadwick)


Directed, written by Stephan Elliott
Produced by Al Clark, Michael Hamlyn

Music by Guy Gross
Cinematography Brian J. Breheny
Edited by Sue Blainey

Production companies: PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, Specific Films

Distributed by Gramercy Pictures

Release date: May 15, 1994 (Cannes Film Fest); August 10, 1994 (US) September 8, 1994 (Australia)

Running time: 103 minutes
Country Australia
Language English
Budget (US$2 million)
Box office $29.7 million