Pia Miranda and Jessica Mauboy star in new Aussie movie Windcatcher

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Beloved Australian actress Pia Miranda has reached a full-circle moment in her life and career.

Last year she turned 50 and next year marks 25 years since her breakout coming-of-age film, Looking For Alibrandi, was released in cinemas.

In the heartwarming classic, Pia played the lead role of Josephine Alibrandi, a 17-year-old student trying to navigate her final year of high school.

But now in her new movie, Windcatcher, the actress has become the schoolteacher who helps a group of students find their identity and sense of belonging, in the movie also starring Jessica Mauboy.

“I love working with younger actors because it feels like yesterday that I was the younger actor that had older actors looking out for me and just being kind to me,” she tells news.com.au.

“It’s really nice to just pay that forward and try and emulate that experience for these young people. It can really do you well in your career to just have those good experiences and good memories.

“I always feel like your job is sort of just to be a really solid space and a safe space for them so they can experiment and play. It’s almost like a really different acting experience.”

Set in a fictional regional Victorian town called Herbertson, the Stan Original Film follows a 10-year-old Indigenous boy named Percy Boy, who is played by Lennox Monaghan in his first ever movie role. Close to 160 kids applied for the role but Stan found their Percy Boy in Monaghan.

After being bullied by Year 5 students known as the ‘Wolf Pack’, Percy Boy and his friends, newcomer Keithy Cobb (played by Max Turner) and the sassy Daisy Hawkins (Coco Greenstone), join forces to attempt to win the prized school sports day title from the bullies.

Through his training, Percy Boy shows his strength and resilience while overcoming adversity and discovering his supernatural ability to see Lost Souls – a gift passed down from his grandfather (played by Kelton Pell).

Pia, a mum of two, tells us that she also experienced bullying growing up. Coming from an Italian background, she said it was hard fitting in back in the 80s.

The actress is now the ambassador for Dolly’s Dream, an anti-bullying charity set up in memory of Dolly Everett, who lost her life at age 14 after being extensively bullied at school and online.

“The messages and the more conversations we can have around bullying I think is fantastic,” Pia said. “If we can sit there with our kids and watch this movie and then discuss maybe their experiences with bullying or how it feels to be bullied, I think all of that stuff can make a huge difference.”

Pia, who in recent years has appeared on Dancing With The Stars and Australian Survivor, says she was forced to become resilient back at school where she learnt to “duck and weave”.

“I was Italian in the eighties. It was not cool, let me tell you. It was beyond not cool. Even though growing up Italian now is somewhat cool, it was pretty tough. And then on top of that, because I am on social media and I’ve been on reality TV, I’ve definitely experienced unkind things being said to me.”

The story of friendship, survival and culture is what also attracted Pia to Windcatcher, in which she plays Miss Berrick.

“I love really culturally rich Australian stories. So whether it’s a migrant story, an Indigenous Australian story, I love seeing those stories on screen because I think that is a way for all of us to come together and celebrate our differences and our similarities.

“It’s just a beautiful script, great cast. I just love being a part of things that have a beautiful message.”

The film also stars Ngali Shaw, Jessica McNamee, Lisa Maza and singer-songwriter Jessica Mauboy, who Pia grew fond of.

“I mean, Jess Mauboy is an Australian legend for good reason because I thought she can’t honestly be that nice. And the truth is she’s nicer,” Pia says.

“And if I thought I was great with the kids, she was next level. She just played games with them and hung out with them, and she’s the most wonderful special human being. It was a real joy and an honour to be with someone at that calibre who’s so wonderful and so grounded and so down to earth. We got to hang out a little bit and I loved her.”

Now that she is 50 years old, Pia is more than comfortable and confident in her own skin. Between her milestone birthday spent solo in Italy last year and releasing her memoir last September titled Finding My Bella Vita, the actress has never felt happier.

“I had a really fun year. I didn’t have a big party, but I celebrated quite a lot. It was really great. I loved it,” she says. “I’m excited. I think it’s a privilege to get older, especially as you get older, you start saying goodbye to people who don’t have the privilege of getting to your age. So, certainly, I’m not going to complain about it.”

And she has more reason to celebrate next year for the 25th anniversary of Looking For Alibrandi, the film adapted from Aussie author Melina Marchetta’s novel of the same name which also starred Kick Gurry.

“I have so many fond memories and whenever he and I are together, we share a real special bond,” Pia says. “I think because we went through that together, we got cast together, the whole experience was together, so none of it was separated. We’re like family now.

“As time goes on, I think my fondness for that experience and for him and for Melina and the director Kate [Woods], it gets even deeper.”

Windcatcher is now streaming on Stan