Another translation by DSPallas on Simonize
SIMON BAKER. THE PERFECT MAN
The actor of “The Mentalist” has everything for him : handsome, faithful, cool. Our reporter couldn’t resist.
Simon Baker doesn’t care about Hollywood clichés. No way for him to pose by the pool, he rather prefers to get his feet wet…
The hero of the successful top TV show « The Mentalist » makes a detour via the movie world. Already spot in « The devil wears Prada », and in « Margin Call », he’s part of the cast of the rom-com « I Give It A Year » (out in April 10th), where he plays the role of a seducer.
At 43, he’s an atypical star : born in Tasmania, far from Hollywood, he met success late in his career, after years of minor roles. Another distinguishing features : he’s in love with his wife, Rebecca, for more than twenty years now, and had three children with her. Neither diva nor megalomaniac, rather embarassed by the popular fervour he has generated, this surfer managed to keep his feet on the ground. His challenge : « To remain normal ».
“He is the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen !» A cry from the heart from his british movie director, Dan Mazer, who is however not exactly a beginner. « He’s beautiful without any effort. Easy… For instance, his hair : We were shooting very early in the morning… Gee, he wakes up with his hair already dressed! How can you be so beautiful? Unbelievable. » Simon Baker is not aware of it, he notices: « He has no self-importance ; He’s nice with everybody, very polite, attentive. »
During an outdoor filming, the others actors were champing at their bit, Dan Mazer tells: « It was Elvis and the Beatles all into one! The old, the young people, men, women, it was all about him! It was impossible to shoot! This guy is dynamite! ». And however lacking in self-confidence, he always needs to be reassured: « He’s been nervous during some scenes. “I am not funny, what are you going to do ?” he said to me, worried. Wich added to his charm, and to his charachter’s. This actor does not know his talent. So I encouraged him: “Go on! Let yourself go !” And he did. »
For a photo session, no way for him to play the clown as his colleagues. Need to say that in “I Give It a Year”, an off-the-wall comedy, subtlety isn’t an option. With the very elegant Simon Baker, Mazer plays with contrast, without forcing it. In the film, Baker the gentleman throws some stunned looks which make us burst out laughing. A straight comedian, a bit like in the Hugh Grant style. « He’s a refined man, who appreciates good restaurants, good wines. Me, I’m rather the hamburger-Coca Light type. »
The actor tried to pass on him his aesthete’s hedonism. They went out with family for gourmet trips in the British countryside, or hoped in the Eurostar to visit Paris, its wine bars and its museums. The ex-actress Rebecca, Australian as Simon, would showed up with their three children, Stella (born in 1993), Claude (1998) and Harry (2001). Mazer: « They are very nice. Simon took them to a cricket match, to a film festival in the Southwest of England… »
When we met him, on this freezing English day, Baker is warm-hearted, smiling. He kisses you “à la Française” (TN: In France, we kiss people on both cheek to say hello, we don’t hug), takes you by the arm to sit you in front of him, across a small table. He offers you to pick at his plate full of fresh fruits pieces. But he may have had a go at a comic role here, no way, for a photo session, to play the clown as his colleagues.
It’s not because the Americans have arbitrarily awarded him recently with the “Sexiest man” trophy, no: this “Mentalist” is a disarming shy man. Not necessarily the one best placed to talk about himself.
How does it feel to suddenly epitomize the romantic ideal for the American people? Your wife must have moderatly enjoyed it…
Simon Baker : Rebecca ? She doesn’t care. No, it doesn’t change anything. I’m not so much conscious of all this stuff…
Good father, faithful husband… You are a perfect man!
Oh no ! Not at all ! I’m human. And if success didn’t change me, it’s because I’m not 20 anymore. I’m realistic, I’ve the experience of life. Besides, I needed this time to mature.
43, the best age of your life ?
Yes, probably. It was not four years ago, in any case, when I started « The Mentalist ».
Do you feel tired ?
I’m always a bit tired…
Tired of filming « The Mentalist » with this frantic pace of twelve hours a day?
Yes, a bit of this but… Life wears you out. Being always busy, being successful, managing this success, being even more busy, overwhelmed… It’s a spiral that tires me out. And I don’t get any younger !
Growing old is not a problem for you…
Yes, growing older is a problem. For me, it’s not easy ; It’s a concern.
Are you anxious?
Very anxious. As I’ve a lot of energy, I give my all, and I wear myself out.
For testing your stamina?
Yes, no… well I’ve never been very confident. I’m hard on myself, never happy with my performances. I have doubts. I always ask myself if what I’ve done couldn’t have been better. It’s a constant concern for me. If I was a mathematician or an accountant, it would be clear : it’s right or wrong, full stop. In my so subjective job, there’s not right or wrong.
There is critics.
Yes, dreadful. You’re always under the microscope of others.
Does it wear you out?
Sometimes. At my age and with my experience, it affects me less than before. Before, it has disturbed my balance.
Does your wife, Rebecca, who was an actress too, help you to overcome your fears?
Yes, she understands me, it helps. She comforts me, but she tells me when I ‘ve been bad. She’s my wife !
How do you two fight against routine after so many years?
With projects and challenges. It’s not conscious, but we always set ourself challenges. We move forward together, we boost each other.
The action is not equally divided between you. Rebecca can be frustrated…
That’s the challenge ! We have to deal with it.
Is it true that Naomi Watts and Nicole Kidman are the godmothers of two of your children?
Yes. It was before they became famous. Rebecca was in school with Nicole. And when I met my wife, her best friend was Naomi. It’s a real friendship, not a Hollywoodian acquaintance. We are close. There’s nothing artificial or opportunistic.
Living for several years now among Americans without complexes and so self-confident, did it change you?
It had an effect on me. Americans assume their ambition, whereas in Australia, we hide it. In the USA, I’m seen as a guy lacking in ambition. But it’s okay.
But you went in Hollywood to achieve success, to build a carreer…
I worked for five years in my home country, but there were not many opportunities. I just wanted to make a living. And then I got this fantastic offer with « LA Confidential ». It launched my career. After that, I took other things that I should have declined, but I had a family to support. I had a kid.
Your wife was working too?
Yes. But after our second child, we came to an agreement : she stopped.
Did you learn to talk money and fees with producers like a real American?
No, I’ve never been good at that. Well, little by little, I found out about the value of an actor.
You are in a growth niche, the « charm » target, wich attracts a wide audience. You bring big money!
I would never have dared to say such a thing ! I would have been too embarassed… And the French, how do they do ?
They too, are embarassed to talk about money.
To the point of paying their taxes abroad !
… And you, are you happy to pay your taxes in the US?
Yes. I’m not an american citizen, but it seems fair.
What do your parents say about your career?
To me, they don’t say much! But I believe that they are proud, even if they are not particularly demonstrative. They are australians!
Does Stella, our 20 years old daughter, want to follow in your footsteps?
I don’t think so. She is seriously studying in College. I was a bad student, very distracted.
Have you experienced amorous temptations while shooting your films?
No, I’ve not experienced that.
To be attracted to your co-star, you’ve never experienced that?
It happened… But cinema is all playacting!
You seem not very fond of the waves of enthusiasm that your success generates…
Yes, it’s embarassing. People don’t act naturally in front of me. I feel they are overexcited, uncomfortable. They listen to all I say, they stare at me. I must be careful.
You are intimidating.
But I don’t want to be! I want to remain normal!
So you don’t go out in public places anymore?
Yeah yeah I go out, I have a normal life. I go to the restaurant, I don’t want my little fame to affect my daily way of life.
Do you work on any form of spirituality?
Yes, I meditate several times a week, when I feel tired out. I force myself to stop, I go into myself. I meditate. I have learned. Now, I can do it on my own.