Aside

Translation by DSPallas for Simonize 

 

Simon Baker: ‘ Living in France? No, fans keep asking me for my personal phone number! ‘ [size=2]

By Frank Rousseau, April 07th, 2013

Between two seasons of his TV series, Simon Baker, the charismatic hero of “The Mentalist” has performed in “Mariage à l’Anglaise” (I Give It a Year), a pretty slick comedy, which allows us to think that our nice Australian is going again to surf the wave of success.


Simon Baker, his marriage “à l’Anglaise”

His blonde and wavy hair reminds us of the sandy dunes from Tasmania where he was born. He is blind as a bat but, paradoxically, impersonates a detective able to spot the most microscopic of clues. Ironicaly, his surname is translated by ” bredmaker ” in French, and yet, in the TV show that made him famous all around the world, he hunts only butchers and bloodthirsty human beings. Not need to go any farther with this portrait. You’ve guessed it, we are talking about Simon Baker.

In Dan Mazer’s “Mariage à l’Anglaise”, you play the part of Guy, a kind of playboy who is going to do everything to seduce a married woman played by Rose Byrne (“Bridesmaids”, “Damages”). Question: To make a lady fall for you, what is the most efficient manner, according to you?

Do not calculate anything. Do not plan anything. Remain natural. Do not try to play a role. Allowing yourself to be seduced is not bad either. Leaving the initiative to the women is definitely a good thing. It brings a change. It’s refreshing. I think seduction also requires to be able to listen to the woman who is in front of you. Showing off too much is a serious weakness in my humble opinion. Now, if there are oysters and cheese soufflés on the table, you will maximize your chances! And last but not least, if you don’t ask the lady to pay the bill, it’s an undeniable bonus! (laughs)

People often say about you that you are one of the sexiest actors in the world. How do you perceive this simplistic representation of yourself?

You just said it, it is a simplistic representation. Listen, I am more than forty years old, I have three children and above all, I’m married. That means I am not on the market anymore! The “Sexy” word means nothing for me. It’s just a label stuck on the skin of actors and actresses to sell more newspapers. If only you knew how I just don’t pay attention to that! In the morning when I shave and I see my face in the mirror, I would rather say: “ Look at those rings! You look tired old boy! ” than “ What a heartbreaker! ” (laughs)

You met Rebecca, your wife, in 1992 then you got married in 1998. Since, happiness has brought a pattern to your couple. Is there a secret behind this long-lasting union? A recipe?

No! First of all, a desire. Then, an obvious bond between us. And at last, three children who have durably consolidated our relationship …

” Mariage à l’Anglaise ” is a “very” quirky romantic comedy. It’s also for you, Simon, an opportunity to temporarily park the DS of Patrick Jane aka “The Mentalist” and take a break from your investigations. It’s more than five years since you play the same character. In the long run, would there be a risk of him rubbing off on you?

I would like so much to give you a positive answer! It would be great to tell oneself that for an actor, playing a character only once, let’s say a chess champion for instance, would be enough to inherit his qualities and then give Kasparov a thrashing. Unfortunately, it does’nt work like that. Patrick Jane has no influence on me. Of course, he brought me a financial support and opened doors, but I have never asked him to search on my inner truth, to know what’s in me! I’m not talented for this kind of introspection! And then, I have a confession to make: the only things I try to focus on are the lines I must learn for “The Mentalist” and you know, this is already a tough job.


Simon Baker: his character

What are the main traits of character of Simon Baker? 

I am an upright person. I like honesty. I do not love abusive people or people who take advantage of the weakest. I don’t beat around the bush. I am direct. When I compete with someone, I can be merciless. Mostly because I don’t like to lose. You can ask my wife, she could talk about it for hours and hours! Some say that my blood boils at the drop of a hat. Me, I’d rather say than I have temperament.

Is it true that when you direct an episode of “The Mentalist”, you can easily transform into Mister Hyde? 

No! Not really. This said, I like to have control when I undertake something. I have an overview on things and I know perfectly what I want and what I expect from the others. In my opinion, the most important thing is the storyline. It always comes first. My job as a director, is to encourage everybody to be creative. I always listen when somebody comes to knock on my door to bring in new ideas. You know, competition is tough in the television or the film world. If you don’t jump on the bandwagon, it will leave without you! Finally, I would say that I am equally demanding with myself and with the others.

Filming in Paris: would it be a cheering prospect for you?

Of course! But it’s still necessary to find a believable reason to justify the coming of Patrick Jane in France. A motive that is not far-fetched. My dream would be to play opposite to Jean Paul Belmondo. My lifelong idol!

Did you ever planned to settle in the homeland of Voltaire? 

France is full of exceptional surfing spots, this would be perfect! What I also like with French people is the way they distancing themselves from their job. In France, you work for a living, you don’t live to work! I also like French culture and gastronomy. With very simple products, you know how to make things that make my mouth water by simply talking about them. As a ham sandwich spreads with butter made with a very fresh baguette. Nothing’s better on Earth! Idem with soufflés. When we were in Paris with my wife last April, a French chef taught her how to cook them. On the other hand, I think if tomorrow, I ask my wife to move to France, at first she would be delighted, then on hindsight she would hesitate …

Oh really, why being reluctant?

Because the French fans occasionally ask for my personal phone number!

Wich is???

OK! You have something to write it down? It is 555… Err, damn, I forgot!


Simon Baker, soo to becoming French?

How much French do you know?

I know how to say “shit” and some basic words. I won’t go very far!

By the way, how an Australian becomes acclimated in the land of Barack Obama?

By never losing contact with my friends and my family. By choosing the real priorities. The first one being to escape the Hollywood circus when given the opportunity! Since four years now, I have an home in Australia. I go there with my family at least twice a year! I have three children and I want to make sure they do not lose their Australian culture. Therefore, I don’t want to force them neither. Just what’s needed so they keep a good mental health!

What do you miss the most since you live in Los angeles?

A very stupid thing, decent tea sets. Americans drink their tea in mugs, while in Australia, the tea ritual as it is religiously accomplished in England, is still very present in our culture. Personally, I like a civilized approach! Drink tea in a mug is almost like heresy! Like eating a tartlet while wearing mittens!

When you travel abroad, it’s always with wife and children in your luggage?

Yes! Whenever I can and when it matches with their school vacation. It’s important for my balance and important to my family, for it means that I am present. That I’m not just passing through. I grew up in a small town. Narrow minded. Very early, I told myself that if I had children, I would give them the opportunity to travel, open themselves to the others, see landscapes and people different from the ones they can see by looking through their bedroom window. That is my luxury! I can stay with them in New York, fly to Paris for the week end, via Rome or London. My children can live unbelievable experiences that I never knewn as a kid! My generation was a stay-at-home generation, after all. There were strong probabilities that you would be studying, working, building a family in the very same town where you were born! Today, if they want, my kids can study in Los angeles, in England or anywhere in the world. For them, the possibilities are endless.

In what kind of environment did you grew up as a child?

I did not grow up with money but with space. There’s a lot on the North coast of the New South Wales (Australia). When I was young, I had only one thing in mind, surfing the waves. The problem was, I didn’t even know how to swim! For my parents, it was out of question that I could buy myself a surfboard. I had to bring home at least a bronze medal in swimming first! So I took swimming lessons. In the meantime, I was playinga lot of cricket on Saturdays. To get the money for my surfboard, I collected returnable bottles of Coca Cola and sold them to a wholesaler! I was also selling flowers to the tourists by the road side. With the fifteen dollars I’d gathered, I was able to buy my first surfboard.


Simob Baker: His Hollywood debut

Do you remember your first contact with Hollywood?

Yes, it was with casting director Mali Finn. My impresario at the time kept insisting I met this woman of influence in Hollywood. When I met her she told me immediately “Kid, I want you to read this script.” And it was the “LA Confidential” script, the masterpiece of Curtis Hanson, based on the James Ellroy best-seller. Originally, she wanted me to audition for the role of Detective Edmund Jennings ‘Ed’ Exley. But Guy Pearce got the part. My disability, I think, was my Australian accent! It was so thick! So, I ended playing a smaller role. The one of Matt Reynolds. I think I was in an English pub, the King’s Head in Santa Monica, having lunch with my wife when I heard the news. I shouted a “Yeeahh” in the middle of the pub. Not very discrete, I agree. I shall not hide the fact that we had a big shindig afterward…

Between us, don’t you feel like playing the role of James Bond one day? You have the required class and stature…

But not the required passport, I’m Australian! First, they generally give the job to an English. Secondly, Daniel Craig owns the “license to kill” and I must admit that the spy costume suits him pretty well. Apart from that, I’ve always liked the 007 saga as well as films from the 60s and 70s. Like “The Thomas Crown Affair” or Hitchcock’s. Thrillers with some romance, a bit of cat-and-mouse game, that keep us excited from beginning to end. Typical of an era.

Have you already been told that you look like a young Michael Caine with your glasses on?

No! It’s the first time I’m told that. The toughest part for a poor-sighted on a set, is to not hit a camera!

Do you wear contact lenses?

No! And it’s better this way. When you look in the eyes of Patrick Jane, you think he is focusing, he is observing, but in fact it’s because I see only a blur!

But you’re not Mister Magoo?

Not yet, I still have some margin!

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Aside

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.