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TAYLOR, NOAH; HE DIED WITH A FELAFEL IN HIS HAND

NOAH’S ARC
The freedom to play character roles in big budget Hollywood studio movies one week, and leading roles in smaller budget independent films the next, make Noah Taylor very pleased with the arc of his career, he tells Andrew L. Urban.

Asked about the state of his career as an actor, Noah Taylor hardly pauses before answering: “I really couldn’t ask for anything more,” he says, lighting a cigarette 19 floors above Sydney’s Hyde Park in a swank hotel suite. His unmistakable face may be a couple of lines older these days, but he still looks like a thin young man, a narrow moustache etched into his upper lip. His blue shirt gives him a conservative appearance – but it would be a mistake to take that at face value. He’s really a revolutionary.

It is ironic that Noah Taylor should be the focus of media attention in the same hotel suite where we met Morgan Freeman for an interview just a week earlier. The irony is in the fact that this time, it is not a Hollywood movie (like Freeman’s Along Came a Spider or Nurse Betty) that Taylor is promoting. It’s a low budget Australian film called He Died With A Felafel In His Hand, in which Taylor plays Danny, a 20-something would-be writer and neurotic obsessive, living in his 47th shared house in Sydney. It’s a far from the nerdy electronics whizzo sidekick to Lara Croft.

“I value the relative peace of life without minders and all that malakey.”

But therein lies the juiciest of ironies: Taylor made Tomb Raider – and another Hollywood film, Almost Famous – before he made Felafel. The latter just took longer to release – “which is probably for the best, commercially speaking,” he says.

It is this freedom, to play character roles in big budget Hollywood studio movies one week, and leading roles in smaller budget independent films the next, which make Taylor so pleased with the arc of his career. “It’s not a case of wanting it to continue in an ever upward spiral,” he says. “The trouble with major roles in Hollywood films is that it can mean some part of your life is over. I value the relative peace of life without minders and all that malakey.”

“I try and do something serious and then something lighter…”

Those bigger films in Hollywood give Taylor some security; “people [like Hollywood studios] feel more comfortable using you after they’ve seen you in something like Tomb Raider…” – which he originally turned down flat. “I didn’t take it just for the money. I said a flat no at first, until I read the script and found it had some charm and that old school adventure yarn feel about it. Something entertaining for teenagers…I’m into corny stuff,” he says flatly, “and I like clichés. And I thought it would be fun to do a classic side kick role. There’s a lot of tradition behind a role like that, and I just injected a little bit of myself …”

Making He Died With a Felafel in his Hand was more draining, though. “I’m not a method actor or anything,” he adds, “but the role needed me to constantly look fucked up. So I try and do something serious and then something lighter...”

“I don’t think I have the methodical mind for directing”

His Los Angeles agents have stopped sending Taylor scripts now though, after he instructed them to stop filling his mail with mountains of “unreadable stuff.”

In the future, “as he gets older,” Taylor is keen to explore producing. “More than directing, certainly; I don’t think I have the methodical mind for directing but I can recognize good scripts and good talent. One of the best things that came out of the long time it took making He Died With A Felafel In His Hand was that I found I enjoyed going along to all the meetings with Richard and talking bullshit.” He says it lightly, without the full impact of how that reads. The ‘bullshit’ is his shorthand for ‘producer talk’. “Meanwhile, we also came up with three or four script ideas which Richard is following up.”

“I wouldn’t mind annihilating the myths of Australia”

Taylor is keen to keep working with Richard Lowenstein; “he’s a cinephile and really loves movies. A lot of directors don’t actually love films. He’s also one of the few highly politicized filmmakers we have. There are a lot of Australian stories that need to be told and I wouldn’t mind annihilating the myths of Australia; we’re in a lot of denial about our past, the present and the future.”

Taylor, who is also interested in the documentary format, says “there’s fertile ground here and with the latest technology we’re no longer restricted by the large costs of production – which hopefully will revolutionise filmmaking here.”

Published August 30, 2001

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