Monday, December 28, 2009
Access Magazine (January 2010)
Big Thanks LizzieSf for the woderful scans.
Source : AccessDirectv Magazine
Date: January 2010
By Robert Ito
Photographs by Justin Stephens
HAS IT ALL
(but has no idea how he got it)
The Mentalist star never planned on having a hit show and earning millions-not that he’s complaining.
Simon Baker it ticked off because I called him a dog lover. :I hear you’re a dog lover,” I say, and just that the storm begins. “ A dog lover?:” he asks and it sounds more like an accusation than a question, as if I just said something about his mother and he’s not quite sure if heard me right. “We have a dog”, he says, “but I’m dog crazy! Be careful when you bandy dog lover’ around here.” Bye here, Baker means Los Angeles, where the actor has lived off and on for the past 14 years, a town where dogs got to their own day spas and see their own shrinks. “I don’t let the dog on the bed,” he goes on. “ I don’t let the dog lick my face,” Or his kids’s faces either, Baker explains because he knows where dogs put their tongues. He pauses.
“So…what are you asking?”
“I—“ and that’s all I can squeak out before it begins again “I like the dog! I don’t have anything against the dog! But I’m not this crazy-ass dog freak. You know.”
After a bit of this, I look up and see that Baker is smiling. He’s just been having a bit of fun at my expense, doing his own version of Joe Pesci’s “I amuse you?” speech from GoodFellas, seeing if I’ll blink, and I did.
He’s clearly enjoying the spectacle, judging from his grin. It’s a great smile, the same broad 200-watter he flashes on The Mentalist when his character, the faux psychic-turned-crime slover Patrick Jane, is calling someone a liar or a buffoon. It’s the same grin he used too woo Anne Hathaway away from Adrian Grenier in The Devil Wears Prada, so you know it’s got some juice behind it,\. So, yes, what was I asking him about?
Actually, I was just going to ask him about the pooch he had recently adopted from a roadside “shelter” in Santa Monica, and how instead of licking you to show its affection, the dog supposedly gives people hugs, but you know what? Forget it. The moments’ gone. Instead, I ask him about being called TV’s Sexiest Man a while back. “Well, I think they were a bit hard-pressed, weren’t they?” he says, uncomfortably, like a guy who’s already endured a lifetime’s worth of grief from his mates over it and wishes that the whole thing would just go away. “I’m sexy this year,” he says, “but the year before, no one looked twice.”
Of course, that’s completely untrue. People have been doing double and triple takes at Baker for years, ever since he broke into Hollywood in 1997’s L.A. confidential. “Well, if people want to say something like that, I’ll take it as a massive compliment. 2009! My year of being sexy.
“I’m a lucky motherf----r,” Baker continues. “There’s a million actors out there, and a million people behind those actors who want to be actors. So, I stepped in s—t, you know what I mean? I stepped in the gold stuff.”
On an otherwise bare wall in baker’s very spare trailer are five large color photo printouts, taped side by side to create a panoramic vision of a gorgeous green landscape. The scene is Lord of the Rings picturesque, a tiny slice of Eden not far from Ballina, Australia, where Baker, 4 grew up. After living a Tasmania, where he was born, and new Guinea, Baker spent much of his early life in Ballina, a small coastal town about 450 miles north of Sydney. A so-so student who excelled at sports, Baker surfed and so-so student polo and rugby. He got into his fair share played water in school and nearly drowned a couple of times when he was held underwater in particularly rough surf.
“My family lived pretty much hand to mouth,” he says. Baker could tell, month to month, when money was getting tight. “ I knew. What you didn’t eat for dinner ended up in your lunch the next day. The experience left him with a healthy disdain for waste of any kind. “I hate waste,” he says. He spies a single banana on his counter, nearly black with bruising. “Let’s say I have three bananas and they’re getting really brown. The next day, I’ll drink three banana smoothies rather than throw them out.”
Kids growing up in Ballina “become plumbers and bricklayers and tradesmen. I have a lot of friends who are in construction. No one thought. ‘Oh, I want to be an actor,” “Baker says with a laugh. ”It just wasn’t the sort of place where that was an acceptable job.”
In his heart, Baker remains “ a country bloke, someone who feels comfortable sitting at the bar with a bunch of strangers.”
Others went off to Sydney to go to university, but “ I didn’t have the grades for that sort of stuff. I finished high school, but I wasn’t …educated. I didn’t go on to do anything else.”
It’s a funny comment, because, of course, Baker has gone on to do quite a lot: parts in films such as Red Planet and Sex and Death 101; lead TV roles in the Guardian and Smith, and now, the Mentalist, for which he has received an emmy nomination. He’s been married to the same woman, Australian actress Rebecca Rigg, since 1998, and has three kids; stella Breeaz, 16, Claude Blue, 10, and Harry Friday, 8, not one of whom has surface in the tabloids for doing anything shameful or untoward.
Baker’s humble self-assessment just might be the Ballinite in him talking. “It’s a culture where we don’t heap praise on each other,” he says. “When I go back, they’re like, ‘Hey, I like yours show, mate. People really watch it over here. Did you see the football the other day?”
He’s found members of his self-described “tribe” here—longtime friends Naomi Watts and Nicole Kidman are godmothers to two of his kids, and he counts Hugh Jackman as a close pal—but in his heart he remains a “country bloke.” For Baker, that means someone who can talk with anyone, whether commoners or studio kings, and be happy with little. “He can walk into a pub and feel comfortable sitting at the bar with a bunch of strangers,” Just a friendly, uncomplicated guy.
“I’m not officially qualified to do anything,” Baker adds. “I didn’t go to some sort of drama school and prance around in tights. I didn’t do the classics. I got a job and went to work. Made mistakes, grew up on the job.” Though he’s quick to admit his academic shortcomings, he seems to take great pride in the fact that he made it so far without the schooling or the tights, although he would never say this outright. For all his self-deprecation, for all his insistence that he “stepped in the gold stuff,” he’s guy who knows exactly what he’s done, and the obstacles he’s overcome.
The More one talks to Baker. The more one realizes that, while the actor may live in L.A.—a city of illusion—he’s not letting any of it seep into his very Australian skin. Even the fund-raisers he lends his time and name to are related to his native country. He’s done a PSA for the endangered Tasmainian devils and he recently suited up for a charity game of soccer to benefit the victims of the Australian bush wildfires. In fact, a lot of what he does here he could just as easily by doing in Ballina.: He gardens and when there are nice swells of of Malibu, he surfs. He hangs out with kids. And occasionally tries to pass on some of his own worldly wisdom to them. “Every father tries,” he says. “It’s what parents do. And then you watch your kids get that glazed look in their eyes.”
I ask Baker how he chose acting and why he feels suited for it. “I’m relatively introspective and quite shy,” he says, “And I think that works for me as an actor because I think about things, I analyze things, and I enjoy that process, You know we were talking about being a country guy? A country guy is someone who’s interested in people. And I’m interested in people, their stories, in what they do and how they live. I feel an obligation to all different kinds of people, to humanity, in what I do.”
Baker is smiling widely as he says this, and for a moment I have a sick feeling: Am I getting played again? And yet broad grin notwithstanding, the guy seems totally in earnest.
"oh, I'm totally earnest!" he says. "What, ou think because I'm smiling that I'm not?" I'm waiting for the storm a gain, but it subsides. "I do take that side of it seriously. But at the same time, I have a lot of fun with what I do. A lot of fun."