Self- con­fessed he­do­nist Josh Law­son found new mean­ing, and a new love, in his lat­est big- screen out­ing, writes James Wigney

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page -

Art im­i­tates life in an Aussie clas­sic.

LIFE, as the say­ing goes, some­times im­i­tates art. But for Josh Law­son and his new film,

Any Ques­tions For Ben, it was rather more complicated than that – life and art were al­most hope­lessly in­ter­twined.

The new ro­man­tic com­edy from Work­ing Dog – the team be­hind Aussie clas­sics

The Cas­tle and The Dish – cen­tres on Law­son’s Ben, an up­wardly mo­bile, se­ri­ally sin­gle, com­mit­ment- pho­bic 20- some­thing liv­ing large with his mates in Melbourne.

But oddly, writ­ers Rob Sitch ( who also di­rected), Santo Ci­lauro and Tom Gleis­ner got the idea for the film from Law­son him­self.

Hav­ing all worked to­gether on Chan­nel 10’ s hit im­pro­vi­sa­tional com­edy show

Thank God You’re Here, the three mid­dleaged Mel­bur­ni­ans were agog at the tales Law­son told them from his real- life ex­ploits as a sin­gle 20- some­thing in the city with his mates, TV and ra­dio host Ed Kavalee and then Neigh­bours star Chris­tian Clark, both of whom also ap­pear in the film. Art im­i­tates life. ‘‘ I had moved down to Melbourne and was lov­ing it so much and I was young and sin­gle and on the telly and had the world at my feet,’’ says the Bris­bane- born, Syd­ney­trained, Los An­ge­les- based Law­son.

‘‘ I felt un­stop­pable, I re­ally did. I had a great cir­cle of friends in Chris­tian and Ed in real life. ‘‘ Ed was on ra­dio and Chris­tian was on

Neigh­bours and we were just the kings of Melbourne in our minds.

‘‘ When I would retell sto­ries of what we got up to, I guess the guys, with­out me know­ing, were look­ing at each other think­ing ‘ maybe there is some­thing in this?’

‘‘ What is in­ter­est­ing is that the cathar­sis that Ben goes through in the movie is one that I hadn’t yet gone through and it took the film to make me re­alise that I was think­ing those things.’’

Law­son’s char­ac­ter in the film be­gins to ques­tion his awe­somely he­do­nis­tic life­style, and is lit­er­ally kept awake at night won­der­ing if there is some­thing more than the end­less pa­rade of par­ties, pubs and pretty girls, then slowly falls for the gor­geous and tal­ented Alex, played by Rachael Tay­lor.

As the pro­duc­tion pro­gressed, Law­son also started ask­ing him­self some big ques­tions, suf­fer­ing in­som­nia and fall­ing for the gor­geous and tal­ented Tay­lor, who re­mains his part­ner a year later. Life im­i­tates art. ‘‘ It was the weird­est thing,’’ the 30- yearold says. ‘‘ For a com­edy, it was the most emo­tional role I had ever played.

‘‘ I was so con­nected to the role in a way that I didn’t re­ally un­der­stand un­til I was in the mid­dle of it.

‘‘ There were lots of lit­tle things that con­nected me very deeply to the char­ac­ter.

‘‘ I re­ally did, dur­ing the film­ing, start to think ‘ what’s it all about’ a bit.

‘‘ I met Rachael, of course, and there were all these par­al­lels with my life so I guess I did start to slow down a lit­tle bit.’’

Law­son and Tay­lor had crossed paths over the years but didn’t know each other well when they started work­ing to­gether.

NIDA- trained Law­son had al­ready built a solid ca­reer in Aus­tralian TV with cred­its on

Blue Heel­ers, Sea Pa­trol and The Li­brar­i­ans, and Tassie- born model- turned- ac­tor Tay­lor had al­ready tasted movie suc­cess in Hol­ly­wood in Trans­form­ers and Shut­ter.

Tay­lor was also pick­ing up the pieces af­ter her re­la­tion­ship with Matthew New­ton, against whom she had taken an ap­pre­hended vi­o­lence or­der.

Law­son’s first on- set im­pres­sions of the diminu­tive Tay­lor were of strength and tough­ness – ‘‘ she had a re­solve and I re­spected that’’ – but says her pro­fes­sion­al­ism shone through any of the other per­sonal tur­moil in her life.

‘‘ She cer­tainly didn’t bring that to the set and I loved that she was very pro­fes­sional.’’

‘‘ We all re­ally felt like a fam­ily and we still do. We are very close and you pro­tect your fam­ily.’’

The cou­ple now lives in Los An­ge­les – when they are not trav­el­ling for work – and pre­fer to keep a low pro­file, eschew­ing the En­tourage life­style in favour of spend­ing time to­gether rest­ing and re­lax­ing.

Law­son re­gards LA life as ‘‘ a nec­es­sary evil’’ and con­sid­ers Melbourne, with its fine food and fash­ion and sense of com­mu­nity, as his true home.

‘‘ Some­times we get in­vited to these par­ties and you go ‘ Oh my God, it’s Har­ri­son Ford’ but the ex­cite­ment is so fleet­ing and you re­alise they are just peo­ple and we are all bored,’’ Law­son says.

‘‘ It’s not as sexy as it looks on film but Melbourne is. To me, Melbourne is as sexy and ex­cit­ing as it looks in this film.

‘‘ LA has a great way of trick­ing you into think­ing it’s sexy.’’

With Work­ing Dog’s in­ti­mate lo­cal ex­per­tise and sweep­ing aerial shots, Melbourne has never looked as good on cam­era as it does in Any Ques­tions

For Ben.

Af­ter years of show­cas­ing its seamy side in crime dra­mas such as An­i­mal

King­dom and Un­der­belly, it makes for a pleas­ant change to see the film­mak­ers rev­el­ling in the funky in­ner- city bars and restau­rants and world- class events such as the Aus­tralian Open and the Spring Rac­ing Car­ni­val.

‘‘ I have never seen it quite so cin­e­matic,’’ Law­son says.

‘‘ Es­pe­cially when you see it through their eyes. These are guys who were born and raised there and re­ally do love it in a way I can’t pos­si­bly un­der­stand.

‘‘ What is sur­pris­ing is that they are able to cap­ture a part of not just Melbourne but Australia that we don’t see very of­ten on Aus­tralian film.

‘‘ Twenty- some­thing cul­ture in a very fast- paced, colour­ful world of mu­sic, sex, al­co­hol and non- stop fun.

‘‘ They just nailed that. Any­one who didn’t love Melbourne be­fore will love it all over again.

‘‘ Af­ter watch­ing this film, I think peo­ple are go­ing to watch it and think ‘ Geez, I think I might take a hol­i­day to Melbourne’.’’ No such luck for Law­son, how­ever. Af­ter his whirl­wind trip around Australia to pro­mote the film, it’s back to Hol­ly­wood to cap­i­talise on his very busy 2011. He went straight from film­ing

Any Ques­tions For Ben to mak­ing the TV se­ries House of Lies with Don Chea­dle and Kris­ten Bell, which looks like it could be a hit af­ter sev­eral near- misses on US TV in re­cent years.

‘‘ We are three episodes in on Show­time and it’s go­ing re­ally well,’’ Law­son says of the black com­edy about ruth­less man­age­ment con­sul­tants.

‘‘ A lot of crit­ics are re­ally lik­ing it and the public re­ac­tion has been great. I am re­ally proud to be a part of it.’’

He also has the re­lease of Dog Fight to look for­ward to, which he fin­ished film­ing in Louisiana just be­fore Christ­mas. It also stars Zach Gal­i­fi­anakis, Will Fer­rell, Brian Cox, Dan Aykroyd and John Lith­gow.

‘‘ There re­ally were some heavy hit­ters on set and that was pretty great to watch them work and chat to them,’’ Law­son says. ‘‘ They were all ab­so­lutely lovely and I was blown away with their gen­eros­ity.’’

LIFE IM­I­TATES ART: Josh Law­son ( top and above) in scenes from his new movie Any Ques­tions For Ben which, as it pro­gressed, de­vel­oped eerie par­al­lels to his real life.

LOW PRO­FILE: Real- life cou­ple Rachael Tay­lor and Josh Law­son ar­rive in Syd­ney from Los An­ge­les; Law­son in a scene.

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