I Give it a Year

Simon Baker still has a few years left of play­ing the lead­ing man, writes Neala John­son

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - FRONT PAGE -

IT wasn’t the re­ac­tion Simon Baker was look­ing for, but the Aus­tralian ac­tor had to ad­mit it was true. Ex­it­ing a screen­ing of his lat­est movie, Bri­tish rom- com I Give It A Year, Baker’s 19- year- old daugh­ter Stella turned to her fa­ther and said, “You can’t play the good- look­ing guy again, Dad”. “I know, you’re right,” Baker replied. “It’s too much pres­sure.” But at 43, it’s far too soon to call clos­ing time on Baker’s abil­ity to play the charmer. The ladies know he’s still got it.

In real life, he says the need to stay in some kind of lead­ing- man shape mat­ters “less and less”.

“It’s there, but I pay less and less at­ten­tion to it. For me, more than any­thing as I get older, it’s about just feel­ing good.

“I like to try to stay rea­son­ably fit just so I feel OK, so I can do what­ever at the drop of a hat.

“I like to be ac­tive and I’ve got two boys that are just get­ting into teenage years so they’re like, ‘ Dad let’s do this, let’s go!’, and I’m the guy hob­bling be­hind nurs­ing a sore knee, hip or shoul­der.”

Amid the rush of Aussie ac­tors do­ing big things in­ter­na­tion­ally, Baker, who has lived and worked in LA since the mid-’ 90s is one of the most con­sis­tently suc­cess­ful.

He’s onto the fi fth sea­son of his world­wide hit TV se­ries The Men­tal­ist and, be­tween sea­sons, is adding in­creas­ingly in­ter­est­ing fi lm roles to his re­sume ( such as the 2011 in­die fi nan­cial melt­down drama Mar­gin Call).

I Give It A Year may ap­pear to live in the same realm as one of his past movies, the Anne Hath­away hit The Devil Wears Prada, but that’s just an il­lu­sion.

“It is dressed up to look like it’s in the same realm, but it’s a twist on it,” Baker says.

Shot in the UK last sum­mer, I Give It A Year cen­tres on a cou­ple Josh ( Rafe Spall) and Nat ( Rose Byrne) who get mar­ried too quickly.

There are clearly bet­ter matches for this pair out there, such as Josh’s ex, Chloe ( Anna Faris) and the spunky and suave new Amer­i­can client at Nat’s ad agency, Guy ( Baker).

And their odd­ball mates ( played by the likes of Min­nie Driver and Stephen Mer­chant) are any­thing but help­ful.

It’s a rom- com lead­ing to­wards an in­evitable grand ro­man­tic break- up, rather than the usual grand ro­man­tic re­u­nion.

“It ticks all the boxes of the cliches in a ro­man­tic com­edy, but it fl ips them on their ear,” says Baker.

“My char­ac­ter is ini­tially set up as the taste­less, loud, ob­nox­ious Yank, yet he’s prob­a­bly the most so­phis­ti­cated and civ­i­lized of the lot. It’s nice to see that fl ipped.”

Fel­low Aussie Byrne has said of her co- star Baker that he “walks a fi ne line be­tween ar­ro­gance and charm” in the movie.

Baker ad­mits that line can be “a bit tricky”, but adds that play­ing an Amer­i­can makes all the dif­fer­ence.

“When Rafe’s char­ac­ter says to Guy, ‘ You’re so good look­ing’, I wanted him to go, ‘ Thanks’ to ac­cept the com­pli­ment.

“It’s not a very Aus­tralian thing to do – it’s more Amer­i­can to say ‘ thank you’ when some­one com­pli­ments you, no mat­ter how de­served it is,” Baker laughs.

Whereas, in real life, when some­one tells Baker how hand­some he is?

“I nor­mally just get really em­bar­rassed and feel very self- con­scious, and wish they’d shut up,” he says.

“The last thing I want to do in a con­ver­sa­tion is have all the at­ten­tion put straight on to me and par­tic­u­larly on to some­thing as facile as how I look.”

I Give It A Year of­fers up the no­tion that if a cou­ple can make it through the fi rst year of mar­riage, they can get through any­thing.

“Ah, I don’t think it’s as easy as that,” Baker laughs.

How many years have he and wife Re­becca Rigg made it to now?

“Yeah, that’s what it’s like, isn’t it? ‘ How many years have you made it to?’ That’s call­ing the glass half- empty, isn’t it?” he laughs again.

“We’ve been mar­ried for ... I think about 16- 17 years. I mean, af­ter a cer­tain point you kind of stop count­ing.”

I GIVE IT A YEAR

Now show­ing Vil­lage Cinemas

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