MAN OF TALENTS
Doors are wide open for Tim Minchin, who’s very much in demand with acting, directing and music-writing roles all on the go
Tim Minchin takes on his first major dramatic role as a murderous racist in the ABC’s The Secret River, about the conflict between early settlers and Australia’s indigenous inhabitants.
Minchin is also directing Dreamworks animation Larrikins, he wrote the music for musical Matilda (opening in July in Sydney) and is doing the same for Groundhog Day, which opens on Broadway in 2017.
Andrew Fenton spoke to him on the set at Lake Tyers in Victoria mid last year.
Did success as a comedian open up doors that had been closed?
Totally. They were all closed in 2004 and by 2009 they were all open, really. This is the first job where a director rang me up and said I just want you to play this role, you’re going to be great at it.
Why did they want you for this role?
(Director Daina Reid) had this idea that she wanted my character, who does some unpleasant things, she didn’t want to cast someone who was “evil” because that’s not very interesting especially when you’re trying to tell a story as serious as this. The more you make him human ... the stronger the story will be.
Why is there a closed set today?
Well, I was nude this morning but in a very jocular way because he’s just feral. The scene this afternoon … there are implications of violence but I don’t act (it out), I just talk about it, with this (indigenous) girl I’ve got chained up in a disgusting manner, so it’s incredibly confronting because she’s pleading for her freedom.
Why take a role playing such a horrible person?
People like playing heroes because they’re actors and they want their careers to go a certain way. My entire modus operandi in my career is to keep moving so that people are unable to pin me down. I’ve been working for the past few years to prove that comedian is not necessarily a particularly helpful label for me.
Are you planning on pursuing acting?
I’m sort of a failed actor. Before my comedy really took off, I’d done a couple of roles but not much. I did Californication, which was definitely a comic role and I felt very comfortable in that but I don’t think of myself as wacky. So when I got to LA, I did an audition for Judd Apatow for an Amy Schumer movie ( Trainwreck) as the funny weird office guy and I was hopeless, I just didn’t know how to attack it. I had no idea and I just went, I’m not going to do that anymore. I’m not going to do the quirky bit on the side roles.
Why did you move to LA?
I’m making an animated, singing-animal, Australian road movie for Dreamworks. Which I went on just as the composer and just had a lot of thoughts about it and they liked my thoughts so I’m directing it.
The Secret River, ABC, Sunday, 8.30pm
BEFORE MY COMEDY REALLY TOOK OFF, I’D DONE A COUPLE OF ROLES BUT NOT MUCH
Tim Minchin stars as Smasher in The Secret River miniseries.