Brendan Cow­ell: “With no wife and kids I was free to make whim­si­cal de­ci­sions.”

AC­TOR & WRITER

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - In­ter­view by MICHAEL BODEY

Did you have a plan – or even an over­seas act­ing agent – when you upped sticks from Aus­tralia and moved to London three-and-a-half years ago? No. With­out try­ing to sound like one of those po­etic ac­tor types who says they put it all in a ruck­sack and wan­dered off, I wasn’t ex­actly Bob Dy­lan. I did have a writ­ing agent and a bit of at­ten­tion over there since The Slap’s suc­cess, but not as an ac­tor. So why do it at all? I guess I was a bit rest­less and start­ing to feel a lit­tle con­fused. I was 38-39 and be­cause

I didn’t have a wife and kids, I was free enough to make whim­si­cal de­ci­sions. I felt like I wanted a whole new thing to do. It wasn’t due to a crit­i­cism or un­hap­pi­ness. I turned up to London’s Blooms­bury hotel with a blue suit­case and an iPhone speaker, no agent and no idea what the hell was go­ing to hap­pen.

Now you’re in New Zealand for a new

job. Let’s talk about this… [Laughs.] Tell us ev­ery­thing! “Well, the Avatar plot…”

Yes, you’ve joined the cast of James Cameron’s Avatar se­quels along­side Kate Winslet and Edie Falco. And you’re play­ing a ship’s cap­tain, af­ter re­cently play­ing one on Game Of Thrones. And I don’t even like the ocean!

We won’t see the first se­quel un­til 2021 and then there’s three more to come through to 2027. That’s a lot of story. I’ve been knocked on the head by ev­ery­one around me say­ing try not to speak about this job at all. But it is Avatar and I am in it. Look, I have never done any­thing on this scale. I’ve no idea about what it all means. We’ve had a cou­ple of re­hearsals and all I can tell you is I’m work­ing with some of the best tal­ent, from stunts to de­sign to act­ing, that the world has to of­fer. And that’s all I can ask.

And you can make money ap­pear­ing at fan con­ven­tions. Holy… I’ve got an ap­palling au­to­graph, too. Are there cour­ses you can do? I’ve got a curly name.

It must be an in­cred­i­ble work­ing en­vi­ron­ment. It re­ally is. Tech­nol­ogy and ideas are be­ing in­vented while we

make the film. The idea of film­mak­ing is mov­ing for­ward as the cam­era rolls, which is pretty ex­cit­ing.

Sounds a bit like… Game Of Thrones.

I know! The nice thing about it ca­reer­wise is both these ma­jor TV and film op­por­tu­ni­ties came from in­de­pen­dent the­atre in London. Nor­mally, when you move to a new city it takes a year or two to do the rounds. And cast­ing di­rec­tors see so many of you, they’re go­ing, “Oh, here we go, an­other half-shaven ac­tor who tells us he’s spe­cial.” There was a line of 200 peo­ple out the front of The Young Vic ev­ery day [for his 2017 play Yerma] and the whole in­dus­try saw it. I love the fact you can go there with no money, do a great piece of the­atre just for the sake of it and end up in these kind of shows.

And you also landed a role in Press, a re­cent BBC drama about news­pa­pers.

I’d done in­de­pen­dent the­atre and Game Of Thrones, but you have to do a BBC show to as­sert your name in Eng­land. That was a joy. Ev­ery newsroom needs an Aussie jour­nal­ist with his life fall­ing apart.

The cur­rent SeaChange re­make has a few of us wist­ful about Love My Way. What about you? Oh yeah, it was a golden time. Six Feet Un­der had just come out on HBO and that kind of changed tele­vi­sion, and then Fox­tel said they wanted to do one of those kind of shows and they backed the cre­atives and didn’t tell us to calm down. You look at its writ­ers’ room – ev­ery­one’s gone on to do some­thing. It was a time and a place, and every­body re­alised it was a spe­cial one. We should do it again.

But the ac­tors’ fees might be a bit un­rea­son­able now… Yeah! A cou­ple of them.

“I’ve been told to try not to speak about this job… But it is Avatar and I am in it”

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