For the record, Noah Taylor is not named after the biblical ark. His father chose the name because of a Dennis Hopper character he saw in a Western. Nor is he a younger version of the dark muse Nick Cave; the pair only share rail thin bodies and even thinner lips in common.
But there’s certainly more going for Taylor, 32, than biblical referencing and rock star comparisons. He emerged as the 14-year-old in Richard Lowenstein’s Dogs In Space, and is reunited with the filmmaker for He Died With A Felafel In His Hand, making an independent cinema return after the geek blockbuster success with Tomb Raider.
Taylor plays Danny in the tragi-comedy film based on John Birmingham’s novel of the same name. The share-house experience is gutted with post-teen depression, the void filled with approaching 30 existential thoughts. The film marries restless anarchy with nervous anxiety; Douglas Coupland, author of Generation X would be proud.
Taylor has been living in London for five years. He migrated to Australia from England with his family aged seven, grew up in St Kilda and moved out of home at 16. He drifted in and out of shared houses and now resides with a long time girlfriend in the north west of London – his role in the film is something he can personally relate to.
Danny is a wannabe writer, sips martinis, has black and white postcards of Beat writers in his bedroom and a pile of books ranging from Yeats to Jean Paul Sartre on his desk. It’s the classic Generation X stereotype; all knowledge and no career.
The film follows Danny from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. Wacky friends with even wackier habits come in the form of vegans, anarchists and neurotic lesbian lovers who lean on each other in this traumatic yet funny crying game.
“There are certainly aspects to the character I can relate to, but it is not based on me despite what Richard Lowenstein will tell you,” hints Taylor. “Certain things are taken from stuff that has happened to me and friends of ours. I have tried to make Danny a blank person because I wanted the audience to identify with the character on some level.”
Taylor first met Lowenstein when filming Dogs In Space. They rekindled their friendship years later and Lowenstein used their experiences as the backdrop to his movie. “We are friends and knocked about Melbourne for years. We used to complain about each other’s pathetic love life and talked a pile of garbage in pubs. But Richard writes it all down which is obviously a bit dangerous and came out in the film.”
Taylor always wanted to join the army, but got into acting instead. Perhaps if he joined the front line he wouldn’t have explored the post-punk of Lou Reed or Johnny Cash or even become friends with the members of the Dirty Three while living in Melbourne. “I have really trashy rock’n’roll idols more so than high literary ones,” says Taylor. “I have always found solace in grubby rock and I kind of exercise that through playing my own music as well.”
Unlike Russell Crowe, Taylor doesn’t want a music career but he has performed with Cardboard Box Man, Flipper & Humphrey and most recently, The Thirteens; a country-western rock band described as a cross between Hank Williams and Social Distortion. “It started off as three manic depressives playing sad angst and western music for sad people.”
Just as Danny drifts pointlessly from house to house in the movie, Taylor can empathise with the get up and go pace of the film in his own life. His worst shared house experience was in London when living in a large power council estate. “Drug addicts lived in the lifts, it was full of crack dealers and violence. It was a depressing place,” he says.
Taylor has always resisted getting involved with any share-house identity, preferring a reclusive role as a tenant. “I have been the worst person to live with. I am the messiest, demanding and most neurotic and I have been a complete pain in the arse. I pity anyone who has lived with me.”
While flat mates may have found him irritating, Hollywood thinks otherwise. He is about to star in Cameron Crowe’s Vanilla Sky with Tom Cruise and Kurt Russell and last year he starred in Crowe’s rock pig adventure Almost Famous. Despite the shimmering success, he is casual about Hollywood’s obsession.
“I try not to think about getting my next job too much,” says Taylor. “I have been kind of lucky. I have had a lot of things handed to me on a plate really.”
He’s learned not to get carried away with the excesses of Hollywood and never considered moving to LA. He recently gave up alcohol and would probably find living sober in LA an awful experience. He found it difficult to draw the line between a social drink and the torturing bastardisation of his soul. “Well unfortunately for me but fortunately for the rest of the world I have given up drinking,” he declares. “I was an appalling and horrible person when I drank.”
That’s not to say he isn’t fond of Italian wines, even though he won’t tuck into a bottle recklessly. He is not ashamed of his loose wine knowledge either, although he feels more comfortable on set than at a dinner party. “I don’t think learning about wine is all that complicated. I think it’s more about the adjectives used in wine reviews that are really off-putting.”
Like a nebulous London cloud, Taylor prefers to lye low in his flat with his girlfriend and pet Jack Russell. That mop of black hair, arms etched in tattoos and bleak perspective on life barely gets to see the London daylight. “I do a lot of sleeping and live a very sedate lifestyle,” he says. “I don’t like living with lots of people unless it’s a romantic situation, but I find living with other people unnatural anyway”.
|“Well unfortunately for me but fortunately for the rest of the world I have given up drinking. I was an appalling and horrible person when I drank.”|