That Guy File #7: Noah Taylor

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May 11, 2011 by abbyo

Where you’ve seen him: Shine, The Year My Voice Broke, The Life Aquatic, Vanilla Sky, Almost Famous, the “Tomb Raider” movies, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The New World, Red, White & Blue, Submarine (forthcoming)

You can tell a lot about an actor by the choices they make. If they don’t go for the paycheck roles, and stick to movies that feel like they’re made with real integrity, the roles often end up reflecting the actor themselves.

I’ve been watching Noah Taylor in movies for years now, and am convinced this case applies to him; even more so upon looking the guy up and discovering that he’s also a musician, and lives in the good graces of guys like Nick Cave and Cameron Crowe. Those accolades alone would be enough to put him in the cooler class of “That Guys,” but the man’s acting is what’s really impressive–he’s got the chops to back up the hype.

Taylor’s been described as a kind of mashup of Nick Cave and Steve Buscemi, and I don’t think I could come up with a better comparison. He’s got Cave’s effortless cool and Buscemi’s capacity for playing sympathetic sad-sacks. The entertaining (and sadly under-seen) Australian movie “He Died with a Felafel in His Hand” has Taylor in the starring role as a would-be writer, and puts both his “cool” and “lovable loser” talents on full display.

The thing that makes Taylor so fun to watch is the dry humor he brings to so many of his performances. He can deliver really funny lines with a completely straight face and not only make audiences laugh, but believe every word. And he does this so easily that it doesn’t really feel like acting. It’s a skill that sticks not only in substantial roles, but also in background performances. He fits in so well with the ensemble of Team Zissou in “The Life Aquatic” that it’s almost like he’s wearing camouflage.  His work in the soon-to-be-released in the States “Submarine” seems to fit right into the quirky indie comedy vein.

But what’s an actor without versatility? Last year saw the release of “Red, White and Blue,” an indie thriller/horror-film that gives us a very different and disturbing performance from Taylor as a former Army interrogator bent on revenge. A seriously visceral movie that looks to be along the lines of “Last House on the Left,” it’s been getting positive reviews from solid sources. It may not leave much room for ironic humor, but the trailer has me convinced that Taylor’s bringing his A-game.

Whether it’s drama, comedy or horror, Noah Taylor has continued to play interesting roles in interesting movies. It’s that sense of integrity, realism and good fun that’s gotten him respect from some very cool people, as well as with audiences. In terms of career, he’s like an Australian/British John Hawkes. Now all he needs is a “Winter’s Bone” to shoot him up to the top of the Indie cred-list.

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