Noah Taylor

The actor reveals why being self-taught can be your greatest strength

Noah Taylor in his studio 2015

His filmography says big-time Hollywood actor, but that’s not Noah Taylor. He’s one of those Aussie actors that you seem to spot on screen all the time, appearing in Almost Famous, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Red Dog and more recently, vicious and fur-cloaked in Game of Thrones. Despite his impressive career spanning over 40 films, he’s a modest man who rarely speaks to the media, and few people know about his love and talent for painting and drawing. Here we catch a precious few minutes with the actor, artist and self-confessed “control freak”.

You’re world-renowned for your on-camera work, but some folk may not yet know of your talent on canvas – despite you having painted and drawn your whole life. What made you want to start exhibiting your art these past few years?
I work best when it’s to a deadline and there’s something nice about making things and then having them out of your life and in someone else’s. It’s also nice to see your work in a gallery setting, it helps you view your own work in a way you can’t at home or in the studio.

We’ve heard that you’ve found a “weird connection” between drawing people and acting. Care to tell us about it?
Well, portraiture or any illustration of the human face requires a certain amount of empathy and acting is the same. I always draw a role I’m playing to help me understand where I want to go with the character, and when I paint I kind of ‘act’ the face I’m painting .

A triple-threat – you’re also musically gifted. Of all of your outlets, which best scratches your creative itch? 
Painting is a wonderfully solitary activity but music is the greatest pleasure. Sadly, acting is mostly a very neurotic experience filled with anxiety, compromise and bad catering.

Your acting career started early, with you leaving school at 16 to film The Year My Voice Broke, the first of over 40 films to date. Not having studied acting, or art for that matter, would you say formal training is important in such fields?
I would as I get older and realise how limited my skills are, but having said that, being self-taught gives you a unique approach. I very much work within the parameters of my limited skills (for example, in my paintings it’s very rare to see hands, because I’m terrible at them) but this has given the figures in my paintings a nice (handless) shape out of necessity.

You’re a self-confessed “bit of a control freak”. How does this personality trait fare in your creative pursuits?
It’s good for music and painting and frustrating for acting. Film is a director’s medium and though I do like collaborating, sometimes I have differing opinions on how something should be done, but it’s not really my place to say

We’ve got to ask, for all of the Game of Thrones fans out there, how did it feel to cut off Jamie Lannister’s hand in your role as the villainous Locke?
Screen violence is usually very therapeutic…

Noah Taylor is speaking at this year’s Semi-Permanent conference in Sydney. Click here to find out more and book your tickets.

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