Hello! Canada! - June 2014
By Susan Catto
Star of The Mentalist, Simon Baker the Australian heartthrob, opens up about finding his passion, his long marriage and famous friends
Whether he's pursuing Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada or chasing killers in his hit TV Series The Mentalist, Simon Baker 44, exudes a wry confidence that fans can't resist.
The Australian actor - who is an ambassador of elegance for luxury Swiss watchmaker Longines - isn't short of admirers close to home either.
He and his actress wife Rebecca Rigg, have been together for more than two decades and are proud parents to three children, Stella 20, Claude 15 and Harry 12.
With The Mentalist renewed for a seventh season - and his character Patrick Jane at a crossroads as he finally declares his love for colleague Teresa Lisbon (Robin Tunney) - Simon sat down with Hello! Canada! At the Kentucky Derby (where Longines is the official timekeeper) for an exclusive interview.
You're always on the go. When do you find yourself checking your watch most frequently?
When I'm picking up the kids from school. And if I'm out surfing I often lose track of time, so I wear a watch when I surf.
You've mentioned in the past that you were a shy child. Did you turn to acting to get over your shyness?
I wasn't that self-aware! It was more about the desire to find a way to express myself. I'm sure that not everyone gets this in their life, but it's when there's something that you can't not do; the idea of something that burns inside you. Once I started acting, I thought, "This is something that I feel compelled to do." It's not a logical, sensible career path, in that it's full of ups and downs - but I guess that drove me harder into it.
You and your wife Rebecca were close friends with fellow Aussies Nicole Kidman and Naomi Watts long before they - or you - rocketed to fame. Did their success influence your own Hollywood ambitions or was it just exciting to watch?
It was good viewing! It was interesting to watch at times. But the job of being an actor, and then the business side of success as an actor, are different things. I could probably be in some kind of original theatre group, living a very modest life and loving the hell out of doing that. And I think that's incredibly admirable. I always focused more on the reality of, "Can I make this my living? At a certain point, am I going to have to throw in the towel and just do it for kicks or can I actually provide for my family doing this?" That's always the weird area - as you get older, it doesn't get easier.
Did you first meet Rebecca in Australia?
Yeah, we came over together. We were together for I think five years before we came over to the United States.
What's the secret to having a long-lasting relationship in Hollywood?
It's a partnership; we're a team, and more often than not, kind of unconsciously a team. That's sort of just how it happens to work.
What have you learned from raising teenagers?
It's tough. Hang in there; they come back around. Well, you hope they come back around! [Laughs] The most important thing for me to realize is that being a parent you're constantly shifting as well, just as much as your kids are, and it's important to keep that shift going. At a certain point when they are teenagers and they start to shift in a major way, you realize that they're just trying to define themselves as individuals separate from you. [It helps] to understand that actually, all of that stuff that is hurting you is really a good thing.
Do you think they will follow you into the arts?
Possibly. I'm a firm believer that if you find something that you have to do, that's half the battle to happiness. That's a big, positive thing in your corner that's going to help your approach toward everything in life. So, I'm just supportive of that, more than anything.
The Mentalist is a hit around the world. Where is the strangest place you've been recognized?
I was in a remote island off the coast of Indonesia and I thought that I was definitely safe there. [Laughs] Then someone came up and asked me if I was going to catch [his character's nemesis] Red John!
What would you like to accomplish next?
There are lots of things I haven't done. The key, and the secret for me with the future, is always about looking to do things that expand who I am. Things that I know less about that I want to explore. As clichéd as it sounds, it's sort of about personal and emotional and artistic growth.