Actor Simon Baker visits Dubai as Givenchy’s fragrance ambassador
Dashing Australian actor Simon Baker is best known for his starring role as Patrick Jane in the hit American TV crime drama The Mentalist, which ended a seven-season run last year.
He has also had notable film credits, including roles in The Devil Wears Prada and Margin Call.
He briefly visited Dubai on Thursday, June 2 to promote Absolute, the newest scent in Givenchy’s Gentlemen Only range.
The 46-year-old was en route back to his homeland where he is making his directorial debut with the film Breath.
We chatted to the star about his career, the prospect of revisiting The Mentalist and his involvement in the creation of Givenchy’s new woody, oriental scent.
Welcome to the UAE, Simon – will you have any time to see the sights while in town?
Thank you. Sadly not – I have just flown in from Paris and leave for Australia in the morning. Since I’ve arrived all I’ve had time for is a swim, a massage and that’s about it.
A “mentalist" could be described as a master manipulator of thoughts and behaviour – skills that your character in the show used to help police solve crimes. Did you pick up any tricks/tips or sharpen your mental acuity while making The Mentalist?
Yeah, a lot of them. There’s an element of NLP – neuro-linguistic programming – that takes place when you’re an actor. You have to meet someone and straight away create a relationship with them, for example – one that never existed. You have to do it convincingly, so there is a shorthand to understanding the different energy people have. It allows you to make a connection. Also, I did a fair bit of research into that “world" before I even shot the pilot of The Mentalist. And really, the reality was that the show had very little mentalism in it after the first season. Perhaps the writers got too puzzled by it and found it too difficult.
The Mentalist ended after seven years last year – might it return in some form?
I hope not. [laughs] It’s done and it needs to be left where it is. Look, I know Prison Break and The X-Files have been brought back – and I’d never say never – but sometimes I think a series can run its course and complete its story.
How did your partnership with Givenchy come about?
Givenchy approached me about four years ago and explained the story about Gentlemen Only, which was originally launched in 1975 by Hubert de Givenchy. They showed me the old advertising, which was chic and classic – quite different to the Givenchy we know today, which can be quite audacious and cheeky. Never before had I imagined myself being involved with a fashion house, or working with fragrances, but I liked Givenchy’s idea to re-release the fragrance and keep its classical roots.
Did your role in The Devil Wears Prada give you any industry insight or help prepare you for allying with the iconic maison de Givenchy?
No, not really, but a great experience I had with that film was seeing the dynamic between the grande dame, Meryl Streep, and Anne Hathaway, who was a lot younger then and very ambitious. Anne was so good and very keen, with a burgeoning career – so that was interesting to watch.
How involved were you in the olfactory process?
I talked to Givenchy throughout the whole process and a lot of the fragrances in the range are based on smells that I have an association with. Gentlemen Only Absolute, I like a lot, for example, because of its earthy sandalwood, vanilla and bergamot notes. Whereas Gentlemen Only Casual Chic is a lot lighter and fresher, with more citrusy notes. When a scent starts to smell ordinary after an hour of wearing it, it has no character – and I don’t like that. This range, however, has top notes that evaporate sooner [making it more evident] which is great.
You sound like an experienced nose.
I do, don’t I? It’s been fascinating to learn about the science and strategy behind the smells.
You have turned your hand to directing, with a screen adaptation of Tim Winton’s best-selling novel Breath. When might we see it released?
Yes, I’ve just finished directing and filming it in Australia and now I’m about to start editing it. I don’t have a release date yet, as it’s still continuing. It’s an interesting “rites of passage" film about two teenage boys – it’s a movie all about identity.