Simon Baker, co-star of the "The Ring 2" Movie!
Simon Baker was first recognized in 1992, when he received Australia's prestigious Logie award for Most Popular New Talent. Upon relocating to Los Angeles with his family, Baker was immediately cast in the Academy Award winning film L.A. Confidential (1997). Simon Baker-Denny was born on July 30, 1969, in Launceston, Tasmania, Australia. His spouse is Rebecca Riggs (1998 - present) and they have 3 children, Stella (b. 1993), Claude (b. 1998) and Harry (b. 19 September 2001); Nicole Kidman is Harry's godmother. They are very good friends with actress, Nicole Kidman. Rebecca has known Nicole for many years -- they met whilst on the auditioning circuit in Australia. Simon Baker , Russell Crowe, and Guy Pearce were all raised in Australia. All three of them also appeared in L.A. Confidential. Baker is the only one of the three who was born in Australia. Pearce was born in England, Crowe in New Zealand.
Simon Baker Plays Native
In the independent film On the Corner, Simon Baker, is an incredibly talented and young actor who plays Randy in this multi-character driven story.
Take the drugs, hustling and extreme poverty away and you have a tale of family: a brother, a sister, a father and a mother, and the individuals that surround them as they seek to find, know and love each other.
Randy (Baker) comes to Vancouver, leaving a foster home after his mother is put in rehab, looking for his sister and dad. He has no money. He pleads with his sister, Angel, to let him stay with her. She, in turn, pleads with Bernie, the hotel manager, to let him stay without paying "guest fees." Randy is a handsome sixteen-year-old that does not appear to be even a casual drug user.
However, everyone in his sister's company is shooting heroin or smoking crack - except Floyd, a recovered drug/alcohol addict, who unbeknownst to Randy, was once his father's best friend. On the request of Angel, Floyd allows Randy to live with him and takes the boy on his daily dumpster diving rounds.
For Randy, binning and listening to country music is hardly a fulfilling life. He starts to hang around Angel's friends, Stacey and Cliff, and before long, he's got the same crack habit to support as they do. Angel's drug dealer, Wade, generously steps in and sets him up as a salesman, with the caveat: "absolutely no fronting." But, soon enough, Cliff is jonesing for a hit, has no money, and basically robs Randy of his supply.
Now, not only is Randy addicted and without a supply, he owes Wade for the drugs Cliff stole. We get an insight into Wade's violent behaviour, when, after viciously smacking Angel across his hotel room, in a vain attempt to get her to pay her brother's debt, he almost cries "they'll break my legs if I don't give them the $500!" (In the DVD audio commentary, Geary comments how a $500 debt in the Downtown Eastside can really get your legs broken - harsh!) What can Randy do, other than hustle and rob johns like his sister?
Although there is no resolution in On the Corner the audience has peeked into the lives and motivations of people who we often view as foreign and "different" to ourselves, only to find that their motivations are pretty much the same as ours. Therein lies the light and hope of this tragic and gloomy character study.
Labour of love for all
In talking with Simon Baker about his role in On the Corner, it is apparent that the movie was a labour of love for almost all involved. Even though the actors were paid "next to nothing," they all really wanted their roles. Alex Rice, who plays Angel, Randy's sister in the movie (and is Simon's sister in real life as well!) flew in from L.A. to audition. Extras and production crew were largely made up of people Geary knew and worked with during his days at the Portland Hotel.
Of course the fact that this story is largely a Native story has a lot to do with the eagerness of the participants to take part. Simon had some experience of this when he played the young Thomas in the breakthrough Canadian aboriginal story, Smoke Signals, however, even though he has looks and talent to move beyond stereotypical roles, he still seems to get offered almost exclusively Native roles.
He tells me that he doesn't mind, that it is like a social history project every time he has to play another Native, that he enjoys learning about different tribes and people when he prepares for his roles, and that he loves acting so much, he's grateful to be doing it at all.
Simon will study directing and producing, at Capilano College next year, before continuing to the American Film Institute in the same program afterwards.
More Native roles
After finishing On the Corner, Simon went on to play Honesco, in Ron Howard's The Missing, and one of the Farber posse in Alex Proyas' (Dark City, The Crow) Will Smith vehicle, I, Robot. After these roles, he played leads in Buffalo Dreams, a Walt Disney movie, and in the first episode of Into the West, Steven Spielberg's upcoming 12-hour mini-series.
Yes, except for the possible exception of I, Robot, these are, again, all Native roles. Yet, Simon is only eighteen, and he's getting solid leads and the chance to work with big name directors and talent. And he's grateful (in that he understands the layout of his land), talented and focused. Who's to say he won't do for Aboriginals what Sidney Poitier did for African Americans in the sixties?
Surprisingly Simon has no intention of jumping ship and moving to L.A. He plans on remaining in Langley, where he grew up and lives now, with his manager mom, and Haida-carver dad.
Another interesting thing about Simon is that while he doesn't crow about his heritage, he is completely at home with it, as well. When I ask him about his background, he responds, "My mom's Cree, from Cowessess, Saskatchewan; and my dad's Haida and Squamish - a little bit of a mixture in my background." So, with a disarming and innocuous reply, he presents that the Native race is diverse, dynamic and rich, rather than "red."
At sixteen, the role of Randy was:
"A difficult part. Reading the script, and my age was sixteen, and never really being down on East Hastings before - it was sort of a subject that I had to face… we spent about a month down there, just doing rehearsals on the street corner, getting to know some of the people down there, watching (them) do what they do with their lives everyday, and it was very… eye-opening. I had never seen this before.
…Another part my mom and I had to sit down and talk about, (were) some of the "vulgar" scenes I had. [Simon's character becomes a prostitute at one point in the movie] … I got over it…This is acting; it's nothing realistic. (Laughs.)… And I'm totally capable of doing what I have to do on script."
However, Simon feels that doing the part has "made" him as an actor, particularly since immediately after On the Corner came out, he was offered the part of Honesco, in The Missing, with one of his favourite actors, Tommy Lee Jones, and one of his favourite directors, Ron Howard.
On the Corner, though not without its problems (primarily production), deservedly, has won international awards including:
Best Feature from Western Canada, Vancouver International Film Festival, 2003 ($12,000 prize)
Best Feature, Whistler Film Festival, 2003
Best Feature, Cinema Jove Festival, Valencia, Spain, 2004 ($21,000 prize)
Special Award of the Jury, Mannheim-Heidelberg International Film Festival, Mannheim, Germany, 2004
It was also named one of top 10 Canadian films of 2003 by the Toronto International Film Festival.
And recently, the great Gordon Tootoosis added to the winnings with a Best Supporting Actor prize, from the American Indian Film Festival (2004).
More fun facts about Simon Baker
Height 5' 10" (1.78 m)
As a teen, competed on a state level in surfing and water polo.
Simon was one of the singers/dancers in the band Euphoria's film clip 'Love you right'
His Personal quotes
"If you can't be proud of what you do, go and sell shoes. Do something else."
'The Ring' Sequel Pushed Back
The sequel to cult horror film The Ring has been pushed back dues to production delays. The film was due to open this November but has been pushed back due to the conflicting schedules of star Naomi Watts and director Hideo Nakata. The production was thrown into chaos when director Noam Murro dropped out of the project and Nakata took over. The Japanese movie maker made Ringu - the film, which the first The Ring was based on. The film, costarring Simon Baker and Sissy Spacek, is now set for release next spring.
Simon Baker set to star in The Ring 2
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Simon Baker has circled his way into The Ring 2 for DreamWorks and helmer Hideo Nakata.
Shooting starts in mid-May on the sequel, with Baker set to play the male lead opposite Naomi Watts in the ongoing tale of a mysterious videotape that proves fatal to viewers.
Although it will be the first time Baker and Watts have worked together, the two have been friends for years -- both call Australia home and share the same manager, Untitled Entertainment's Jason Weinberg. Baker's wife, Rebecca Rigg, also is best friends with Watts.
The Ring Two hits theaters on March 18th, 2005.
Simon Baker: The Guardian
He is the title character and star of The Guardian, playing Pittsburgh corporate lawyer Nick Fallin, a 30-something hotshot whose sentence for a cocaine conviction forces him to do community service as a legal advocate for children.
Being the star of any one-hour prime-time drama is a grueling job, but Baker also juggles a wife and three young children, including a new-born son born.
"Right now, I'm exhausted," he says, talking in his native Australian accent. "It's everything at once. A bunch of things creep up on themselves and dump on you at one point. Yesterday was that day. Today, I'm just taking it very slowly."
Asked if anyone warned him about how tough the job would be, Baker laughs and says, "Yeah, everybody told me that. I ignored them. It's my nature."
Adding to his workload is performing with an accent not his own, but it's not the first time Baker has done an American accent. He has lived in the United States for five years, and American audiences first may have noticed him (credited as Simon Baker Denny) as a luckless would-be actor in L.A. Confidential. But the day-in, day-out grind of a TV series is quite a different challenge.
"It's a bit tricky," he says. "You have to keep on top of [the accent]. Sometimes you can slip back. What happens is you develop quite a good ear for yourself. I can hear when it's flat. But it's not easy."
"It's not necessarily a technical problem, it's trying to act at the same time, to make it be truthful and honest and come from deep within you, and come out of your mouth in a different way."
On the face of it, The Guardian might not look like a top candidate for ratings success. Baker had little recognition among Americans, and the character he plays is far from sterling. Nick is driven, emotionally withdrawn and cynical, with a history of drug abuse and a stormy relationship with his boss and father, played by Dabney Coleman. At first, he balked at being forced to take on the child-advocacy cases, but his steely reserve slowly is being eroded.
"I like the fact that he's imperfect, which is like everyone," Baker says. "Everyone's a bit imperfect in his own way. He's imperfect in an interesting way. He means well and wants to be a good person, I just think he's overcoming a lot of his own baggage."
"That's what drew me to it. It didn't seem usual. It seemed like a throwback to a period where we used to have leading characters that weren't genetically, spiritually perfect. Remember those days? Leading men were regular guys, someone you could identify with. Steve McQueen was a regular guy. Charles Bronson was a regular guy. Clint Eastwood's a regular guy."
Executive producer David Hollander easily would include his star with that group. "Simon is a direct person who does not suffer fools, who was willing to take great chances. He's lived a lot of life in his 32 years. He can take the minimalist approach to the character that I wanted to write. I wanted a character who was very direct and spare and had a lot going on behind the words. Simon was absolutely game to try it, and he also was very good at it."
"There's a quality that I think film loves about a certain breed of Australian actors," Hollander says. "They embody what used to be the American Western appeal that I think the American film and television market still loves, which is independence, a relationship to the outdoors, a comfort in their masculinity."
"We have changed American stars into more psychological, more urban beings. The Australian actors that are hitting us over here feel wild to us and unpredictable."
Asked what he would like to have happen to Nick, Baker says, "I know that it's important that he maintain the edge he has. It's not Disneyland. We're trying to depict realistic circumstances. It's not Ally McBeal."
"It's funny, because there are a lot of parallels with this show to 'Ally McBeal.' It's a guy who's trying to understand who he is and the way he fits in, but we take an edgier, more gritty, realistic approach."
"My biggest fear of doing the show," Hollander says, "was for it to become saccharin. Instead of taking black-and-white stories, we go for ambiguous endings. We go for unanswerable questions. The visceral experience of watching the show is, Nick is doing sympathetic things in every show, he just may not be outwardly sympathetic."
"I'm a tough critic," Baker says, "and I think it's a pretty good show. But I watch it in black-and-white, because I can't really look at myself."
Does he second-guess the performance? "I don't have time for that," Baker says. "I'm not that self-absorbed. I'm just working. I'm supporting a family."