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The Weekend Australian - Q&A

The Weekend Australian

In your 50-plus years on screen you've played a cardinal, a wizard, a spy and the Antichrist. Any roles you'd still love to do? I never got to be in a full-blown western. I love being on horseback - and modesty aside, I'm quite good at it. I fancied charging around on a horse with a gun and being a cowboy. But that wasn't to be. Cowboy films are rather a thing of the past, and part of my childhood. So that's an unfulfilled, puerile dream.

Were you always a good rider? I had to learn to ride for My Brilliant Career. I discovered that I loved it, and it turned out to be useful. For some reason, they didn't have a proper wrangler on that film, and the horse was a racehorse that hadn't quite made it. Like a lot of thoroughbreds it was a bird with a little brain.

Has it been fun catching up with Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblumm making your new film, Jurassic World Dominion? They are such good friends, and just as well because we were locked up in a hotel in the English countryside for four months. It was peak Covid and we had no contact with the outside world. It was lovely to have that time. On our days off, Jeff and I would get around the piano and sing. 

The film used "real" animatronic dinosaurs. Does that help your performance? I was pleased that it wasn't all green screen. It was big sets, and big breathing, roaring dinosaurs - enormous animatronic creatures, just as we had in Jurassic Park. Psychologically, its so much easier to react to something that's about to eat you - rather than a tennis ball on an stick.

How is the vintage coming along at your New Zealand vineyard, Two Paddocks? In Central Otago we have had a phenomenally good vintage. Pretty much everything is in barrel now, and were looking forward to quietly developing brilliance inside the oak. It could be one for the record books.

Some of your farmyard animals are named for people in the film world. How is Taika the pig? Taika [named after New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi] is no longer with us. He was a puzzle. He was never a great friend like Angelica, who is actually a bloke. Angelica has been with me for 15 years and is one of my closest friends.

In the new Foxtel series The Twelve you play a defense lawyer, Brett Colby. What kind of character is he? A distinguished barrister, been around a long time, and very good. Someone you'd want in your corner. Not much of the drama is actually in court... it's interested in the very different lives of the jurors and how they intersect somehow with what's happened. But when we are in court and Marta Dusseldorp [as prosecutor Lucy Bloom] and I are on our feet, its pretty lively.

Have you ever sat in on a jury? I've never been called. I think it would be a very interesting experience, depending on the case. If it was a case of wrongdoing in an accountancy frim, then its probably like watching paint dry. But in major crimes, like one in The TwelveI would think its absolutely fascinating.

How's your memoir progressing? I started three or four weeks ago. I did a word count the other night and I'm up to 55,000 words, which I'm told is half a book. In the past I've been approached by publishers to write an autobiography and I've always said, "Nothing much happened, and if it did, I don't remember." But starting to write it, I discovered that's not true. Quite a lot's happened, and I do remember it.

 

 

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