Over the past thirty years, Noah George Taylor has solidified his position as one of Australia's most beloved chameleons, adding colour and dimension to a vast array of characters across almost every genre on both the big and small screen.
Last night — with the instrumental help of fellow transformative performer Yael Stone of Orange Is The New Black fame—Taylor commanded every frame as hard-nosed detective Nick Manning in SBS’s main event of 2016 - Deep Water.
After watching his powerhouse performance on screen, it seems appropriate to celebrate the rolling career of the prolific Mr. Noah Taylor.
1987: the year his name broke
Danny in The Year My Voice Broke was Taylor’s first lead role and only his second acting credit behind playing a bit part in Dogs in Space named ‘Bowie Fan’.
His first foray into playing an awkward character garnered his first AFI nomination for Best Actor, losing out to Leo McKern for his turn in the David Williamson adaptation Travelling North. Funnily enough, a fellow up-and-comer by the name of Ben Mendelson picked up Best Supporting for the same film. The two actors were often mistaken for each other in their early days.
Hot property down under
Statuette or no statuette, Taylor proved that he could carry an on-screen work, and the next few years saw star turns in the miniseries Bangkok Hilton, memorable featured roles in tv shows A Country Practice and G.P, the comedic lead in the feature The Nostradamus Kid, and a reprise of his role as Danny in Flirting, the sequel to The Year My Voice Broke.
Shine on your crazy genius
Playing the younger version of Geoffrey Rush’s virtuosic take on the deeply troubled virtuosic pianist in Shine could have been an uphill battle, but Taylor treated the adolescent David Helfgott with subtlety, hinting at an imminent breakdown and blowing us away while he faces it head-on during a live performance.
Taylor picked up a SAG award nomination for his short performance, and after a handful of subsequent film roles, caught the eye of Cameron Crowe, who was fresh off showing people the money with Jerry Maguire.
In 2000, As the original manager of Almost Famous’ featured band, Stillwater, Taylor shed the awkward introvert for the smooth-talking money man.
Back and forth between Hollywood and Aussiewood
Thanks to Famous, the turn of the millennium was a boon for Taylor, returning to Aussie-land to nail the lead in the adaptation of the John Birmingham novel He Died with a Felafel in his Hand (2001), then in the same year reteaming with Crowe for a bizarre part in a bizarre the bizarre (remake of the 1997 Spanish head-fudge Open Your Eyes) Vanilla Sky.
Throw in an idiosyncratic interpretation of art-school-era Adolf Hitler in Max (2002), Lara Croft’s bestie in both Tomb Raider films; a stint with Wes Anderson and Bill Murray on The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004); Charlie Bucket’s father in Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), and another Aussie appearance in the fantastic The Proposition (2005).
To cap off this exciting period, Taylor scored a role in a film directed by one of the least prolific, but most revered directors on earth —Terence Malick— in the vastly underrated The New World.
Rake, Red Dog and a pair of Westerns
Continuing his performative globetrotting saw Taylor embrace the family treat Red Dog, make a lasting mark in episodes of Rake (2010) and The Borgias (2012), stood alongside Tom Hardy and Guy Pearce in Lawless (2012), and joined the star-studded cast of the Emmy nomination-hogging miniseries Hatfield & McCoys (also 2012).
One Ethan Hawke sci-fi later and almost thirty years since his career began, and that face everyone recognises but can’t quite place finally became a household name, Western world-wide.
Game of Thrones (2013-14)
Three words that sell themselves. As Locke, a character invented purely for the TV series, Taylor slipped into the Game of Thrones universe as if he’d been hiding behind a wall and was merely waiting for someone to call his name.
A prominent player in seasons 3 and 4, Taylor took on the role as ‘the best hunter’, who also happened to enjoy the odd lie, as well as the odd cold-blooded murder.
The only downside to this career explosion is that most Americans see him as ‘that guy from Game of Thrones’, as if he didn’t have thirty years of fascinating work behind him.
Peaky Blinders, Deep Water and beyond
In the cult crime hit Peaky Blinders (2014), Taylor tore into season two as a character based on the real life Darbi Sabini, an Italian gang leader that helms from London. You never would have thought Taylor would convincingly scream Italian heritage, but he does. It’s a powerful, violent role and Taylor relishes every second, and it paved the way for his role in the critical darling/Tom Cruise vehicle The Edge of Tomorrow (2014).
Similarly with SBS’s Deep Water, Taylor demonstrates a maturity that belies his small frame —never once causing the audience to doubt his authority.
When summarising a great talent’s career in less than 1000 words, certain highlights are going to fall by the wayside. Taylor’s achieved a hell of a lot more than the above, and we can’t wait to see where he next takes his humble, enviable skills.
Deep Water airs Wednesday and Thursday nights at 8.30pm on SBS. After they air, episodes will be available on SBS On Demand.
Missed Deep Water? Watch the first episode right here: