Tasmanian-born Australian beauty Rachael Taylor is rapidly emerging as one of Hollywood’s newest young stars. Originally from Launceston, Tasmania, Taylor attended Riverside High School. After leaving Launceston College at the age of 18, Rachael moved to Sydney to further her acting. She studied politics and history at the University of Sydney, before deferring her Law/Arts degree to appear on the acclaimed local series Headland.
Taylor has subsequently appeared in a number of United States productions – such as telemovies about Natalie Wood and the making of Dynasty (where she played Catherine Oxenberg), and the horror movies Man-thing and See No Evil. She played Sasha Forbes on the short-lived Australian drama series headLand, the first time she had played a character with her natural Australian accent. On April 3, 2006 it was announced that she had been nominated for a Logie Award for Most Popular New Female Talent for her role on the series, in spite of the show having been removed from television 2 months earlier.
The actress then took the plunge and moved to Los Angeles, where she landed a major role in Michael Bay’s much anticipated Transformers and just completed the 2008 remake of a 2004 Thai film Shutter.
In a quiet corner of a Beverly Hills hotel bar, Taylor talked to Paul Fischer in this exclusive interview.
Question: So I understand that you came off the boat virtually and landed this role in Transformers. What was the process like for auditioning?
Taylor: It was not unlike any other – the only significant difference was, I mean you show up, you audition for a casting director and then they call you back and you have another reading with a cast director and I think by the third audition I was workshopping with Michael and then the fourth one we went to the studio. And the difference for Transformers was, because it’s such a pop culture phenomenon in a way, they didn’t release the script, so essentially when you’re auditioning you’re working just off of sight. You have no idea what the story is or what the character is or where it goes. So I didn’t actually read the script until the fourth audition at which you have to sign a confidentiality agreement and you go and sit in a room and it’s just a complete lockdown. So it was the only sort of significant difference.
Question: Were you concerned at all that, yes it’s a big movie and it’s obviously a huge break for you but you didn’t simply want to be another one of Michael Bay’s girls?
Taylor: Absolutely. That was my primary concern I think. But having read the script, I didn’t think that was it. I don’t think that’s the role that I’m playing. Firstly I’m not the lead role in this movie, it’s just a nice little piece, it’s a nice little introduction for me and it is a smart female role like, you know,, she is what she is, like she’s a computer expert and I know, that it’s a film movie version of that but I still think it’s ground in reality and that was my main challenge as an actor and that’s one thing that I really committed myself to. And you know what? I was really proud when I saw the film. Because I don’t think I’m highly sexed in it. I think that I actually look like a person who is doing a job and I look like I’m invested in the pursuit of this kind of history and the deconstruction of this data. I don’t feel like I have been highly sexed. I’m not like really tanned or in a low cut top. I think I’ve sort of avoided it. And I am really proud of that. It’s something I really stuck to my guns on.
Question: Have you been entrenched already or initiated in any way into the Australian Acting Mafia?
Taylor: Acting contingent? The other really great thing about being Australian here is that we all sort of support of each other and I have a bunch of Australian friends that are sort of people I go and do barbecues with, and there is a lack of kind of pernicious competition amongst a group of us. Like it’s just sort of, we’re all happy to be here I think and we’re all sort of supporting each other through some of the challenges of Hollywood. Australians are really good at that actually. When things get a little bit challenging people do tend to band together. I suppose a lot of cultures do that.
Question: Tell me about your journey to acting. Tasmania is not a breeding ground for actors so where did this bug come from?
Taylor: Interesting. There are no sort of performers in my family and it was always a very inaccessible world but I was always fascinated by cinema. I was an only child and I think that might have a bit to do with it. I always had a hyperactive imagination and I liked the idea of a fantasy world. Even in games that I used to play as a kid, it’s funny – on this junket everyone’s been asking about what toys we liked. You know, I didn’t really have any. I was always about creating imaginary worlds and going out in the back yard and pretending to be a fairy or, you know, just liked playing pretend. And I always just loved the escapism of cinema and I didn’t understand that it was something that you could actually do. I didn’t understand that film was actually an industry and that people had jobs in that. All I knew was that it was a make believe world an I wanted to be a part of that.
And I had the very lucky thing of having an absolutely inspirational teacher when I was in maybe seventh or eight grade, an English teacher who really sort of changed my life. He got me really fascinated with words and reading and plays and writing and somehow I started to feel like encouraged as a creative person. And then when I was sixteen I left Tasmania and I moved to Sydney because I decided very firmly and strongly that I wanted to be an actor and no one was sort of going to talk me out of it. So I went and I did it.
Question: How tough was it for you to move to Sydney.
Taylor: It was a lot tougher moving to Sydney at sixteen than it was moving to Hollywood at twenty-one.
Question: What was the thing, the first break that told you that you could do it.
Taylor: Actually, hilariously, it was very Hollywoodesque, my first Australian break. I worked for Peter Bogdanovich in a miniseries that he did called Natalie Wood, Hollywood’s Last Child and that was my first role. And he was a very supportive kind of man, Peter. He was a creative kind of, you know, genius and madman in his own way but he was extremely encouraging and made a real impression on me. And then after that there were little bit roles on little indie films and little horror movies down there. And then I did an Australian television show, which I’m really proud of -Headland. It didn’t last for very long on our screens at all. I’m less proud of it as a result, as a journey for me. I don’t think I would have been able to move to Los Angeles and get an agent and get work and do this film if I hadn’t have had a year and a half of training on television, which is essentially what it was. That was my stomping ground, TV in Australia.
Question: How scary was it moving to LA?
Taylor: For some reason it wasn’t – I always had an instinct, even from the time I was quite young, like maybe thirteen and fourteen, that I would be lucky in the United States. Isn’t it funny? I’m completely honest. I felt like I always knew that Sydney was going to be a hard slog and it sort of was in it’s own way. I mean I worked, I’m a lucky girl, like I’ve been a working actor probably since I was seventeen now. I always knew that Los Angeles was not going to be easy. I knew that it would be tough and it has been in its own way but I just felt really positive and enthusiastic about the idea of being here. I felt committed to it. I didn’t feel like I was going to run home with my tail between my legs at any point. I knew that it was going to be hard but I knew that I was going to stick it out.
Question: Are your parents wary of you being here? I mean are they concerned about all the stories that you hear.
Taylor: Yeah absolutely. I think my parents’ main concern is me driving on the freeway, driving on the other side of the road thing. Look, you know, my parents know me and they know that I’m a pretty ambitious, strong kind of girl. They know that I’ve like kind of got my eye on the prize and that I will sort of truck through it. But also, you know, I’m not a part of Hollywood. Like I’m here in Hollywood but this is my first press junket and I’m really new at it. I’m not going to be sucked down the rabbit hole. I’m just not that girl. I’m not part of that world. I mean they hear about girls in LA sort of losing their way a little bit and that’s just not my game. I’ve never been like that. I’ve always been a bit of a bookworm, talked a bit too much and all of those things, but I’m not that girl.
Question: What have you done since Transformers.
Taylor: Shutter. A film, I was in Tokyo for four months. It was my first leading role.
Question: It’s a thriller?
Taylor: Yeah it’s very much a thriller because there’s no sort of horror element. There’s a supernatural thread through it but it’s more about a girl discovering her husband’s past, which is very, very surprising to her. And also kind of like, you know, has that Lost in Translation element. Tokyo is a life force as a city and it was a pleasure experiencing what it was like to be an outsider as a person not only in Tokyo but as a character too, like she’s very much out of her element which sort of has it’s own vulnerabilities inherent to it which is kind of fun to play around with.
Question: Are you auditioning for stuff now as well?
Taylor: At the moment … you know, I came back from Tokyo a week and a half and then it’s been sort of Transformers world but absolutely. Like I’m still ready for a fight. I don’t expect to start arriving …
Question: But then the doors are opening for you as a result of this movie.
Taylor: They are, sure. Like you notice that things are starting to be a little bit more responsive or you don’t have to beat quite so hard on a door. But you know what? for the roles that I want, and I have a very particular idea about the roles that I want to play in the future, and it’s not going to happen immediately. I’m still going to have to beat down the door.
Question: Strong women, you want to play obviously.
Taylor: Smart women. Absolutely. Which is not, you know, I want to play a whole range of things.
Question: So none of the sexed up characters?
Taylor: You won’t find me doing that. Oh that’s on record now. Oooh.. But it’s true. Like I’ve never wanted to do that.
Question: You know you’ll do a sexed up character and I’ll come up and ‘By the way, you said to me that you would never play a sexed up character’. What about a sexed up character with brains?
Taylor: Or a sexed up character that backs the story.
Question: Halle Berry played a sexed up character in a Bond movie and there was nothing wrong with that.
Taylor: That’s true. I just don’t want anyone to see me in a swimsuit just yet. I just feel like I still don’t have the – I can’t answer why that’s an interesting thing for me to do yet, you know. I feel like it’s about time that we got back to strong women on film. The roles that I loved are seeing like Jodie Foster in Silence of the Lambs. Strong women. Where have they gone? Where have they gone? It’s about time we saw more of them I think. Michael Bay was an interesting way to start.