Brendan Cowell: “We’re not making art that talks about the complex, stressful lives that Australians lead.” Photo: James BrickwoodWhat have you been doing?
I wrapped on the Peter Brock telemovie last night. I was 71 yesterday after 3½ hours in make-up.
You play racing driver Allan Moffat. How did it feel watching yourself age?
It’s pretty confronting in the make-up chair seeing yourself turn into an old man. I just kind of looked like my father after a late night.
But I loved shooting the show. I’m not a rev head but I got into the whole car situation. It’s nice be acting again and Allan Moffat’s a Canadian so this one was fun to come in to do a funny walk and a funny voice then leave.
How do you feel about turning 40 next year?
Oh, f—, man, it’s terrifying. When you get to late 30s, you put a decimal point in the numbers of your age and that’s how long it takes to get over a big night now.
It takes you six weeks to lose weight and six beers to put it all back on. There are so many design flaws with living – you go deep into AM radio, you know, I’m off Triple J and right into Radio National. I want to hear gardening tips, I want to hear about Syria. I want to hear complaints about parking.
Are you becoming the person you swore you’d never become?
Yeah, I’m getting into shoes without laces because I can’t be bothered tying them up. Just a little bit more comfort than speed.
It’s weird for me because I’ve either got friends who are famous or who are married with kids. I’m kind of somewhere in between neither of them – just floating in this 39-year-old limbo land.
My clairvoyant said I wouldn’t get my act together till I was 40.
Hang on. You have a clairvoyant?
It was a couple of years ago when I was working on a film and thinking about where to be and what to do – whether to stay in Australia or go back to London.
I was saying to my production designer: “Have you ever been to a clairvoyant?”
And she said: “It’s funny you should mention that. I went to one last week and she mentioned you.”
So I Skyped her clairvoyant who lives on the Gold Coast. It’s pretty funny – none of it came true, but she’s amazing.
What is the truth about Brendan?
There’s a whole bunch of stuff that’s falling apart around me, but I actually feel pretty strong and pretty good about myself for the first time in a while. I’m quite happy.
You know the fact that I don’t have all those things is probably stressing me out the least it ever has. I feel like those things have to come into your life organically and you probably have to work on yourself and get yourself ready.
What excites you?
England. Cronulla Sharks winning a premiership maybe. Music still excites me as an art form. At the moment not a lot culturally in Australia excites me. I feel like we’ve flowed over into another conservative quagmire.
The films we’re celebrating, the TV we’re watching, I feel that represents a very old, a very safe, a very dank version of Australia and that frustrates me. We’re not making art that talks about the complex, stressful lives that Australians lead.
What are you doing to change that?
I’m writing my second novel at the moment. I sold a show to Sky in the UK that I’m writing with Simon Stone, so I’m going over in January to continue working on that.
This is deeply, deeply unbiographical, this work, which is kind of a nice change for me. I’m interested in doing a publicity tour where I don’t talk about my problems for the first time.
What is the book about?
I’m writing a book about the internet. It’s kind of about people who allegedly have their life together [but] are digging up old loves and chasing down this old information and creating these pseudo-connections with a world that’s passed.
Your first play Men was restaged this year. Do you still worry about the male of the species?
I’m trying to make it not so but in the recent weeks a couple of things have happened with men that I know and I’ve just gone, ‘”F—, man, what’s going on?” A mate of mine jumped off his building at work. He’s a friend of mine, I’ve known him for 25 years.
Why couldn’t you put your hand up and say, ‘I stuffed up. I’m embarrassed?’
Do you have an answer?
I think men still fail to admit shame and embarrassment. Men think if they just deal with things on their own it will go away, but instead things bubble and fester and manifest in self-destruction or destruction.
You’re also writing a television script?
The show is inspired by Simon’s and my production of Miss Julie but put in a kind of British political context. Ever since I wrote TheSlap, things have opened up for me over there. There’s more of an appetite for bolder, more innovative risk-taking ideas over there. You can push the boundaries and there’s a bigger TV landscape.
Are you really leaving Newtown?
I’m heading to London and I’m going to rent my place out. It feels like everybody’s suddenly 19 as well, in denim shorts, drinking cider in the park. I feel a little like I’ve repeated year 12 living in Newtown and I shouldn’t be here any more.
I’ve had the best 10 years here. I just love it. I know everyone. But it’s nice to reinvent yourself every now and then and that’s what I want to do now. I want to start a whole new chapter creatively.
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