Tim Minchin is a composer, musician, actor, writer and director. He was raised in Perth Western Australia he is known for his live musical comedy act, writing the music and lyrics for Matilda the musical and for playing rockstar Atticus Fetch in the David Duchovny series Californication. Tim is set to tour Australia in 2019 and star in the TV series Upright.. in the new Robin Hood movie he plays the role of Friar Tuck and just before he started shooting his new TV series we had the chance to speak with him.
A war-hardened Crusader and a Moorish commander mount an audacious revolt against the corrupt English crown in this thrilling action-adventure. Packed with gritty battlefield exploits, mind-blowing fight choreography and a timeless romance, this is the never-before-seen story of how Robin Hood became the icon and legend as we know him today.
Robin Hood opens in Cinemas from Thursday!
Transcription of highlights below – Listen for full interivew.
Tim Minchin: Good, Darran, how are you?
Accessreel: Fantastic. Well, thanks very much for taking the time to talk to us this morning. How have you been?
Tim Minchin: All good. Yeah, really good. Just writing and doing a little bit of press and doing a lot of exercise to try and get in condition for this new TV show making. Yeah I’m fine.
Accessreel: That’s great to hear. We’ll jump straight into the movie. I watched it yesterday and I really enjoyed it.
Tim Minchin: Great.
Accessreel: So It was a lot of fun to watch and it’s action within the first five minutes ’til the closing frame.
Tim Minchin: Yeah.
Accessreel: So how did this role come your way? What appealed to you about it?
Tim Minchin: Well, I don’t know, I I guess I am not in this place in my career where I get offers for roles in massive Hollywood blockbusters very often, in fact it was my first. I didn’t really hesitate because it’s just an experience that someone like me would never expect to have. It was a pretty Hollywood story, actually, because we were living there and I was directing this animated film and and actually this movie came because the producer of the movie who works with Leo DiCaprio, who name is Jen Davidson was a person I got to know as a parent at my kids school. And so I think connection came from there.
Tim Minchin: And then without me knowing, one day she rang up Otto Bathurst the director and said to him, “You know how we’ve been looking for a Tuck, we don’t want him to be the cliche, we want to be different, but we don’t really know what we’re looking for? Have you ever heard of this Tim Minchin guy? Of course, Otto being British, had heard of me and kind of leapt on it. He rang up and said, “Well, if you would consider the role…” And I went, “Well yeah, of course, but you have audition me because you haven’t seen a lot of me on camera.” And he’s like, “Well, if you would do an audition.” I’m like, “Yeah, totally.” So. I went and did a taping and they locked me in, which was wicked. And then I spent the next few months flying from L.A. to Budapest and back to New York to try and get my musical up and it was the most insane three months of my life. But it was totally fun.
Accessreel: Yeah, I bet it was insane. So, what was it like when you donned the costume for the first time, rosary beads and all?
Tim Minchin: I mean it is a blockbuster Thanksgiving release in America. Great for teenagers and fun for adults. Beautiful action, but for me what is special about Otto is that he always surrounds himself with really interesting design. If you look at Peaky Blinders where he really made his name with the kind of pseudo historical but completely removed from reality aesthetic. It’s like the main thing. And I loved that about Robin Hood. So, when I put the costume on and met the designers. I was just I was stoked because I was assuming and hoping that it would have its own totally unique aesthetic. I look pretty goofy in it. But that’s good.
Tim Minchin: There’s this little acting career I’ve been trying to build up in the last few years. My absolute mission is to be a character actor, you know, not just do comedy roles. And even though I’ve got this long hair and stuff which I’m sticking with, at the moment, not letting it be the same character. So not always being a rock star and not always being, whatever. And if I look at what I’ve managed to do so far with Californication and The Secret River on the ABC and try a type, even though they’re all quite hairy, they’re very different characters. It was just so great to step into a costume. I am in a totally different world now and I have a totally different person.
Accessreel: The costumes are great. When Mendo walked out and in his grey, leather coat, the first time we saw him and I was like, “that’s incredible”. I hope he kept it. It looks like Friar Tuck was a fun character to play and in all honesty, I didn’t know how much of the film you were going to be in.
Tim Minchin: In the trailer, I’m very scarce because they’re obviously not selling the movie on my name, because in America my face doesn’t sell tickets, but I was kind of happy about that. When you watch the movie, I’m a reasonably influential, instrumental character. And of course my voice starts the movie with that long storytelling thing and ends the movie. So he’s sort of the story teller. And that’s a really nice role. He’s kind of a grownup in a way, like the gentle uncle of the whole thing. He’s sort of this quiet avuncular presence.
Accessreel: Obviously, you worked mostly on screen with Taron, Eve and Ben Mendelsohn. What was it like working with those three?
Tim Minchin: Well it’s I mean it’s amazing working with Mendo, who I know a bit through friends, but not very well. But having grown up in Australia, being a teenager in the ‘80s and ‘90s, we’ve known him all this time. He is new to Americans, but to us he’s just part of the DNA of our industry. And so watching him on the set. He’s got so much energy and he’s he’s quite eccentric, y’know. I’m very, very fond of him.
Tim Minchin: Just watching him takes over. Sometimes we’d do 30 takes of something especially when he was doing his big monologue and it’s brilliant to be on set with him. Taron is such a gorgeous performer and he’s hardworking and really focused. He’s RADA trained. This movie is a summer blockbuster, a Thanksgiving blockbuster for them. But he takes his craft very seriously.
Tim Minchin: If you look at Taron with Eddie the Eagle or something, he’s a character actor. He’s very beautiful, but is he pushes himself outwards all the time. Eve is just gorgeous and fantastic and funny. And she’s got amazing craft as well and she’s acting in her own accent for the first time which is interesting for her. She’s been working in American accents for years and so it was interesting for her to go back to her natural Irish.
Tim Minchin: I still am less experienced on camera than all those people. Someone like Ben I’m infinitely less experienced than, but I’ve done less screen work than any of those people. To the Brits, I’m am sort of known. Taron tells me how he snuck into a tent at Reading Festival when he was 16 to watch me play. So, for him, I’m this guy that’s been around forever. So for me, I’m learning from those guys. I’m watching and learning because I’m trying to catch up with this different form.
Accessreel: I love a bit of Mendo. There’s one scene in particular, in the film, I won’t go into exactly what it is, but he goes “Full Mendo”. What was it like shooting that scene? We’ve seen him go Full Mendo in Rogue One and a couple of other films as well. But what’s it like being next to him in a scene when he’s going full on?
Tim Minchin: It’s quite genuinely scary even though I know him. Mostly with great actors, their performances come from a place. Mendo’s such a gorgeous guy. But when he goes Full Mendo you sort of think, “Where the hell is coming from?” And he drops out of it, straight out of the take. He’s not a method actor. It’s not like he’s sitting in that space.
Accessreel: Well, thank God.
Tim Minchin: Well some people, when they have to do that sort of thing, they find it very hard to get out and in, between takes. I find it hard to do that. You know if you’re doing something very emotional to just stop and start again. Mendo’s been doing it for so long. But it is like a switch and he’s got those eyes. I absolutely love that stuff. I really like being in the presence of someone who’s not pissing around. And the thing with film acting, these days, is there’s so many film actors have come through telly and they pitch their performance very low all the time because it looks good on camera, but when you’re acting against them, they’re not giving you anything to react against. It’s all very “soto voce” – all quite low. But with Mendo, there you have no problem reacting because it’s fucking there in your face. It’s much more like doing a play, which is the world I come from.
Accessreel: I really enjoyed his performance and just the action alone in the film was top notch. Some of the slo-mo sequences they throw in there as well. I was like, hey this is a pretty cool stylistic approach to it.
Tim Minchin: The early scenes in Syria. The battle scene before he comes to Nottingham, I think are extraordinary to be doing sort of “Hurt Locker” level action, but with bows and arrows.
Accessreel: Well that’s it. Obviously, Jamie and Taron would have had to gone through some pretty intense training. Did they get you to do anything or just bring your charm…?
Well actually in the original script there was more Tuck getting active and I did quite a bit of horse riding which I didn’t end up using either because you know they have to put you into all these things to get insurance for you, even if there’s a 10 percent chance that you’re going to ride a horse. But I love that shit. Like give me give me a skill to try and acquire in a short space of time, I’m like. “Yeah, I get paid to try to get better at riding horses”. So, I did a bit of horse riding. I got pretty fit for it just in case. If everyone goes and sees it will do a sequel and then we’ll do a whole lot of Friar Tuck getting good with weapons and it will be fucking awesome.
Accessreel: You got to shoot the film in Budapest, Dubrovnik and Paris. What was it like shooting in these locations?
Tim Minchin: Beautiful! I’d never been to Dubrovnik. I didn’t really understand. You’d see it on Game of Thrones and in the Qantas mag, but my God it’s breathtaking. And I was constantly sort of jet-lagged and stressed about the other stuff that was going on in my life. It is quite amazing to drop into these places and I don’t know if I ever would have gone to Budapest. And at one point, when things were crazy and I was so jet lagged. I rang up Sarah and said, “I’ve got a 10-day break in filming but I’m not coming back to L.A. because I just can’t do the flight”. The twenty-three hours and whatever it was. “I’m just too tired.” Might have been a week. And so I just hired a car and drove to Prague and then to Berlin and you know, so I actually I don’t really take holidays. So, it was quite an amazing thing to be in that world and all the history. And then Paris. I adore Paris.
Accessreel: This is around the same time “Larrikins” fell over?.
Tim Minchin: Yeah well that fell over while I was in a hotel in Dubrovnik, I got that call. It was pretty bad.
Accessreel: Yeah, that’s bullshit. I’ve heard a few stories from people that have worked for studios and that sort of stuff happened. So my heart goes out to you with that.
Tim Minchin: It was horrendous at the time but all good.
Accessreel: It looks like you’ve got a rather busy March and April next year. All these tour dates that you’ve got and then they’re all getting sold out and more dates are getting added. Have you started any preparations for that yet?
Tim Minchin: Oh no. Look, I got it in my head – what I am going to do. I’ve been doing concerts, even though I haven’t done a proper tour for years. I do various places. Even what I did at Dark Mofo a couple of months ago, up on the Gold Coast. But I’m starting shooting my TV show in two weeks, it’s just going to take me all the way to Christmas. It’s “Upright” and I’m in every scene. It’s a road movie, me and this teenager are going to be shooting six days a week. I’m not going to have any time to think about it until Christmas. But that’s good. Actually, I know when I get on the road I’ll go. “Oh fuck I forgot how hard this is,” Not “hard” but I forget how relentless touring is. It’s been so long. I’m absolutely gagging to be performing again.
Accessreel: There’s a lot of young creatives here in Perth. Do you have any advice for young creatives in Perth trying to get their start?
Tim Minchin: I think it’s important to not spend your life thinking I’m going to be star on Broadway or I’m going to be a star in Hollywood and until I get to that I’m just on a path. If you’re thinking about Hollywood, you’re not going to do a great job writing something for Black Swan (State Theatre Company). You can’t be thinking about where it’s going to get you, you have to be making your art for its own sake. And I never expected it to be where I am. And I think if I had ended up in Melbourne, writing for Malthouse, I would have been equally happy as I am now. Because I love making stuff. If I was in Perth now and in my early twenties, I’d be trying to make the best fucking thing I can for the Blue Room, that I can. Eventually you might have to leave for a bit, but making art for the world you’re in, instead of just trying to print business cards for your own future, would be my advice.
Accessreel: Thanks very much for talking to us. Good luck with your shoot and your tour. And let’s hope Robin Hood goes gangbusters, so we can see a sequel.
Tim Minchin: Yeah, it would be pretty cool if it did. Thank you, Darran.