By Michelle Pearson
Versatile Australian actor Grant Bowler is striking both the Australian and American film and television market head on.
Renowned for performances in Blue Heelers and The Mole Down Under, and Ugly Betty and Lost in the US, Bowler has just finished shooting three films back to back – The City of Gardens, Atlas Shrugged and The Killer Elite.
Don’t be fooled however – the 1991 NIDA graduate hasn’t been handed his international career on a silver platter but instead has worked hard to break into the realm of Hollywood.
With the illustrious Hollywood being so cut-throat, Bowler spent five long years attempting to break into the industry.
When asked what inspired Bowler to persevere within the American industry and not chuck in the towel, he told INSIDEFILM: “I’m pig headed. It’s as simple as that”.
“I thought to myself you’ve gone so far down the hole that surely it has to turn around soon and then I’d go further down the hole,” Bowler says from a Los Angeles hotel room.
“There’s something to be said for being ignorant – you either give it a shot or you don’t.”
The key to international success appeared to be perseverance and consistency, with Bowler auditioning for so many roles that his exposure witnessed casting agent’s getting behind him and supporting his acting potential.
Bowler initially commenced acting due to his drive to find a job that he ironically could “never get right”.
“I’ve always been the type of person who would work really hard at a job and then when I got the hang of it, I would ‘coast’.
“I am always up for a challenge and I get bored when it’s obtainable. I wanted to do something that I can’t complete.”
Bowler’s sheer motivation to arrive where he is today has forced him to take part in both tedious and trivial auditions.
For instance, one audition pulled 15 people at a time into a small room with two chairs.
The casting directors told one person to sit on the chair and wear a goldilocks wig (playing the character of goldilocks) and the other to wear a green wig and red nose (playing the clown).
Goldilocks and the clown were asked to improvise a scene together. Luckily for Bowler he was the clown – although goldilocks may have made for a very unique, entertaining performance.
These moments of utter embarrassment have been far outweighed by Bowler’s recent successes, with his now well-established international career rewarding him with diverse character roles – from True Blood’s Cooter, The City of Gardens’ delusional Jesus Christ and the male lead in Atlas Shrugged, Henry Rearden.
The City of Gardens, directed by Camilo Vila and shot in Peru, has loads of festival buzz surrounding the film for next year’s Toronto, Cannes and Sundance Film Festivals.
As one of Bowler’s most challenging roles yet, he plays a schizophrenic prisoner who genuinely believes he is Jesus Christ.
Out of all the characters that Bowler could have received, Jesus Christ tops the lot – inevitably having very, very big shoes to fill.
“It was frightening – you’re playing Jesus!" he says.
“I felt I was up for it and said ‘yes’ immediately, and then I thought, what have I done?
“I loved it though. I was given the opportunity to look into the internal [nature] of the character; I wanted to create another reality for this character on top of the true reality.”
Bowler is attracted to these roles in particular due to the inside nature not being pre-defined, aiming up at these roles because of his passion to autonomously research and define the internal life of the character.
His character research doesn’t conclude after reading the script however, with Bowler using particular tactics to formulate the character’s being.
Strategies included reading the New Testament numerous times in order to determine which ‘Jesus’ Bowler would portray.
“I wanted to be specific. Jesus went through phases – he was ‘The Lamb of God,’ ‘The Fisher of Men’, ‘The Carpenter.’ These were different eras in Christ’s life so it was necessary to pick one specifically. I built him up from there.”
Through Bowler’s collaboration with Vila and writer Monty Fisher, all but one line of dialogue was changed.
“It’s always an absolute treat working on a film that allows me to take part in the collaboration process,” the passionate Bowler says.
“The film was based on real life events of the writer. The dialogue was brilliant and the character amazing but it didn’t necessarily give him a function, so we workshopped it and talked about how we could bring this guy in to play a role.”
From Jesus Christ to werewolf, Captain Gault to businessman, Bowler is a man of many talents.
Atlas Shrugged, a film adaptation of the novel written by Ayn Rand which premieres in the latter half of 2011, stars Bowler as the male lead – playing the role of steel magnate Henry Reardon.
With this film falling at number two on the world list of ‘Top 10 Hardest Movies To Film’ and categorised as the 'Harry Potter of America', Bowler felt slightly daunted as he strived to do the role justice.
“The novel is so famous in America, with everybody having an opinion on it. Everyone read it at college and had a strong take on the author and her philosophy,” the LA-based actor said.
The philosophically-challenging novel to the reader is set to intrigue audiences with its condensed film adaptation, with the common difficulty lying in which elements of the story were essential and those which were not vital to the plotline and could be removed.
This however might not be the last time we see Atlas Shrugged or Bowler for that matter on the big screen, with rumors swirling that the novel will be made into a film trilogy similar to The Lord Of The Rings, meaning big things for the Kiwi-raised actor.
Within the past year, Bowler has been running a tight schedule as he juggles family and work commitments, flying between Los Angeles and Australia in order to coincide with the filming of True Blood and Border Security, with wife Roxanne Wilson and children Edie, 7, and Zeke, 3, living in Australia.
After much traveling and acting of late in films and teleseries collectively, Bowler is currently on a well-deserved holiday with no current projects in production, although admittedly stating: “I’ve got three scripts I’m reading. My holidays so far have consisted of catching up with my agent and my manager, paying my bills and getting life back in order.”
Although Bowler is interested in other facets of production, having done a little bit of directing last year, he would like to continue centering his attention on acting.
“I don’t envy directors at all – they work way too hard. My biggest love in the world is working with them, but they have to listen to so many people. My focus for the meantime is very much on acting,” the 42 year old says.
With Bowler seemingly at the peak of his acting career and joining other NIDA graduates such as Simon Baker (The Mentalist) and Cate Blanchett (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) in Hollywood, Bowler is an inspiration to struggling Australian actors, proving that genuine talent and perseverance paves the way to success within the mainstream screen industry- no matter how many ‘U-Turn’s’ or ‘No Through Road’s’ you have to take.