Simon Baker directs and stars in the movie Breath.
Simon Baker directs and stars in the movie Breath. Nic Duncan

Breath, the sea within Simon Baker

HAILED as a Northern Rivers local - he grew in and around Ballina - few people know Simon Baker's first memories of the sea were not from this area.

"I lived in the Western suburbs of Sydney as a little tucker, and my step father's mother, my nana, lived in Jannali, which was in the Shire," he said.

"We used to drive there once a month to have roast lunch, you know how Australians love to have roast on the hottest days, so we use to drive down through the trees in this windy little road and through the trees you could see the blue of the ocean.

"I hadn't seen it much, because I grew up in (Sydney) West, and when I saw those glimpses of blue, I just had a 'oh! what is that?' moment; it was an exciting feeling but also a terrifying notion of how expansive and unknown it was."

That terrifying expansive blue mass was an important part of Baker's latest film project, Breath, the cinema adaptation of Tim Winton's successful 2009 book.

It was an American producer who secured the rights to the book and sent it to Baker to read, while the artist was filming the seventh and last season of his hit TV series The Mentalist.

The movie poster.
The movie poster.

Baker admits the ocean was part of his life now.

"For me now, I live very close to the water and I get in most days, in any way, shape of form, it's not always surfing," he said.

"It's grounding and I know it has a good effect on my body."

This is a pivotal project for the artist, who still lives with his family on the Northern Rivers: he co-wrote the script with Winton and writer Gerard Lee, he plays Sando, but also directed the film.

Breath portrays the inexplicable love for the sea all surfers feel, albeit with no words and with a series of surf sequences, and Baker confirmed this was no accident.

"Nothing in there is an accident, maybe one or two shots, but the rest is the product of working for years trying to refine the best ways to do stuff and trying to stay flexible the whole time," he said.

"This is not just a film about surf, and that is the mistake that most films about surf make, is that they are only about that and only a certain number of people are interested.

"And then if it is not cohesive and authentic, then what is the point? Because anyone who does surf, all they are looking for is authenticity in that world.

"This is a film about identity, and it happens to use that backdrop, that canvas and landscape, and by that I mean seascape, and part of being Australian essentially is that we are forged through our environment."

Breath opens in cinemas on Thursday.

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