Not just a pretty face
Rachael Taylor, in a scene from her new film Any Questions For Ben.
"I do like a movie movie,'' Rachael Taylor says.
The Australian actress is talking about her two most recent Australian films, the feel-good hit Red Dog and now the comic romance Any Questions For Ben?
''I think all different types of films have a place but it's just nice to be part of two films that are Australian and warm,'' she says. ''Warm is a very important quality to me.''
The Los Angeles-based Taylor, who has appeared on US TV in the medical drama Grey's Anatomy and the short-lived series Charlie's Angels, is back in Australia for the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards and the Any Questions launch.
In a return to cinemas for the Working Dog team, she plays a dedicated human rights lawyer, Alex, who is based in the Middle East.
Any Questions centres on Ben (played by Josh Lawson), a 27-year-old who seems to have the perfect life - good looks, career success, plenty of friends and a love life that includes flings with a leading tennis player and a vodka model.
But when he goes back to his old school to talk about his achievements, the students only want to know about Alex and her work in Yemen. The quiet girl from university has blossomed into something he isn't - an adult who is making a difference.
The film also features Daniel Henshall as one Josh's best friends, a very different role from playing a serial killer in Snowtown; comic Felicity Ward (Thank God You're Here); Lachy Hulme (Offspring, Let's Get Skase); and Christian Clark (Neighbours, Home and Away), with comic cameos from the likes of Alan Brough, Rob Carlton and Ed Kavalee. ''The thing I love most about the character of Alex is that this is a woman with standards,'' Taylor says. ''From the moment I read the script, I just went, 'Man, this is a girl who has very high standards for herself and how she expects to be treated.' She has this kind of self-respect and she believes in love but she only wants it if it's going to work for her.''
A former teenage model who had a role in the first Transformers movie, Taylor has done some growing up since the time she tended to be offered ''eye candy'' roles. ''I remember when I started out at 18, 19, 20 and when I was in Los Angeles at 21, the idea of the ingenue was something that fit a little better,'' she says. ''But this really exciting thing is happening in the last couple of years where I'm appropriate for roles that have a bit more depth, probably because I've developed my own natural depth. As you get older, you tend to.''
As her career has built, Taylor's personal life has settled as well. After a high-profile split with troubled actor Matthew Newton, she is now dating Lawson and, not surprisingly, warmly praises his performance in Any Questions.
''The first thing I noticed was that he is so professional and such a gentleman,'' she says. ''Really, he's one of those young actors that is capable of leading and carrying a film and that's quite a rare quality. It's a difficult task to be in every scene of a movie and be able to build a performance that has a beginning, a middle and an end. And Josh is capable five times of doing that.''
While it's a comedy, Taylor likes that the film deals with the complexities of being in your 20s.
''Young adults in their late 20s are confronted by so many choices - there are so many different paths to choose,'' she says.
''Sometimes I think we just fill our lives with stuff so we don't really make any choice at all, which is certainly incredibly luxurious. This idea of how to choose the path that's right for you as a person is a very moving and complicated subject matter for a movie.''
The Working Dog team, whose successful TV shows have included current affairs satire Frontline, chat show The Panel and improv comedy Thank God You're Here, has a two-hits-from-two-films record with The Castle and The Dish.
On Any Questions, Rob Sitch directed, with Santo Cilauro and Tom Gleisner co-writing the script with him and Jane Kennedy handling casting and music.
Taylor found them an impressive bunch. From first reading the script, she wanted to be involved in the film.
''It's just such impressive writing - and refreshing writing as well - for an actress at my level to be given an opportunity to play a young woman like that,'' she says. ''It's very easy to oversimplify female journeys, particularly when they could be seen as playing the girlfriend. But with Alex, they just hit a really good note with her. She's vulnerable and she has integrity but it was her sense of standards that really impressed me most.''