A brief encounter with Peter Hayden

By Sarah Daniell

Peter Hayden.
Peter Hayden.

You have a Bachelor of Science and became an actor. Is there a science to acting?

One definition of science is "knowledge attained by study or practice". There are many schools of acting and it was perhaps Russian teachers, of whom Stanislavski is the best known, who led the way in formalising certain theories about acting. Some overseas schools specifically teach the science of acting. They explore the relationship between neuroscience, psychology and acting. I have studied animal behaviour. As an actor, I am fascinated by the many behaviours we share with other animals. Simple example ... I was in a park and saw an exasperated mum trying to deal with a demanding child; close by a pissed off seagull mum having the same struggle with her large aggressive chick. It was hilarious and profound.

You preach sustainability - how are you "eco" holy in your own life?

Living sustainably is easier if you have the means, it's a hell of a lot harder if you are only just coping and surviving. But it's never easy. My eco sins are many.

I drive a car, I don't have solar panels, my carbon footprint is largish. At the same time my wife and I do what we can. We are inspired by permaculture, which is all about living with, rather than working against nature.

Where have you been recently that exemplifies natural beauty and sustainability?

My new home is pretty special. We recently moved from Auckland to 20ha of land on the beautiful Otago Peninsula. Half of the land is regenerating native forest, and thanks to the previous owners, is protected under the QEII.

Trust open space covenant. It's great to be the custodian of this land that, year by year, is slowly returning to Papatuanuku. Even better is sharing this place with all its native birds, reptiles and insects.

What does the word retirement mean to you?

I still have my dad's retirement crystal glasses, presented to him by the Napier Harbour Board.

Even after 40 years he went back and worked part time. My working life has been a succession of contracts and I will never receive a crystal glass or decanter or anything else. Retirement means little to me. I feel that I'm just getting started. I certainly have much to learn. I'll call it a day when my body tells me it can't handle it anymore, and I can no longer remember the lines.

What did you discover about Rachel Weisz, when you worked with her, in the movie Light Between The Oceans?

My character, Dr Sumpton, had scenes with Rachel Weisz and also with the other female lead, Alicia Vikander, who recently won an Oscar for Best Actress in Supporting Role, for The Danish Girl. I can tell you that I was really nervous, particularly as in both scenes the women characters were under heavy emotional stress. In both cases I felt a strong acting bond with Rachel and Alicia as we worked to the vision of director Derek Cianfrance. Derek also asked Alicia and me to do a "silent take", which meant we had to run through a whole scene without speaking. So, it was all about subtext, looks, reactions, gestures. Very interesting. I loved it all.

What phrase or expression, in another language, most resonates with you?

I love the Japanese expression "satoyama". It loosely translates to mean people and nature living side by side. There are such communities in Japan and in other parts of the world where the link with nature has never been broken. I like that.

Peter Hayden stars in Auckland Theatre Company's revival of Roger Hall's classic You Can Always Hand Them Back, at SKYCITY theatre until April 16.

- Canvas

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