CHANTILLY, France — He may be a surfer, but Simon Baker can make a good case for horseback-riding.
“You can go surfing and the relationship is with the ocean and your board and your own body and your own awareness — it happens in sort of moments. But with another living, breathing creature that isn’t a human being, to have a physical connection and understanding between each other,” he said.
“You sit on a horse and the horse feels your energy, who you are, and where you’re at — and that’s pretty cool,” he said with a grin.
A longtime Longines ambassador, the Australian actor was perched on the sofa of a luxury hotel facing the Great Stables, a soaring 18th-century edifice built for horses. A French royal, legend has it, expected to be reincarnated as a horse and took the necessary precautions.
Simon was in France for the Longines-sponsored Prix de Diane, a prestigious race for fillies with a million-euro prize. It was snatched up this year by three-year-old Channel, who swept past the favored Siyarafina, spurred on by her jockey Pierre-Charles Boudot, who wore yellow and baby-blue silks.
Before the race, Baker was already feeling the excitement of the event.
“These jockeys today, they don’t train on those horses…they are so in tune with horses that they get on that horse and their relationship develops so quickly and then they have to run a race which is just death-defying, it’s one of the most dangerous sports there is, on a horse that they haven’t spent that much time with, but it’s an instant…it’s a contract between a horse and a rider and they’ve got to figure out and then” — he snapped his fingers — “the starting gate opens and phew, it’s finished. In like two minutes.”
“It’s pretty exciting,” he added, his Australian accent suddenly prominent.
His own experience riding horses has been in preparation for movies.
“Most of my leisure riding has been associated with preparing for a film where you’re riding a horse,” he explained. He noted it takes weeks and weeks of riding a horse or horses before filming, “so that you develop a relationship.”
Recalling a time when he rode a lot last year, the actor, who shuttles between Sidney and Los Angeles, said he regrets not having the time to squeeze it into his schedule.
“It had been a few years since I’d been riding as much so it was fantastic, and I said to my wife, I wish we had a lifestyle that would allow me to have a horse because I love that, I love that relationship but you need to spend the time and invest the time and energy for it to be special.”
In the meantime, it’s swimming, surfing and keeping up with his children.
“I swim a lot and I surf a lot and I generally run around with my kids — that’s a general sport, running around with my kids, it’s not formalized, it’s just playing, I like to play,” he said.
He also sees his children as important sources of influence in his life.
“I’ve had many, many, many mentors in my life…there’s always this perception of mentors as older than you but it’s remarkable how much you learn from your kids, you know, so much,” he said.
Riffing on style and notions of elegance, he had an idea it’s more than the clothing. It’s about being comfortable in your own skin and “how grounded you are in who you are.”
“I feel comfortable in a suit doing this I always feel as comfortable at the beach in a pair of boardshorts,” he said, waving at his elegant, blue Prada suit, the stainless steel and pink gold Longines watch always visible on his wrist — from the Record Collection. He had worn a Brioni suit the day before, for photos with fellow Longines ambassador Kate Winslet in front of the Chantilly castle, the famous backdrop for scenes with Roger Moore and Grace Jones in the 1985 James Bond film “A View to a Kill.”
“So it’s less of an external thing but I think that the internal affects the external, you know…you see someone who presents themselves a certain way and you can tell if they’re owning it and they feel comfortable — and that is elegant.”
Still, he professed to keeping a few suits from “The Mentalist” show in hopes he might pass them on to his sons.
“I’ve kept a few, well, there’s this sort of fantasy that one day my sons will have them, but whether they want them or not, that’s what’s fun,” he said.
What about his character’s car, a Citroen DS from the Seventies?
“No, it’s a lot easier to keep the suit than the car. And a lot more elegant to keep the suit than the car.”