Ever wondered what it would be like to be an assassin? Skin-tight leather catsuits, lurching off the rooftops of New York City in a professional half spy half cat-like manner. You're weightless, unstoppable and with a rifle in one hand and a dagger in the other, you are dangerous. Daniel Webber is an Australian star previously known for his role as a mysterious stalker in the classic TV series, 'Home and Away'. After what we assume to be an unbelievably challenging role, he has since moved on to the disturbing, yet fascinating character of infamous Lee Harvey Oswald in Hulu’s new series: '11.22.63'.
You would think that by embodying a murderer; by evoking his thoughts, mannerisms and body language within the hullabaloo of Hollywood (Oswald was the suspected assassin of John F. Kennedy for those not in the know), that it would eventually warp a person’s reality. The acting world has a nasty habit of consuming people in an angry hyper-reality, but Daniel remains grounded. Humble and courteous as ever, he takes great pleasure in the simple things life has to offer like a good hike, discovering waterfalls and chasing rivers: a true Aussie. For him, nothing beats spending time in and out of both sun and water. Finding nature in LA was a challenge for him, but he found his peace of mind, and BBG photo girl Nicola Collins captured it all with effortless finesse.
It is refreshing to see how one can remain such a well-centred, modest and disciplined guy despite the chaos. Teena Collins and Christina Guerra at Celestine Agency, helped to reflect Daniel’s composed demeanour, and you get to see the cool, smart and relaxed boy that he really is in this exclusive Boys by Girls portrait series. One more reason to adore Daniel? He regularly rescues cats.
Above Right: Jumper by FRISUR.
What part of Australia are you from?
New South Wales, specifically the central coast, which is north of Sydney, about an hour and a half away.
Growing up, what inspired you?
Oh God, who I did want to be was someone part of Linkin Park. I think Linkin Park was my venting, my inspiration, I didn’t really come into acting for a long time. I was pretty boring and just wanted to be like my dad, a tree lopper - you know, cut trees down for a living. At 13 I didn’t know that acting was a job and people got paid for it. It was just that thing that you sat down to watch every Friday night. I was actually a gymnast growing up and a very high level gymnast at that, so I was alway motivated by my coaches. I was well disciplined, even more so now. Back then I was immersed in having a life that my coaches gave me.
We heard you were quite the trampoliner.
Yeah, I used to flip around on the back-yard trampoline and my parents, knowing that I have way too much energy, thinking that if we get him to jump up and down on a trampoline for two hours every second night, he will probably come home and be a little bit more chilled. This got me involved in it, haha
How do you get rid of the energy now if you don’t do trampolining?
Running. I mean there are plenty of ways to get rid of energy; working out in some way or going on nice hikes. Recently, I went to the canyons with my partner and we went on a big five hour hike. It's just about getting out there and doing stuff.
Above: Jacket and Trousers by I.N.C, T-Shirt by ALLSAINTS, Trainers are Daniel's Own.
What was the turning point for you becoming an actor?
It has been a slow process of being like, ' Ok, I want to do acting. How do I do acting?' Slowly at a tortoise pace, I was finding my way into the industry and making all the wrong decisions, wrong choices and being a complete idiot about the whole process. The centre coast is so small and things like culture and arts are non-existent, so there was no connection, no springboard for me togo in that direction. I was just a lost little puppy wandering through the streets of Sydney trying to figure it out. I learnt very early on that you can’t go to producer's homes and give them your head shots and CV - that's pretty frowned upon in the industry apparently…
Is it true that you turned up to Harvey Weinstein’s place?
I just didn’t know how to do it! I heard a story somewhere along the lines of Russell Crow going to the director's home and convincing him to give him the job, so I was like, 'that's a great flawless solution to my problem! I'll just go to these people's homes, they will see my headshot, my reel and my CV, which has nothing on it and book me on a job!' Haha.
"Get the fuck out of my house! What are you doing here? This is my property you know!” So, that didn’t last for too long. I did it a few times and then it just got a bit awkward. Luckily, I found the right way and managed to get an audition, I think I found it on the internet just trolling through for ways in.
Sounds like you were pretty determined.
Yes, it was something that I liked and I knew I didn’t want to do what my dad did anymore. Not that there's anything wrong with that, I just didn’t want to work that physically hard. I grew up doing that sort of work and I didn’t want that for the rest of my life. I got my first break going to a big cattle call for a feature film and they were looking for a young Anglo Saxon leader of the gang character. Being a crazy little kid, I was like; 'that's me'. So, I rocked up and got that part somehow. It was a weird situation, where you're in the room with thirty other dudes all looking the same, and you’re watching each other audition.
But you excelled.
All that pent up teenage aggression definitely came out. I got an agent from there and I booked a few shows. I did a spin off series from 'Doctor Who', a show called 'Canine', and that was the first high profile project I worked on. I worked with a lot of really great young directors on short films to figure out how to be on camera, what characters I have an infinity for and what stories I’m interested in. There's not the usual pressure, so I got a really good grass-roots connection to a lot of directors and creating some phenomenal short films. We won a lot of awards for different short films and then it moved into feature films.
Above Left: Shirt by FAAN.
You’ve come from quite an edgy place with dark characters. It’s weird that you're playing a really dark character and you're from Australia - you come from darkness.
Yes, and I think that's a benefit, because they have an issue with finding that edgy, crazy, Mel Gibson, Russell Crow, sort of energy. People like Jack O’connell are just sweeping the floor with brilliant roles and performances of characters who are violent and a little bit, you know, outsiders. They are disconnected. '11.22.62' is on Hulu every Monday. It’s not coming out in the UK for a little bit, because they're a bit delayed, but it started the day after the premiere in Australia.
When you got this role, you started to look into the life of this guy - what was that like?
He is so different vocally, physically and energetically to me. You know the audition is going to be about, 'does he look like him, does he act like him, speak like him?' And whether our mannerisms were similar, they are the main three focus points that I went into the audition with. As soon as you get a role like Lee, you drop everything and just go, 'OK, I’m going to put the work in on this'. For me, I’m so drawn to playing characters like Lee and the complexity of people like that.
I've got to say, when I see photos and the trailer of you as him, you really do look alike.
It’s fun to disappear and I think that's probably the biggest attraction. Lee is so vastly different to how I am, that's the chameleon in me seeing how far I can go with a character. They let me be free. They allowed me to do what I wanted and I tried to be as true to Lee as I could. That was from looking at his interviews and news-reels. You’ve got him resisting Shakespeare and talking to his friends in Russia and it’s kind of funny. In the interviews you hear a different human being, Lee on the stand talking, Lee post-shooting. It could have gone anywhere, and I guess it’s trying to find the middle ground between all these characters; what does his voice actually sound like, what would he be like at home with his wife? Figuring out all of that stuff was really interesting, challenging and exciting.
Above: T-Shirt by ALLSAINTS.
How are you finding your recent move to Hollywood from Australia?
Culturally there is no big shift. The weather is the same, the people are similar and that's about it. I mean, it’s a change coming to a city, it’s not like Sydney or any other city I’ve been in. Back home there's so much nature around and we would have animals; horses, birds, dogs or cats on the property. I'm a big dog lover. I’ve saved a few cats as well, climbed many trees and if there's an old lady that needs her shopping carried across the street, I am down for it any time.
Bit of a nature boy then.
Finding nature in LA was the challenge for me and it was finding that LA can be quite draining. It’s all about work, which is fantastic and I love that aspect of it, but you know, going on a road trip up to Oregon or Joshua Tree, or even just going for a surf or a hike - those little things, finding your little getaways has been so essential to being here. You’re surrounded by actors. I had this thing were I couldn’t talk to actors originally, I didn’t like actors and it took me years to figure out that they're not terrible people. I am one of them now, so I guess I should, you know.
I really find with being here in LA you miss the simple life. There’s a real complexity and it’s a bit serious isn’t it?
You get used to it and it becomes the norm, but then you go back home and it’s just like... (sighs) Yet at the same time it drives you crazy, because you're so used to the pace of LA. Going to this meeting, going to that audition, go to that event - there is so much happening here, so when you go home it's a breath of fresh air.
What do you think it's like to be a man in Hollywood, as opposed to being a girl?
I feel there's a time limit for women. Not enough women get to be Meryl Streeps and have that longevity of working their whole lives on brilliant roles. They have a time limit of being like, 'OK, so I’m 21 now and when I get to 30, will I carry on booking work?' It is so superficial and based on looks. We tend to get more interesting roles as we get older generally.
You’re actually living the high life in Hollywood right now, a lot of boys would love to be in your position.
But even if I wasn’t, even if I didn’t book Lee Harvey Oswald, I was still auditioning and working on really interesting characters and roles that I was fascinated by every day. I think that by living here, you can also get caught up in the superficial aspects. You can be a young guy and book a job quite easily being good looking and charming, but it doesn’t have longevity. I think the reason why Aussie and Brits are responded to so well here is due to the fact that we really, and this is a bit of a generalisation, get in amongst the work - and I think just being away from home, you're committed. If you don’t make it work, then you are going home broke to a family that's like, 'see, I told you. You should have got a real job'. I throw myself into every audition and really commit to the role. We are doing really well, you know the Brits and the Aussie’s. I think it also has to do with the training. The British have such great academies and such great people to train, then the Aussie’s have got some really great schools. While I haven’t trained with a specific institution, I have worked with some phenomenal coaches and learnt gems of knowledge along the way from different people, really developing my skills and craft.
Is there any actor that you look at would like a similar career path to?
Heaps! Everyone has brilliant roles and there are performers like Philip Seymour, where I wouldn’t necessarily want his career, but doing performances of that calibre, yes. Hell yes. I love the meaty, change your character sort of roles like the Javier Bardem’s of the world. The Daniel Day-Lewis, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett and Heath Ledger. I like the unpredictability, show me a side that I’ve never seen of you before. Show me something new, explore something.
How are you in auditions?
I get really nervous, but I love them and I think they are an opportunity to work very quickly on new characters. I think if you're doing really well in an audition, you should have very strong, clear lines of a character in the same way that an artist might do an early sketch. You get to work really quickly on big ideas of who they are and I really love that aspect. Rejection just fuels to the fire for me, I’m like, 'alright, that one wasn’t for me'. I think roles come to you when you're capable and ready.
Above Left: Jacket by I.N.C, Trousers by DUSTY, T-Shirt by ALLSAINTS.
Above Right: As Before.
I love nature. I love going out and seeing new places, getting away from LA for a bit and see beautiful waterfalls and rivers. Driving up the coastline to Oregon, going to Portland or a new city. I love doing that sort of thing. Also my house has potted plants all around it, and bringing them into the house gives me a good buzz haha. Weirdest comment ever. I love a good film; good cinema. I think when you see performances that shock you, and it’s so hard to do a brilliant performance that hasn’t been seen before, it's always a bit of a buzz. We were talking about Truman Capote before and seeing that side of Seymour Hoffman. That is a genius performance, I’ve watched that film thousands of times.
I think what's really great about you is that you can see that you really love acting.
I do love acting, I really do. It drives people crazy, because I talk about performances a lot and acting too much. It’s so much fun, so interesting and it is the mystery of finding roles and trying to piece together why they did certain things, and how the art of it all works. The influences and the childhood and the family, all of that stuff and how it builds to this one human being, and then what that one human being is that we see in daily life is quite interesting.
What kind of music do you like?
I kind of just vacillate the whole time. At the moment it is Florence and the Machine, this morning it was Nina Simone, John Coltrane, jazz, blues. Muddy Waters is another one that I’m listening to a lot at the moment, but I'm also into chilled out music like London Grammar or Mumford and Sons. Arcade Fire is another one that I’m listening to a far bit. I like to read as well. I’m reading an interesting book at the moment called 'White Gold', which is about the Brits and how they were held ransom in the 16th Century by Moroccan pirates.
Is it based on a true story?
Yes, for a long period of time, the Sultans would unleash these pirates to go up and down the coast and it was a huge problem for the king. He would have to pay massive ransoms to get these people back and they would then have to sign treaties. The benefit of the pirates was that they would just keep marauding, so they would always break their treaties. I would like to go back to Lee’s sixties though. Russell Crow is doing a new film about white slavery and the prevalence of it in that period, it fascinates me.
What really turns you off?
People who chew with their mouth open. I can’t stand it, it makes me angry thinking about it.
That’s an actual condition you know.
Haha, oh really? I’m always like, 'so you want to sound like a cow do you?' Yes, that definitely turns me off. Also people who aren’t good people. Finding good friends has been really great here in LA. There are more wolves in sheep's clothing here I think than at home. It’s cutting ties with people that you realise are not going to be there for you when you need them.
Have you got lots of Aussie friends here?
A mix of both, I think more Australians, but I wouldn’t say I have a huge group of friends. I have some really solid friendships here with quite a few people. Very dependable, very honest, just awesome. Great for when you need a ride to the airport, 'so I’m getting in at 6am, you can pick me up right?'
How is it being on the show '11.22.63'?
It is about a character called Jake Epping, and he is played by James Franco. He finds a tear in time and ends up going back to 1958. He has to spend four years of his life trying to figure out how to stop President Kennedy's assassination, and at the centre of this is a character: Lee Harvey Oswald. Jake's journey is him trying to determine whether he was the lone gunman or if the CIA or any other figures were involved in it.
What is it like acting with James Franco and Chris Cooper?
The really cool thing is watching both those guys act, as they have been doing it for so long. They clearly know what they are doing on a film set. Watching both James and Chris, the craftsmanship of how to work on camera is fascinating, watching how they are on set is an acting class in itself. I didn’t get to work with both of them a huge amount, because my character runs parallel to James the whole series. I worked with Chris in one episode and he’s such a professional. We didn’t talk at all, but in the story we have a little automation, a little moment, outside of that our characters don’t meet. I didn’t really meet Chris until the premiere and the press screenings. They are both a calibre of actor that is really exceptional and to be a part of a show like that, they are dream people to work with.
Where did you shoot the show?
We shot in Toronto, Canada and then we also shot down in Dallas, Texas. We shot in the school book depository and on top of it looking down as Kennedy’s motorcade was driving through. There were 400 extras and I was there with my rifle, it was so eerie and surreal. Then we shot in Lee Harvey Oswald’s actual home, they went all out to bring those important little bits of the story out.
I’m really excited to binge watch this, I really am!
I’ve binged watched the whole show, it's good!
Tell me a bit about your ring you're wearing?
This is Lee Harvey Oswald’s marine ring that he got when he was about 19. It’s just my character's ring that I wore throughout the whole series, and I guess I haven’t really taken it off that much. I’ve fallen in love with it. It’s a cool ring and a nice memento. It has become a fixture.
What do you think of the instant coffee today on set?
I’m so impressed that I’ve met fellow instant coffee lovers, because it’s hard to find in America in this snobby cafe culture, haha.
Catch Daniel Webber in 11.22.63 available on Hulu.
Interview by Nicola Collins.
Words by Anna Sampson.