CAME UP AS AN ACTOR:
Appearing in everything from TV variety shows to war films in his native Australia.
HAS SPENT TWO RECENT JANUARIES:
Garnering raves at the Sundance Film Festival.
The power of minimalism.
The past two years of the Sundance Film Festival have shared one thing in common: rapturously received films built around the quiet magnetism of actor Paul Eenhoorn. An Australian who's been living and working in Seattle for more than a decade, Eenhoorn coanchored this year's Sundance hit Land Ho!—Martha Stephens and Aaron Katz's indie adventure comedy tracking two old friends on a road trip across Iceland, to be released in cinemas this July—and was the singular heart of last year's Sundance hit This Is Martin Bonner. The latter film—a quiet drama about an older man building a new life for himself, described by Variety's John Anderson as "a mood piece, a character study, and an exercise in poetic gesture"—remains the best showcase to date for Eenhoorn, an intelligent and subtle actor blessed with an expressively relatable face and the ability to hold the screen without a hint of exertion.
A career film and television actor who experimented with stage work and "didn't like" it, Eenhoorn exported his life to Seattle to be with the woman he loves. "I met my wife in Sydney, 80 million years ago," Eenhoorn tells me on the phone from his home in Bellevue. "She was flying for United Airlines, and I met her at the Marble Bar in Sydney, and I moved here after a few years." As for his decades spent honing his on-camera performance skills: "I think I've taken minimalism to the extreme." He mentions an experiment done in the 1930s in which an actor was directed to sit still and show no emotion as the camera rolled. Upon public screening, the actor's attempt at stasis was infused with all sorts of drama by the fill-in-the-blanks minds of the audience. "It's not my job to do anything apart from just be there," Eenhoorn says. "Strip it down, strip it down, strip it down, till the camera can't turn away."