Appearing to be a blend of Steve Buscemi and Nick Cave, Noah Taylor made his name playing Danny Embling, a young man juggling inner torment and sexual anxiety in John Duigan's The Year My Voice Broke (1987) and Flirting (1991). In 1996, he gained further international recognition and respect for his role as the younger version of piano prodigy David Helfgott in Scott Hicks' Shine.
The son of journalists, Taylor was born in Melbourne, Australia, on September 4, 1969. Although he spent his early years wanting to be a spy or a commando, he began his acting career at the age of 16 when he left school and joined the city's St. Martin's Youth Theatre. His work with the theater led to his casting as Danny Embling in The Year My Voice Broke. Following the critical success of both Year and its sequel, Flirting, Taylor became known as one of his country's most promising actors. His widely praised performance in Shine further solidified this status, and he was able to do steady work in a number of diverse projects both at home and abroad. In 1998, Taylor starred in Ben Hopkins' acclaimed period drama Simon Magus, and the following year he starred alongside Daniel Auteuil in Michel Blanc's Mauvaise passe and won a coveted role in Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous, the semi-autobiographical tale of an aspiring teen rock journalist. Taylor would work again with Crowe the very next year, taking a role in the director's remake of Alejandro Amenábar's Open Your Eyes, entitled Vanilla Sky. Heading into action territory with the high-profile video game-to-screen adaptation Lara Croft: Tomb Raider in 2001, Taylor straddled the line between big-budget excess and independent credibility with an appearance in the little seen but curiously titled He Died With a Felafel in His Hand that same year.
In 2002, Taylor gained notable media attention for his controversial portrayal of Adolf Hitler in the independent drama Max. The film presented an intimate view of the future Nazi leader as a young aspiring artist, leading numerous groups to protest its humanization of such a feared and monstrous figure. Though the reviews of the film itself were generally fairly positive, Max soon disappeared from arthouse screens with Taylor's performance going largely unseen. If audiences had missed Taylor in Max, however, they would no doubt have a chance to catch him on the screen the very next year in the Tomb Raider sequel Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life. Taylor next showed up in the anticipated Wes Anderson adventure comedy The Life Aquatic alongside an all-star cast, including Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, Owen Wilson, Anjelica Huston, and Willem Dafoe.