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You may know Teresa from her role in the Oscar winning movie Hacksaw Ridge (2017), Lights Out (2016), The Choice (2016), Warm Bodies (2013) or I Am Number Four (2011). Up next Teresa will appear in the vampire fantasy television adaptation of A Discovery of Witches, where Teresa will play Diana Bishop and star opposite Matthew Goode. Please browse the site and we will keep you updated xoxo
Audrey / May 22nd, 2016

Making it: Teresa Palmer, Elizabeth Debicki, Margot Robbie… Australian actors are getting the plum roles in Hollywood. No wonder the locals are nervous.

You see the palm trees? They tell you anything’s possible.” – Knight of Cups (2016)

Teresa Palmer is breastfeeding her two-year-old son, Bodhi Rain, and talking wistfully of home. “I just FaceTimed my dad in Adelaide and he was showing Bodhi the kangaroo outside,” she says, before going quiet. She can see the Los Angeles palms from her Beachwood Canyon address, high up in the hills, just below the Hollywood sign. The sign and the trees; each is an icon of the city, less an object than a grandiose idea, a beckoning gesture, a promise. Come here, they murmur, come and meet that earthly form of transcendence called fame.

In another part of the movie capital, Elizabeth Debicki is packing her suitcase. Again. Tomorrow she will fly to New York, don a green Prada gown and join the glittering A-list at the Met Gala before hopping on a plane to Perth to begin an independent Australian film. “It’s a trajectory I feel very proud of and I don’t know that it’s been done before,” she laughs. “I feel that I’m getting literally the best of both worlds.”

Margot Robbie is already in New York prepping for Anna Wintour’s gala, as well as the impending superstardom that will come with the two big studio films on her horizon. Meanwhile, Twilight actor Xavier Samuel has touched down in Melbourne to film a series for the ABC and await the release of his latest, Love & Friendship, a bigscreen Jane Austen adaptation. Sarah Snook, fresh from a stint on the London stage with Ralph Fiennes, is also home, but only briefly. “Work begets work,” she laughs, as she waits for confirmation of her next international project. And Yael Stone is in Sydney shooting SBS crime drama Deep Water with Aussie Game of Thrones actor Noah Taylor, before heading stateside to resume filming on the hit American series Orange is the New Black, which has also made a star of her compatriot Ruby Rose.

Busy, busy, busy. No longer a novelty in Hollywood, the ranks of the Australian actors dubbed the Gumleaf Mafia are swelling daily, to the point where the locals are complaining. In 2013, a jobbing American actor won fans with a parody video for the Funny or Die website in which his agent tells him: “You’re doing great work, you’re just not Australian.” By last year, however, the Americans had stopped laughing. Michael Douglas and Spike Lee both lodged gripes about the number of juicy American roles going to British and Australian actors, prompting The Atlantic to run a piece entitled “The Decline of the American Actor”. Tinseltown is now home to the second-largest community of expat Australians outside London and the accent is everywhere. “When I first came out in 2007, there were only four or five girls my age here at the time, working regularly,” says Palmer, who has nine films out this year. “Now, I think every third actor is an Australian.”

Tracey Vieira, chairman of the LA-based industry support group Australians in Film, says the numbers have “more than tripled” in the past decade. “Originally when Australian actors went to Hollywood they all entered the film industry,” she says. But streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon, as well as the cable and network television channels, have opened up new opportunities. “It’s very rare now to go through the credits on any production and not find an Australian in the mix,” she says. “It’s gone from the one who breaks through to now being a very prolific part of the industry.”

Our breakout stars are household names: Chris and Liam Hemsworth, Rebel Wilson, Isla Fisher, Rose Byrne and Jai Courtney have joined Nicole, Russell, Hugh and Cate in the starry firmament seductively suggested by the palm trees. But there is also a host of young talent working steadily in a landscape so dramatically altered that many don’t realise the actors on screen are not American. Brenton Thwaites, Alyssa Sutherland, Claire Holt, Sullivan Stapleton, Clare Bowen, Phoebe Tonkin and Luke Mitchell are just some of the names regularly cropping up in Hollywood credits.

Eight years after moving from Adelaide, Palmer, 30, has finally tapped into a place where she’s working on “high quality material” with the directors she’s “always wanted to work with”. Auteurs such as Cate Shortland, on the psychological thriller Berlin Syndrome; Mel Gibson, for his upcoming war epic Hacksaw Ridge; and revered filmmaker Terrence Malick, who directed her in the Hollywood-set odyssey Knight of Cups. With her career in Hollywood firmly established, she’s following the likes of new Byron Bay resident Chris Hemsworth and heading home. Palmer and actor-director husband Mark Webber have bought her father’s Adelaide Hills wildlife preservation property, complete with kangaroos, and plan to raise their family there.

This is the new reality for our consistently working stars. They talk of being bicoastal but, unlike American actors, they don’t mean LA-New York; their regular commute is between California and wherever they live in Australia. “Australians are very used to the fact that we’re far away and we don’t mind getting on a plane,” says Vieira, who recently moved home after 10 years in LA to take up a job as CEO of Screen Queensland. Hollywood is still ground zero for decision-making and deal-brokering. Increasingly, though, production is elsewhere and this, combined with the ability to submit audition tapes online, has changed the dynamic. LA may be Oz, but there’s no place like home.

“There’s such a grounding energy in Australia and there’s a sensation of just being as close to yourself as you possibly can,” Palmer says. She smiles; in her lap, Bodhi has fallen asleep. “I want my kids to know what it feels like to come from reality.

Xavier Samuel staked his claim in Hollywood in 2010 when he landed the role of a red-eyed vampire in The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. The 32-year-old went on to work with Brad Pitt in Fury, yet last year there he was on stage at Sydney’s bijou Belvoir St Theatre dressed up as a cat for The Dog/The Cat. Black bodysuit. Ears. Tail. Whiskers. “That was the sort of decision where I was like, ‘Really? I’m going to come to Sydney and put on a cat suit?’ ” Samuel says now. “There’s probably a school of thought that’s like, ‘No way, I’m not going to do something like that, that’s absurd’. But I just thought, ‘Oh f..k it, let’s just go and do that’ and I’m so glad I did. You can get stuck in your own head thinking whether that’s a good thing to do, but I was just glad to be around great actors and writers and a great director.” His motto: Enjoy the craft and the vehicle is almost secondary.

Aussies are famous in Hollywood for not chasing fame. “Australians take their craft very seriously,” Vieira says. “It’s not about being famous and I think that’s very respected in terms of the work they are doing because it comes from a place of authenticity.” Plenty of pretty Americans lob in LA with a Screen Actors Guild card tucked in their oversized crocodile tote, expecting a billboard on Sunset Boulevard. But it’s unlikely you’ll find an Aussie who hasn’t trained at one of the big drama schools such as The National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA), the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) or the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA). Or they’ve had on-the-job training with one of the many Australian soaps, turning up to set and learning lines day after day, week after week. Most wouldn’t dream of fronting an audition without being able to work “off-book”, having memorised their lines, and are shocked to find this is an exception. It almost goes without saying that wannabe members of the Gumleaf Mafia have their American accent nailed before they touch down at LAX.

“Australians, I find, are very appreciative of the work,” says Snook, the NIDA-trained Adelaide actress who had a busy 2015 skipping between local productions such as The Dressmaker and The Beautiful Lie and Hollywood fare like Steve Jobs. “When they get work in Hollywood they tend to work pretty hard; they turn up prepared and they don’t have an ego and those things are respected in the States because it’s not always the norm.”

Snook says she thought the LA scene would be very competitive and isolating, “but I found the exact opposite”. Aussies in LA will happily hand on the metaphorical survival handbook, which “you then pass on to the next person: ‘don’t worry about this casting director, he’s always like that’, ‘these people over here are lovely’, ‘hey there’s a barbecue, why don’t you come?’”

The work is something tangible while fame, of course, is vapid and corrupting and often fleeting. It’s also frequently out of sync with the reality of achievement. Australian actors, as much as anyone, need to earth themselves by being in regular contact with the touchstone of home. “It’s really nice to get as far away as possible from the entertainment industry and from people who care so much about some of the things we are involved in,” Palmer says. “It can be a really materialistic place and people can be very focused on the physical as opposed to who you are as a person.”

Nowhere is as capriciously hierarchical as Hollywood, a giant, unwinnable game of snakes and ladders where artists scramble up and slither down on the strength of their latest box office figures. And so LA is home to hordes of uneasy thespians, living job to job, constantly hustling behind a furiously polished veneer. “That’s what the Hollywood machine tries to do,” says Debicki, who maintains a clear-eyed perspective from her newfound position inside the velvet rope. “It tries to smooth out the very rough, blurry edges of the industry and make it all seem extremely beautiful and easeful and graceful. It projects a certain image onto actors, and actors in turn need to project an image. You could look at somebody who has an extraordinary career and think, ‘My God, they’ve got it all’ or ‘That’s where I want to be’. But of course, you have no idea what’s going on in that circumstance or within that person.”

‘How do I live a normal life again? It’s a strange existence

Debicki is an intelligent actor with a genuine interest in the theory behind her craft and a passion for technique. She appears to have had a dream run: straight out of drama school, Baz Luhrmann cast her with Leonardo DiCaprio in The Great Gatsby and she followed that up with a star turn opposite Cate Blanchett on stage in The Maids. Last year she appeared in Everest, with Jake Gyllenhaal and Keira Knightley, Guy Ritchie’s The Man from UNCLE, and in Macbeth with Michael Fassbender. She topped the year off by winning the breakthrough award at the annual Australians in Film gala. Still, whether you’re a newcomer trying to land a TV pilot or a between-films Oscar-winner, hers is a destabilising profession. “You’re constantly in one form or another in an unknown place,” Debicki says. “Not for lack of joy in the process, but whether it’s ‘Am I going to get the job? Now that I’ve got the job, what the hell am I going to do with this?’ and then ‘Oh it’s done, how do I live normal life again?’ it’s a strange existence.”

By any measure, Debicki is Making It. She’s winning raves for her part in the BBC thriller The Night Manager, has just wrapped a Marvel movie, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, and is set to begin filming on Simon Baker’s adaptation of the Tim Winton novel Breath. Later this year, she appears in Foxtel’s Tasmania-set The Kettering Incident and has just been announced in the cast of JJ Abrams’ next epic, The God Particle. But here’s the thing: there is no moment when the siren sounds and there’s a triumphant air-punch that marks the end. You never win. You’ve never Made It.

“It’s the weird nature of being an actor and the way we think about the work and ourselves, be it healthy or not, that your bar is constantly shifting,” she says. “What you wanted to reach, or the actor you wanted to be, or the kind of work you wanted to be doing two years ago, if you are lucky enough to achieve that, you don’t even remember where you set that bar to begin with. You’re already looking forward – it’s a constant shifting post that you’re trying to grasp at.” From DiCaprio to Blanchett, Debicki has never worked with anyone who “feels like they’ve got it in the bag”. “You learn very quickly that the best in the business are the best because they’re ruthless with themselves and they never stop working. Which is a strange lesson to learn because you think, ‘Oh Christ, it never ends!’ ” She laughs to signal she’s at least half-joking.

Margot Robbie, whose career hit warp speed after The Wolf of Wall Street, was also surprised by the never-ending hustle. “I thought it would be a mountain, where you get to the top, and then it’s like: ‘Wheeee! It’s so easy after this’,” the star of the upcoming Suicide Squad and The Legend of Tarzan told The New York Times recently. Instead, she said, “Any time I get near the top, I’m like, ‘There’s another mountain!’ The hustle continues.”

The sense of perpetually teetering on the brink can keep an artist sharp or simply make them nervous. “It certainly keeps the fire up in you to keep constantly striving as any job could be your last,” says Snook. “The result of that is you have to balance levels of anxiety with levels of peacefulness and ‘whatever will be, will be’. ”

Snook was just two years out of NIDA when she made a shortlist of three for the title role in the American adaptation of the Stieg Larsson thriller The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The role went to Rooney Mara, but Snook caught the eye of influential Hollywood producer Scott Rudin, who suggested her for Steve Jobs and also got her on board for Master Builder, an Ibsen play he was producing at the Old Vic in London.

“In the beginning, you don’t want to be presumptuous to think you’re better than something necessarily,” says Snook, who paid her way through drama school by working kids’ fairy parties. “Trying everything and being involved with as much as possible is the only way you’re going to learn. And the more you do, you have a wider network of people you’ve worked with and it’s more likely someone will put your name forward. Also, you’ve got to eat.”

Take everything. Do anything. Then a body of work can start to be curated. There will come a point where scripts are offered, says Palmer, and the “horrendous cattle-call” of the auditioning process can be avoided. For some, Making It means being able to get a movie financed due to their involvement. For Samuel, it’s working with talented mates on their own projects, a dream scenario he and three actor friends, including his younger brother Benedict, once conjured up while sitting around their share-house table in Sydney’s inner west. He’s still working towards it. “I think there’s a bit of a misconception about being able to pick and choose [roles],” he says. “Almost regardless of what level you’re at, you’re just faced with a series of decisions and I think it really comes down to what you end up saying no to.

I think you can also principle yourself out of existence. Work breeds work and regardless of what the project is, if you come at it with everything you’ve got then people can’t ignore that.

Dreams are nice, but you can’t live in them.” – Knight of Cups

The premise of Knight of Cups, the latest painterly rumination from director Terrence Malick, is that Hollywood is a messed-up place, a decadent playground for sleazeballs and sycophants. Teresa Palmer plays a stripper loosely involved with Christian Bale’s disenchanted screenwriter and says she had to call on all her acting skills to explore a dark underbelly she is grateful to have side-stepped. “It can be pretty brutal out here,” says Palmer, a renowned earth mother and wellness advocate. “I have seen that side of it, but I was never exposed to it in a way that’s detrimental.”

She and husband Mark sometimes sit on the balcony of their Hollywood Hills home, looking down on an indifferent city and wondering about “the many different worlds down there, worlds we don’t even know about”.

“The thing about Australia is that toxic Hollywood scene isn’t there, so there’s no chance my children will be able to fall into that scene if I’m in Australia,” she says. “You just don’t know if a person will get taken by the drug of Hollywood, will find those parties exciting and [get taken in by] the glitz and glamour and all the focus on the material and your physical appearance. Gosh, it can be really sickening.”

Bodhi and any future siblings will grow up far from the disorienting fakery of Tinseltown in a fantasyland of their own. Their new Adelaide home “is so magical and serene; we’ll have pet kangaroos, my kids will love it,” Palmer says. Once lured by the palm trees, she’s now dreaming of gums.

Source: The Weekend Australian

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