The list of Australian actors, writers, and directors that are killing it, both internationally and at home, is a long one. The thing I love about Australian cinema is the lack of fear of breaking taboos and going dark: there’s less of a tendency to crowd please as you often find in Hollywood. Nowadays, you’d be hard pressed to go to the theater or switch on your TV and watch a movie or a network series that didn’t include at least one Aussie star in its top-billing line-up. The thing is, Aussie success stories have become so routine and their ability to take on the US accent so fluent that half the time we don’t even know they’re Australian.
Let’s look at some of these awesome Aussies who are taking Hollywood by the balls.
James Wan and Leigh Whannell
As I was on the subject of not being afraid to go dark, I’ll start here. These are, of course, two separate people, but their collaboration saw the creation of Saw I and Insidious. When Saw came out in 2004, it generated mass interest and debate—as did subsequent Saw franchise films. The darkness of human nature so gruesomely explored in Saw sparked people’s interest, and, in some cases, their disgust. It seems this pair got people talking about horror and made it easier for other films to go forth and explore the darkness. Whether that is a good thing or not is another important discussion that these two helped to bring to the surface.
Suggested watching: The Mule, The Conjuring, Insidious
Insidious is one of my top horror films from the last decade. It combines a good plot and visuals with a great creepy vibe and actors who can really can act. One of these actors is Rose Byrne. She has shot up through Hollywood as the ‘next-big-thing’ since her performance in Troy. Byrne has rounded up a CV of contrasting roles from the hit comedy Bridesmaids to indie extravaganza The Place Beyond the Pines. There is no doubt that Byrne has her feet firmly planted in Hollywood and will be around for a while yet.
Suggested watching: I Capture The Castle, The Turning, Sunshine
Byrne appeared in comedy film Neighbours alongside Seth Rogan and Zac Efron but has never appeared in the world-famous Australian soap of the same name. Jesse Spencer from House MD, Margot Robbie from The Wolf of Wall Street, and all three Hemsworth brothers have appeared at one point or another in Neighbours. The biggest faces of all include Russell Crowe and long standing Neighbours actor Guy Pearce. (Coincidentally neither of these famous Australian actors were born there: Crowe is New Zealand-born and Pierce was born in England.)
Crowe typically brings savage masculinity to his roles, but not without vulnerability. That’s why he excels in films like Gladiator and stirs debate about his performance in Les Miserables. Whether you love or hate Crowe, he certainly gets people talking, and Hollywood would be that bit duller without him.
Suggested watching: The Insider, 3.10 to Yuma, Cinderella Man
Pearce appeared by Crowe’s side in the highly-regarded L.A Confidential. What a Guy. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) He has an incredibly adaptable actor, from this portrayal of Andy Warhol to King Edward VII to Felicia Jollygoodfellow (Priscilla Queen of the Desert). In Memento Pearce gives his character an intensity that haunts the audience and works perfectly with the sly humor that simmers throughout the film.
Suggested watching: Animal Kingdom, The Hurt Locker, The Proposition
Pearce appeared in Armstrong’s Death Defying Acts, though I must admit it was not either of their best films. Armstrong is a brilliant director. Her first feature film, My Brilliant Career, received seven Australian Film Institute awards (AFI), and her work on Little Women awarded her substantial recognition worldwide as she brought out top-notch performances from Susan Sarandon, Winona Ryder, and Claire Danes. Armstrong has worked with a host of A-list actors and garnered much praise for her work.
Suggested watching: The Last Days of Chez Nous, High Tide, The Singer and the Dancer
Rush narrated Armstrong’s Oscar and Lucinda, which also starred a then relatively unknown Cate Blanchett. Rush is brilliant. From Barbossa to Lionel Logue, Rush delivers. He even voiced Nigel the pelican in Finding Nemo. He’s acted in a number of so-called ‘high’ and ‘low’ films, and is always spectacular.
Suggested watching: Shine, Candy, The King’s Speech
Blanchett also played alongside Rush in Elizabeth, in which she delivered an exceptional and captivating performance—a performance that earned her an Academy Award nomination. This is no surprise. There’s a strength to Blanchett that creates an underlying hardness in her characters, whilst still being able to deliver vulnerability on point. She scared me half to death in her portrayal of Galadriel, made the best Bob Dylan I’d ever seen, and is to die for in Blue Jasmine. Blanchett is also a pretty cool woman outside of her performances, applauding Emma Watson for her UN speech and speaking out for busy working mothers who don’t have time to brush their hair for the school run.
Suggested watching: I’m Not There, The Aviator, Blue Jasmine
Along with Blanchett, Byrne and Weaving, Wasikowska is also in the highly-anticipated 2015 film The Turning. Wasikowska first made it onto the scene with her portrayal of Alice in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. Her ballet training gives her a certain grace and she possesses something offbeat and understated.
Suggested watching: The Kids are Alright, Rogue, Jane Eyre
Wasikowska and Kidman worked together on Stoker, both of whom suit the dark tone of the Park Chan-Wook film. Kidman is part of the Hollywood royal family, in my book. I grew up seeing her everywhere. She was married to Tom Cruise, for goodness’ sake! Kidman has a frailty about her that’s always enigmatic to watch and she can deliver a heart-wrenching performance whenever needed.
Suggested watching: Flirting, Rabbit Hole, To Die For, Eyes Wide Shut
It’s nearly impossible to mention Kidman without introducing Luhrmann into the equation, as she stars in two of his biggest films: The Moulin Rouge and (fittingly) Australia. I don’t care what anyone says, I loved Luhrmann’s version of The Great Gatsby, and I say that as an avid Fitzgerald fan. He brings something different to the table, and a film that has been made several times in the past needs that. Love him or hate him, Luhrmann always delivers a spectacle.
Suggested watching: Romeo + Juliet, Strictly Ballroom, The Great Gatsby
This is, of course, just the tip of the iceberg. This list could go on for days. I’ve not even had chance to mention Eric Bana, Naomi Watts, Hugo Weaving, Heath Ledger…okay I’ll stop now. But the fact of the matter is that Australia has produced some of our biggest talents and helped shape the landscape of Hollywood as we know it today. Let’s have a round of applause for the Aussies, shall we?
Feature image source: celebitchy.com