When Australian Neighbours star Margot Robbie scored a lead role in Martin Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street, everyone was surprised except Robbie herself.
The 23-year-old from small-town Queensland had already factored in the breakout role as part of calculated trajectory.
“Every move has been carefully planned, it’s been really strategic,” Robbie told The Sydney Morning Herald in January. “When people write articles they talk about ‘overnight sensation’ – it’s been anything but.”
She’s not alone. Right now in Los Angeles, hundreds of Australian actors are toiling away on different levels of the success spectrum.
Robbie and her peers, like the handsome Hemsworth brothers, Teresa Palmer and Abbie Cornish, are red carpet darlings thanks to their megawatt smiles and fresh beauty. Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman pull blockbusters and mega pay cheques.
Phoebe Tonkin and Claire Holt are quietly cracking the hugely popular US teen television market. And actors like Joel Edgerton, Rose Byrne and Toni Collette garner critical acclaim, industry respect and constant, complex supporting roles.
Then, there are the Indiana Evans of the world; perfectly poised on the brink, with all the ingredients to make it and only strategy and luck standing in their way.
Evans, a Home and Away alum who is the same age as Robbie, has just scored a breakout part on the US pilot of Secrets and Lies. Like Robbie, she is smart, beautiful and versatile with a whole lot of hard work behind her.
Unlike Robbie, her plan is a little less formulaic.
“These days [Hollywood] is just seen as the next step for Australian actors,” Evans says. “I don’t have so much of a plan because I couldn’t have planned what’s happened so far.”
Even so, Evans has an American agent, starred in 2012 US television movie Blue Lagoon: The Awakening, and racked up years of experience in popular television soaps. In short: She knows what she’s doing.
What remains to be seen is whether Evans will parlay screen time alongside Ryan Phillippe and Juliette Lewis into long-term success in the US market like Robbie, or fade into the background like fellow Home and Away alum Isabelle Lucas, who vanished after a high-profile turn in the Transformers franchise.
One thing’s for certain: Evans’ nationality is a huge bonus.
“The [American] crews appreciate our [Australian] attitude,” Evans explains. “We’ve worked on a much smaller scale and actors are not treated like Gods in Australia. We work a bit harder and deliver a bit more.”
So what else can Australian actors do to secure their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame?
Work on ‘Neighbours‘ or ‘Home and Away’
This goes without saying. Nearly all of our major exports got their start on at least one of the popular soap operas.
“Well, firstly, there’s normally an ever-rotating cast of 24 and lots of guest roles,” explains Evans. “Which means that most people from the small acting pool of Australia end up there.”
“Also, people join it when they’re quite young and learn a lot. They learn how to get stuff right on the first take because you shoot quicker than anything else you’ll ever work on. And they’re getting this all when they’re 16 years old and leaving when they’re 20 which is the perfect age to be cast in things.”
She has a point.
Don’t rely on fate
The minute Margot Robbie got a permanent job, she ensured she didn’t get cocky.
“I thought, ‘I’m going to use this time on Neighbours to save my money, have my ducks lined up,’” she told The Sydney Morning Herald. Robbie also hired a “team” of US managers, agents, publicists and attorneys to ensure she had career back-up.
Similarly, Evans has a line-up of regular Australian roles she can return to (her most recent is ABC drama Janet King).
Have a famous sibling
Hey, it worked for the Hemsworth brothers! Younger Liam got his start in television after being inspired by older brother Chris. When he decided to take a crack at Hollywood in a 2010 Miley Cyrus movie, Chris had already carved out a name for them by getting cast as Marvel hero, Thor.
Abbie Cornish’s younger sister, Puberty Blues star Isabelle Cornish, is also following in her famous sister’s footsteps after nabbing a US pilot in her first overseas audition.
Evans admits that knowing which roles to go for is hard.
“There’s certainly an argument for saying yes to everything and getting yourself out there,” she says. “But if there’s a script I really hate I just say to my agent ‘I’m sorry I’d prefer to sit at home and not get paid.'”
Robbie has a similar outlook.
“I’d rather do two scenes in a Terrence Malick film than every scene in a mediocre film,” she says.
Blockbusters with high profile stars are encouraged, but must be complemented with more serious stuff. Abbie Cornish has starred alongside Bradley Cooper in Limitless and played an action babe in this year’s RoboCop, but she also demonstrated her acting chops in Candy with Heath Ledger.
Be really, really ridiculously good looking
The one common thread between stars like Liam Hemsworth, Margot Robbie and Sam Worthington is their appearance. A lithe frame, sun-kissed skin and blonde hair are advised, if not mandated.
Hiring a stylist also helps, as ditching denim duds for Miu Miu or Dolce & Gabbana can mean the difference between the Logies and the Oscars (at least, it did for Robbie).
Pair that with a sunny disposition and a sense of humour and you’re on your way to superstardom.
Lucky for Evans, she’s a stunner and is whip-smart as an added bonus. Interestingly, she puts the growth in Aussie stars down to globalisation.
“Most of the Home and Away people I know, like Chris [Hemsworth], I’m just so happy for them,” she says genuinely. “I also think it’s a sign of the times and how the whole world is getting closer to each other. Skype auditions are possible.”
While she admits that she “hasn’t spent too much time in real Hollywood,” Evans is ready and under no illusions about the nature of the fame machine.
“It’s such a bizarre job that we have,” she laughs. “Every now and then you’re on set doing something so weird, like talking really technically about a kiss, and you just think, ‘what am I doing?'”
We have a feeling she has a fair idea.