If there was a test to determine what creates a wider talent pool of brilliant acting talent, the results in the lab would instantly point to Australia as the place where it’s been the healthiest in the 21st century. America’s movie acting talent pool still has its standby share of greats, but they and recent newcomers are finding it more of a challenge to keep up with the more intelligent and astute performances of actors and actresses from Australia and Britain who subsequently have outdone the ratio of winning more Oscars and Golden Globes in the last ten years. Aussies Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett, Russell Crowe, et al., have more in the movie pipeline that, without doubt, will continue to make Australia the dominant country in Hollywood.
In 2011 and beyond, though, we may be seeing an unusually different situation: New Australian acting talent joining Hollywood and trumping the existing Australian talent already there. Call that the evolution of astute observation in actors if you want.
Whatever makes that possible in an actor, it’s appearing in acting talent much younger than the current Australia-Hollywood talent pool that hadn’t done earlier work that deep at the same age. Also, and not surprisingly, it’s blossoming more in Australian actresses rather than in Australian actors.
The two best examples here and in the future are likely going to be Mia Wasikowska and Emily Browning.
Browning started out as a child actor in the early 2000’s while co-starring in a series of underrated films that unfortunately have been forgotten, yet still findable on DVD. Although similar to other child actors who stand out in forgotten films, Browning was a shining memory still planted in Hollywood minds that led to greener pastures when she was ready for it. A few years off completing her education in Australia arguably helped things refresh. Her memorable 2009 return performance in “The Uninvited” that was a remake of “A Tale of Two Sisters” from South Korea helped pave a new path that could have led to some interesting situations.
Reportedly, one of those paths could have led to playing Bella Swan in the “Twilight” series. While that could have led to a quicker recovery in star power, there was an apparent exhaustion problem in wanting to take on an entire series of movies that may have led to a hindrance of climbing higher plateaus. Enter the chance to do much meatier roles that are still yet to come out at the time of this writing. One is in 2011’s “Sucker Punch” that’s a complex action fantasy movie about physical and mental survival in an out-of-control world seems to cement what Browning will be doing effectively: Showing the survival of a strong female character through insurmountable odds.
She’ll be translating that into even deeper territory with a new modern take on “Sleeping Beauty” in 2011 that involves surviving the atrocities of being controlled by drugs and prostitution.
If that seems intense enough, the other side of the coin has been flipped in another fellow Aussie actress who’s mastered the high art of subtlety in acting. She might even stand alone when the smoke clears.
Mia Wasikowska may be just a year younger, but already seems to have a more profound understanding of the world around her than actors triple her age. She started her acting career as a teenager in small Aussie indies after an aborted attempt at a ballet career in favor of exploring human imperfections in film. It was in the first season of the brilliantly-written and undervalued HBO series “In Treatment” where she finally was placed in the consciousness of American audiences playing the suicidal gymnast, Sophie, who was the ultimate symbol of a wounded soul MW has already tackled more than once. Her 2008 performance in that was so subtly and profoundly intense that industry insiders were flummoxed why she didn’t at least get an Emmy nomination.
Perhaps it was because she was untested and inexperienced, which seems to be the game Hollywood plays on occasion for nascent brilliant performances–especially if you’re from across the pond.
Before winning the role of Alice in Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland”, she was already proving that what’s brewing inside you makes a difference as an actor over ostentation. Performances in various excellent indie and mainstream movies between 2008 and 2010 (yes, she was Chaya in “Defiance” and Elinor Smith briefly in “Amelia”) showcased her natural acting instincts and expressions of deeper feelings through the best tool an actor has: The eyes. A shame it was when some lesser critics blasted her performance in “Alice in Wonderland” as bland when a more careful exploration of her performance showed subtle expressions and a deep-seeded nuance no other actress her age could arguably muster.
That nuanced ability translates even better when acting with real actors–particularly in her 2010 follow-up to “Alice”, “The Kids Are All Right”, where Wasikowska played the daughter of lesbian parents in an understated and natural way. This carefully nuanced approach should easily meld with Gus Van Sant and his next movie “Restless” that was filmed in Portland, OR last year. It’s due out in the fall of ’11 where Mia reportedly gives an indelibly memorable performance playing a terminally ill teen. Then she stars in a new adaptation of “Jane Eyre” by director Cary Fukunaga released in March. Some early notices say she gives the Eyre character a definitive approach all her own.
At some points in 2011 or 2012, she’ll also co-star in an unprecedented four, high-profile and challenging movies, all under her emerging comfortable niche of the literary drama. One will be co-starring with Glenn Close in the Irish period drama, “Albert Nobbs”, playing a Mennonite girl in “Wettest County in the World” with Shia LaBeouf, a girl fighting off her mysterious uncle (Matthew Goode) in “Stoker” and tackling the role of Catherine in a film adaptation of Arthur Miller’s “A View from a Bridge.”
Just about any of these could prove that this rising star is about to jump to the forefront in approaching characters from a more profoundly intelligent point of view over her contemporaries.
With talent of this caliber brewing in Australia, just where does it get nurtured? Both actresses grew up in different Aussie cities. Even so, perhaps distractions are lessened, unlike in America. Or, it could just be more the evolution of ethics and better artistic upbringings. Proof is there in both actresses that such a thing happened early through their families. There’s nothing in Oz’s water supplies that can possibly mold that in a person’s mind.
So far, both actresses have been in movies designed to make audiences remember them long after the movie ends. Mia Wasikowska, in particular, has been in the final scenes of her last two movies that memorably and successfully made her the lasting impression above any of the other cast. As the final scene suggests in “Alice in Wonderland” that beautifully pulls back on her standing on a ship and looking out at Absalom the butterfly flying away, it’s more than clear we haven’t seen the last of her.
The same for her peer, Emily Browning. Both of them are taking acting further and setting up the scenario someday of Cate Blanchett and Nicole Kidman sitting at an awards ceremony and watching their younger counterparts sweeping up.
Mia Wasikowska’s IMDb page:
Emily Browning’s IMDb Page: