Few 80-year old men have the ability to make women cry by just walking into a room. But that’s the effect Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood had on budding Australian actor Belinda Gosbee on the set of his latest biopic J. Edgar.
“He knows what he wants,” Gosbee says. “It was one of the quickest scenes I’ve worked on in some ways. It was like: bam, bam, and it was done in the blink of an eyelid.”
She says she admired Eastwood’s “gentle and softly spoken” direction on set. It’s also not bad having a chat to star Leonardo Di Caprio – even if it was only for a few minutes while filming a small speaking part on the on the set of J. Edgar.
The biopic about infamous FBI director J. Edgar Hoover spans several decades, but the scene of Gosbee’s cameo as ‘Head Gangster’s Moll’ is set in the 1930s. Gosbee believes she was picked for the J. Edgar role largely because of her 1940s-cinema styled headshots at the historic LA Union Station.
“I really put it down to photos,” she says. “People always talk about headshots, headshots! And how you really need to sell the right thing in a headshot.”
Growing up in the New South Wales’ Blue Mountains, Gosbee was obsessed with a particular George Lucas classic.
“I would run around with my cousin playing Star Wars and from that moment I always wanted to be in the films I watched so I would re-enact them.”
After completing a Bachelor Graduate Degree in Journalism (she thought “that was the right thing to do”), Gosbee returned to her passion for acting and graduated from the Australian Academy for Dramatic Arts in Sydney.
Some work on TV commercials and theatre lead to Gosbee’s first big break in a small role on Bryan Brown’s TV series Two Twisted in 2006. Her audition for a junkie character inspired the producers to increase her lines threefold in the production and to use the costume she had created for the character in the audition.
It is the quality of American television scripts that drew Gosbee to Los Angeles. “I am still excited by TV but I would still sooner work in film,” she says. Gosbee has been based in L. A. for just over a year, attempting to break into the big screen.
Australian actors are well-respected in Hollywood – Chris Hemsworth is the latest to make a name for himself in Thor after paying his dues on Australian TV in Home & Away.
Naomi Watts, who is the co-lead in J. Edgar, famously struggled for years trying to break into Hollywood, making her acting debuts on Australian TV as recurring characters in both Hey Dad..! and Home & Away.
Gosbee is having some continuing success in the States. Earlier this month, she completed a three-week shoot on the short independent film East Stackton which was filmed on location in Louisiana.
“I fell in love with Louisiana,” Gosbee says. “A lot of the small towns are so happy to have a film coming in that we had so many people rush out to be extras. Others were working on the film with no pay just because they wanted to be part of it. It’s amazing.”
In the film, a hardware store chain sends their big city employee to a branch in a small town where the locals are stranger than expected. Gosbee plays the offbeat female lead that the main character begins to confide in, although she “turns out to be a little more mysterious than you first think,” Gosbee adds.
Later this year, East Stackton is expected to feature in various film festivals in the United States and abroad.
Gosbee's experience on the set of a Clint Eastwood feature is no doubt having a positive effect on her career. She is currently filming her final scenes in The Pitch, an upcoming drama set around a crumbling family within the world of their daughter’s softball competition.
Although she spoke at length about the extensive possibilities available for unknown filmmakers and actors to find work in LA, Gosbee affirms to hopeful Australian talent that “if you come over here you have got to be ready to take a chance and know that nothing comes hard and fast”.
While her Hollywood career is looking promising, the lure of working in Australia is still strong.
“Anything that would take me back to work I would be there in a flash!”