Heath Ledger Scholarship winner named
When Matt Levett was nominated for this year’s Heath Ledger Scholarship along with 17 other rising talents, the actor didn’t fancy his chances amongst what he described as a “an intimidating” line-up.
So he was both stunned and stoked to win the award presented on Monday night US time in Los Angeles.
The 2009 Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) graduate says the $US10,000 cash prize will enable him to further his ambitions in Hollywood.
“It will give me the ability to stay longer and give me a foot in the door,” says Levett, who first went to the US last September/October, when he signed with the Gersh Agency.
The runners-up are fellow WAAPA graduate Emilie Cocquerel and Lily Sullivan, who each get a round-trip ticket to Los Angeles and a scholarship to attend Masterclasses at Screenwise Film & TV School for actors in Sydney.
On behalf of the judges, US casting director Laray Mayfield said, “It really took us a long time to reach agreement on awarding the scholarship to Matt Levett. We can’t wait to see his career grow from strength to strength in the coming years but we will also watch our runners-up Emilie Cocquerel and Lily Sullivan eagerly.”
Levett also receives a two-year scholarship at the Stella Adler Academy of Acting and Theatre in Los Angeles, a second trip to LA, a seven-day Californian tour and $5,000 worth of visa and immigration services.
He made his feature debut in director Dean Francis’ confronting drama Drown, adapted from a Stephen Davis play about three surf lifesavers whose big night out is marred by jealousy, homophobic fears, unrequited lust and violence.
“It was a tough shoot lasting 50 days,” he says. “We shot a lot at night in Kings Cross and filmed one scene 1 km out to sea in Manly at 5 am. I learned so much about how far I could push myself."
His other credits include the first two seasons of A Place to Call Home, Devil’s Playground, Winners & Losers and Bed of Roses. Before Drown he wrote and directed Kid, a short about a strange encounter between a young guy who plans to rob a petrol station and a boy, produced by a collective of emerging filmmakers named ScreenInkMedia, of which he’s a member.
"My career is a rollercoaster," he says. "Like any actor I am looking for continuity of work, and playing a diverse range of characters."
Cocquerel made her screen debut in the ABC telemovie An Accidental Soldier. She has a key role in Joe Cinque’s Consolation, the feature debut of short film director Sotiris Dounoukos, and appears in Garth Davis’ Lion with Nicole Kidman, David Wenham, Dev Patel and Rooney Mara.
Sullivan co-stars with Timothy Spall and YouTube identity John Luc in Ben Chessell’s Sucker. Her credits include Rhys Graham’s Galore and P.J. Hogan’s Mental.
The judges for the 2015 scholarship were Rose Byrne, Ben Mendelsohn, Vince Vaughn, executive producer Adam Schroeder, directors Kieran Darcy-Smith and Gregor Jordan, Australian-based casting director Ann Fay and Mayfield.
The other finalists were:
Mojean Aria (The Bronx Bull, Aban and Khorshid)
David Berry (A Place to Call Home)
Shareena Clanton (Wentworth)
Ashleigh Cummings (Puberty Blues, Gallipoli, Galore)
Taylor Ferguson (The Turning, Strangerland)
James Fraser (Devil’s Playground, Deadline Gallipoli, The Water Diviner)
Reef Ireland (Puberty Blues, Wentworth)
Joel Jackson (Deadline Gallipoli, Peter Allen: Not the Boy Next Door)
Travis Jeffrey (Unbroken, Gallipoli)
Brandon McClelland (Anzac Girls)
Arianwen Parkes-Lockwood (A Place to Call Home)
Jordan Patrick Smith (Neighbours, Unbroken, Banished)
Adele Perovic (The Code)
TJ Power (Underbelly, The Sapphires, The Little Death)
Harry Richardson (Looking for Grace)
Millie Samuels (Neighbours, The Gods of Wheat Street, Alex and Eve)
Geraldine Viswanathan (Dysfunktion).