Australia's L.A.-Based Heath Ledger Scholarship Opens for Applications

Heath Ledger

The program provides an up-and-coming Australian actor with cash and industry training in L.A. and is backed by benefactors including Naomi Watts, Hugh Jackman and Baz Luhrmann.

Applications have opened for the 2014 Heath Ledger Scholarship, administered by Los Angeles-based industry organization Australians in Film.

The scholarship is open to emerging Australian actors to further their career and training in the U.S. and provides over $20,000 in prizes for the winner.

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It is named for the late Australian actor Heath Ledger, who served as an ambassador for Australians in Film, and the scholarship includes a return flight to Los Angeles, a 10-day tour of California, a lifetime membership to StarNow, one year of acting classes at the Stella Adler Academy of Acting & Theatre, a VIP casting package and $10,000 cash.

2013 winner James Mackay, a graduate of the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts in Perth, is currently in Los Angeles taking up his award. Other past recipients include Bella Heathcote (Dark Shadows), Ryan Corr (Not Suitable for Children), Oliver Ackland (The Slap, Cloudstreet) and Anna McGahan (House Husbands).

Mackay said the award has been "a huge boost in momentum and profile -- the kind of intangible factors that are invaluable in the early years of a career. Thanks to the resources of the scholarship, I am now able to base myself in L.A., and begin the process of building a career and a working life in the U.S. I cannot overstate my gratitude for this."

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"This award, in such a short space of time, has become recognized within the industry not only as a vibrant and fitting monument to one of our greatest actors, and a symbol of remarkable opportunity for emerging Australian actors, but also as an expression of the support that Australians in Film offers to the wider community of Australians working in the American industry," he added.

Benefactors to the program include the Ledger family, Michelle Williams, Naomi Watts, Nicole Kidman, Alex O'Loughlin, Hugh Jackman, Deborra-Lee Furness, Phil Noyce and Baz Luhrmann.

Applications for the scholarship are open until April 4 via The 2014 winner will be announced at the AiF's annual fundraising dinner in June.