Under wonders

A new generation of Aussie acting talent is waiting in the wings.

SYDNEY -- If the Australian awards season is any indication, a new crop of Aussie actors could very well be on the verge of following in the global footsteps of Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman and Heath Ledger.

Australia's most recent break-out actors, Emily Barclay and comedian Shane Jacobson, dominated a number of prominent Australian awards in 2006.

Each picked up two of the three key acting awards over the awards season. Jacobson won the Film Critics Circle of Australia and the Australian Film Institute best actor awards for his role as the likable portable toilet contractor in the local boxoffice hit "Kenny," while Barclay won Inside Film Awards' best actress honor and an actress nod from the AFI for her turn as a murderous teenage vixen in Fortissimo Films' "Surburban Mayhem." Both beat out more-seasoned talents such as Gabriel Byrne, Abbie Cornish, Ledger and Laura Linney in their respective categories.


Despite the acclaim and an increase in their public profiles, in the relatively small and financially challenged Australian film industry, those awards don't necessarily guarantee work.

Barclay, 22, a native New Zealander, looks set for a broad career having been signed by UTA stateside following "Suburban's" successful screening at May's Festival de Cannes. On the other hand, with the character of Kenny now established as an Australian comic icon in the vein of Paul Hogan and Dame Edna Everage, Jacobson's career looks set to flower on the home front. A spinoff TV series of "Kenny" is already in the works, and discussions are under way between Jacobson's sibling, Clayton, who wrote, directed and produced "Kenny," and Jackman's Seed Prods. about other film projects.

So, while the seemingly unending amount of potential star power Down Under continues to grow, the only drawback could be a dearth of homegrown productions to support all that local talent.

"Happy Feet" director George Miller acknowledged the situation recently: "I'm in despair at what's happening in the Australian film industry. Most of the films, most of our talent, all of our best cameramen (and) editors -- virtually all are working outside this country."