Ever since actor Errol Flynn heroically swashbuckled his way into movies like Captain Blood in the 1930s, Australian actors have charmed their way into American hearts. Recently, over 20 Australian actors nailed American television roles in the last pilot season, and movies starring actors from Down Under like Hugh Jackman (Wolverine), and Chris (Thor: The Dark World) and Liam (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) Hemsworth will top the yearend box office.
Girls seemingly want to be wooed by Australian smoothies, and guys want to kick back like our Aussie brethren. In many ways "It's Like Love" which is the title of songwriter Dewayne Everettsmith's wholehearted ode to his country in the recent Tourism Australia ads.
Another reason we love Aussies is their self-deprecating, and often buoyant sense of humor in the toughest of conditions. Australian-born, LA-based actor/writer/director Ben Knight adds, "I also feel Americans have a fondness for us because of our reputation as likable larrikins, mischievous characters."
Knight's own witty, heartfelt short film, Trustin and the Ideas Machine, which is playing at the Action on Film Festival (August 16-24) and LA Indie Film Fest (August 21-25), has also won awards from the Mexico Film Festival and the International Festival of Cinematic Arts. Knight explains:
Poor old Trustin dreams of being a writer, but he probably should stop dreaming and get a real job. His prayers are answered when he finds a magical Ideas Machine -- but what will happen when he turns it on?
Ben Knight in award-winning "Trustin and the Ideas Machine"
So while Knight has created Trustin, a sympathetic character who resonates with the artist in us all, he recently played a television character that reminded him of an Aussie stereotype. "I guest starred for an upcoming episode on the Nickelodeon show See Dad Run, starring Scotty Baio. My character was 'Melbourne Max' an Australian stuntman who trains animals, has a pet monkey (Crystal the capuchin from Hangover Part II), wears an Akubra hat and a crocodile tooth necklace. The character is full of fun and mischief, and unshakably down to earth. It was a real honor to play such an iconic type of Aussie character here in LA. But truth is, we're not all like Crocodile Dundee or Steve Irwin. And that's a big compliment, they were both wonderful characters, and one of them was even real! But most of us Australians live in modern, cosmopolitan cities and wouldn't know how to actually hypnotize a buffalo...to save our lives!"
Scott Baio and Ben Knight as 'Melbourne Max' in Nickelodeon's See Dad Run
Like many actors from Down Under, Knight like Jason Gann, who stars on FX Network's hilarious comedy Wilfred, fell into acting -- possibly on a break from enjoying that renowned outdoor Aussie lifestyle of surfing, swimming, camping and throwing "shrimp on the barbie."
Brisbane-born, now also LA-based Gann quips, "When I decided to become an actor, I was still in high school, and there was nothing else I was good at. I thought, Right, I'm either going to be a big star or a drunken bum in the street, or maybe both...at the same time."
As a kid, Knight certainly enjoyed the outdoors. His dad even used to be a "jackaroo," someone who lived and worked on huge Outback farms, and who'd ride horses to herd cattle to the different feeding areas, and round them up when it was time for auction.
But it was Knight's fascination with American entertainment that inspired him. "In second grade I could recite Star Wars -- the entire film, every line, by heart. I guess that's where I started acting, when I'd go to school and start annoying my friends by whispering whole scenes from Star Wars in their ears over and over."
Knight, who had major roles on two of Australia's most international TV shows, Home and Away and Neighbours before moving to the US, has now written and directed four shorts, including Trustin and his newest project, Kidnappers, which recently premiered at the LA Comedy Fest. All of his shorts are co-produced with his wife and partner Natalie Walker. They're like a two-person wrecking crew with Walker handling cinematography, while also acting with Knight, who also writes, directs, edits and composes the music.
"I also just filmed a thriller feature, Paraphobia, playing the husband of a beautiful actress who becomes the subject of a stranger's dangerous obsession. The way the director shot it was awesome, all 'run and gun' handheld stuff. Yeah, I was playing an American character. Let's face it, working as an actor in LA means playing American characters. But that's great too, because a lot of my favorite film and TV characters are American. Besides, I get to be Australian in real life, and variety is the spice of life."
Fair dinkum, mate!
Follow Ben Knight on Twitter: https://twitter.com/thebenknight
And, Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/theBenKnight
Also follow Ashley Jude Collie on Facebook and Twitter: @ashleycollie