Aussie invasion complete in Tinseltown

Back in 2003 Academy Award winner Geoffrey Rush half-joked to an American reporter about his compatriots' invasion of Tinsel Town, teasing there was a "secret laboratory in the outback where we clone actors to unleash them zombie-like on an unsuspecting sleepy Hollywood".

Some 16 years later and that invasion has hit plague proportions.

Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Naomi Watts, Margot Robbie, Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, Mel Gibson, Ruby Rose, Russell Crowe (well, we claim the Kiwi as much as we do Sam Neill), Cate Blanchett, Rose Byrne, Eric Bana, Isla Fisher, Rebel Wilson, Chris, Liam and Luke Hemsworth, Jacki Weaver, Melissa George, Mia Wasikowska, Guy Pearce and Judy Davis, they're all names that need little introduction around the corridors of power here in Hollywood.

Staring down from the giant billboards on Sunset Boulevard are two of our leading ladies: Kidman and Robbie. Not terribly surprising given their popularity here, but this week next to them is an equally huge billboard featuring an Australian icon: Jacki Weaver.

"I had no idea she was an Arrrzie, she was great as Bradley Cooper's mom [Silver Linings Playbook]," my Uber driver declared after I commented on the billboard in reverential tones on the way from LAX.

This week PS, courtesy of Visit California, has been embedded in the thick of Hollywood hot on the trail of Aussies.

Baz the King-maker

Around the bungalows of the Chateau Marmont, Baz Luhrmann has been holed up in his favourite suite working furiously on his next big production, the story of Elvis Presley.

Indeed PS hears he's been busy trying to nail the casting of the lead role in the biopic, one that is critical for the film's success. No doubt the next door bungalow provided an amusing distraction when an impromptu skinny dip in the adjacent pool took place, though PS was assured it is actually quite a common occurrence with hotel staff barely batting an eyelid. No word on whether Baz joined in.

Joel Edgerton and his partner, uber stylist and fellow Aussie Christine Centenera, are also regulars at the Chateau, and friends say the pair are keen to "take things to the next level". Wedding bells or booties?


Archer's accent on fixing

In Hollywood it's all about connections, and no one has a better black book than former Sydney publicist Amanda Archer, 36, who has become something of a celebrity "fixer". She has negotiated  media stories on behalf of everyone from Hugh Hefner's widow Crystal to Michael Jackson's mother Katherine and his daughter Paris, Priscilla Presley, Paris and Nicky Hilton, Rolling Stones' kids Charlotte Watts and Alexandra Richards, Scott Disick, Lindsay Lohan, Tatum O'Neal and Piers Morgan.

"I think being Australian, maybe it's something about our accent but we seem to be able to cut through the Hollywood BS and the celebrities seem to really like that," Archer says over dinner at the Polo Lounge, where she regularly catches up with Morgan, the British breakfast TV host.

"He loves all the hype here ... and I have to admit, while it's pretty crazy sometimes, it's awesome fun," Archer confides.

Down under hits Hollywood heights

There are many Australians kicking goals in Hollywood most of us have never heard of, like Zoë White, the cinematographer on The Handmaid’s Tale, which also stars former Penrith actor Yvonne Strahovski while the second season was directed by another name from "down under": Daina Reid.

Brisbane-born Deborah Riley was the production designer on Game Of Thrones. Cate Shortland has come a long way from Temora in country NSW to directing Marvel's new Black Widow movie starring Scarlett Johansson.

Adelaide's Fiona Crombie was nominated for an Oscar this year for production design on The Favourite. Since then she's teamed up with Australian director David Michod on a Shakespearean-themed epic called The King.

Luke Davies, the Australian screenwriter for Lion and Candy, recently worked on the Catch 22 series directed by George Clooney.

Stone cooks up his own star

Former Sydney celebrity chef Curtis Stone moved to LA 11 years ago - virtually unknown apart from an appearance on Oprah - and landed his own TV show.

Since then he married Hollywood actress Lindsay Price and had two children. Now he's back in the kitchen, having just won his first Michelin star for his Beverly Hills restaurant Maude, while his hugely popular Sunset Boulevard restaurant Gwen is also pumping.

"This is a funny town. A lot of it doesn't make much sense. Some stars who come in want to sit behind privacy screens and keep it low-key, while others are outside posing for the paps."

Herriman's killer moves

As Sydney actor Damon Herriman says, he's "hardly" an overnight success, having worked on the periphery of Hollywood for 14 years, starring in the acclaimed TV series Justified and a guest role on Breaking Bad.

But now Herriman is very much on the precipice, having scored a "dream job" working with Quentin Tarantino and playing one of the most reviled characters in American history - Charles Manson in the much-hyped new mega-flick Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, which also features "our" Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate.

"I'm still pinching myself that I got to work with Tarantino," Herriman told PS, though he was quick to downplay his part.

"I'm not sure how much of the film I'll end up being in ... you just never know with Quentin  ... and I hear there are plans for a much longer, four-hour version."

Indeed, Herriman is playing Manson not once but twice, having also been cast just days before landing the Tarantino gig to play the killer for director David Fincher (of Fight Club fame) in the upcoming second season of the Netflix series Mindhunter.

Evan's fantasy now a reality

Six months ago Evan Evagora, 23, was living and working in Sydney as a fashion model but quietly harboured ambitions of being an actor.

By the end of this year he will star in not one but two of the most anticipated new projects in Hollywood - a movie reboot of the campy 1980s' TV show Fantasy Island, and as a regular character in an entirely new chapter of the hugely successful Star Trek franchise.

"With the US pilot season starting in January this year we thought we could give it a shot," a still shocked Evagora told PS from the Californian set of Picard, the mega-budget Star Trek series due to make its debut at the end of the year.

During shooting for Fantasy Island in February, Evagora did an audition for Star Trek via Skype on his iPhone in front of a bed sheet in his hotel room.

"I know I'm lucky ... I hadn't even set foot in Hollywood and I already had two great parts."

Danielle has skin in Hollywood game

Northern Beaches born and bred, Danielle Macdonald, 28, is barely recognised on the streets of Sydney, but in Hollywood she is considered one of showbiz's hottest properties.

That's all thanks to her starring role in Patti Cake$ playing a misfit white-girl rapper from New Jersey before landing the role of the plus-sized teenage daughter of All-American beauty queen Jennifer Aniston in last year's Dumplin' and then the tough survivor opposite Sandra Bullock in the science-fiction thriller Bird Box.

She's even sung with Dolly Parton.

"I've been in America for nine years but I've only been working consistently for the last two years, so there was a period of not much before this. But, I'm quite stubborn, I didn't want to pack it in," she tells PS in the midst of a global publicity blitz for her new film Skin, playing a single mother-of-three who falls in love with a white supremacist.

"Hollywood likes to stereotype. They see a plus-size actress and they automatically put you in roles playing the funny best friend. But that's not what my essence is as an actor. Those roles are great for someone like Rebel Wilson who has incredible comedic timing, that's just not me," she says.

"I've been very deliberate in choosing a variety of roles ... I went from playing a teenager in Dumplin' to a single mother of a teenager in Skin, and if that helps show that plus-sized actors can do all kinds of roles. well that's gotta be a good thing."

Fame fast then not so furious

Nathalie Kelley looks every bit a Hollywood movie star, the petite brunette having already struck gold in Hollywood after being cast in the re-boot of the 1980s' mega soap Dynasty, playing a hispanic version of the show's iconic Krystle Carrington character.

"I got the American accent down pat ... I think I convinced a lot of people I was actually American," Kelley laughs from her new Los Angeles home she shares with husband, Bondi Bucket List co-owner Jordy Burrows, whom she wed in a ceremony on a pontoon in the middle of Sydney Harbour in April last year.

"Culturally I consider myself very much Australian, though I moved to Los Angeles when I was 20. My background is Peruvian and when I left high school there wasn't a great deal of opportunity for me in Australia ... but I think that has changed now," Kelley, now 34, says.

Within three months of arriving Kelley had landed a role in one of the biggest franchises in Hollywood, starring in 2006's Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift.

"I never did wait tables but I do have a lot of respect for the things actors do to keep afloat. But I found myself in a different kind of jam after Tokyo Drift, the roles didn't come flooding in,'' she said.

"All that rejection was really tough for me, I'd put my heart and soul into these little auditions and I wouldn't get the part. I ended up walking away from it for a while, I couldn't bear the defeat anymore."

But two months ago all that changed when Kelley landed the lead role on a new prime-time comedy television series in America called The Baker and The Beauty, which will screen on the ABC Network.

"We start filming in Puerto Rico in October. I'm trying to tone up to get into character, she's a rich, spoiled woman who falls in love with a penniless baker ... it is a lot of fun," she says.

Zombies come alive

And there are so many others. Phoebe Tonkin and Bella Heathcote are both established actors in Hollywood, along with newcomers such as Katherine Langford, who in her relatively brief career has starred in the headline-grabbing series 13 Reasons Why and the soon-to-be-released Netflix series Cursed.

Remy Hii played Van Tuong Nguyen in SBS's excellent Better Man mini series six years ago. Now he's cracked Hollywood after appearing in Crazy Rich Asians.  His next film is the  blockbuster Spiderman: Far From Home. His Crazy Rich Asians co-star Chris Pang has landed a role in the upcoming Charlie's Angels.

Indeed the Aussie zombies are very much alive in Hollywood.

This article Aussie invasion complete in Tinseltown was originally published in The Sydney Morning Herald.