Mojean Aria, 2017 Heath Ledger Scholarship Finalist
For Mojean Aria, 2017 marks the third year he’s applied and been shortlisted for the Heath Ledger Scholarship, a significant achievement in it’s own right. This talented actor has been drawing attention to his acting chops since pre-school days however and even participated in the adult classes at NIDA as a fourteen year old. Now based in Los Angeles, Mojean has already landed his first big budget film role playing a young Jake LaMotta in The Bronx Bull, a part first made famous by Robert De Niro in the classic Raging Bull.
AiF: Where do you call home right now?
MA: I made the move to the U.S. a few years ago and live in Koreatown in Los Angeles, which is such a great area. I am originally from Sydney though.
AiF: When did the acting bug first bite you and you knew it was your calling?
MA: From a very young age! Back when I was kindergarten one of my teachers told my Mum that my personality would be really suitable to acting and it’s just always felt like home for me my entire life. I have immigrant parents and there were certainly times growing up in Australia, during the Cronulla riots for example, when it felt hard to find other like-minded people to be around. But acting classes were such great escape for me and it was wonderful to feel so free and at home with other creative and sensitive people.
AiF: What inspires you in life?
MA: I am really inspired by movement and martial arts and train almost every day. I love the focus on breathing and control and movement and find that there’s such a lovely correlation between this form of training and the arts.
AiF: Who are your favorite actors and/or filmmakers and why do they resonate with you?
MA: [Laughs] That is the toughest question on the planet for me! Mainly because I like to take pieces from so many incredible artists but the one person whose arc speaks to me the most is Montgomery Clift. He was a film and stage actor renowned for his sensitive and vulnerable portrayals and for me he was just all heart and such an inspiration in that regard.
AiF: What work are you most proud of creating so far in your career?
MA: There are two very different projects so far that I’m most proud of – my first big budget feature film The Bronx Bull, based on the story of legendary boxing champion Jake LaMotta, was an incredible experience. I played the lead in the first half of the film so there was lots of pressure and a really intense training schedule in the lead-up to production but I learnt so much. And secondly is the human rights film Aban & Khorshid in which I played a gay Iranian character who was hanged for simply being in love. I originally turned the part down but after meeting with the director it was just too beautiful and compelling a story to turn down. Part of the purpose of my work as an actor is to speak for people who can’t and it was of the most fulfilling artistic experiences of my life. I am so proud the film was screened at the United Nations Council to support human rights as well as winning the American Filmmaker Award at Cannes and the Best of the Festival Award at Palm Springs.
AiF: How are you hoping your career will unfold in the years to come?
MA: I am truly obsessed with human behavior and how we’re all evolving in so many new ways right now and I believe it’s time for the acting profession – one of the world’s oldest – to evolve in much more spiritual, enlightened ways too. I think this was very much where Heath was heading with his own career actually…as artists it’s really important for us to be consciously aware of taking acting to that new level and I see myself being pivotal in that evolution.
AiF: When did you first hear about the Heath Ledger Scholarship and make the decision to enter?
MA: I remember hearing about the Scholarship not too long after Heath passed away but always thought it was for very raw and undiscovered Aussie actors. Anyway, a few years ago I saw the list of finalists and was so excited to know so many names on the list so thought I should give it a go. This is my third year applying and my third year as a finalist too so I’m hoping it will be a case of three times a charm!
AiF: What does California represent for you in terms of your dreams, aspirations and goals in life?
MA: Los Angeles to me represents one big studio and a place where everyone comes to realize their dreams or find themselves…or ideally both at the same time! It’s one of the most unique places in the world and such a cultural hotspot that has reach and influence over pretty much the entire world. I love that L.A. remains such a big creator of commercial cinema and believe we should be making art for the masses.
AiF: What are your favorite parts of California and what makes them so appealing?
MA: I love that I can be in Los Angeles then drive two hours and be somewhere entirely different and very spiritual like Joshua Tree National Park or Big Bear. And then there’s the diversity of the areas within the city itself like the cool, arty elements of Downtown L.A. or the iconic Beverly Hills where you can see the most intense phase of where our culture has evolved.
AiF: What would it mean to you if you won the Heath Ledger Scholarship for 2017?
MA: It would mean so much for so many different reasons and would truly tie everything together for me right now. Coincidentally I met Heath when I was only eleven or twelve years old at a Fox Studios screening of one of his films in Sydney – I remember being so captured by his energy and aura and sensitivity during the Q&A session and it inspired me to focus on pursuing an acting career and embracing the sensitive side of myself.
Heath Ledger Scholarship 2017 presenting partners are Qantas, Visit California, Screenwise and Ausfilm.
AiF would also like to thank Penfolds and Kate Raynor & Associates, official Immigration law partner.