Outback lad wins Heath Ledger scholarship

It’s a long way from the outback West Australian mining town of Southern Cross to the bright lights of Hollywood.


Cody Fern has made that journey.

But you get the feeling the 25-year-old actor will be OK.

Destiny has guided his path so far and now a fellow West Australian actor, the late Heath Ledger, is likely keeping a protective eye on him.

Fern has been named by Los Angeles-based organisation Australians in Film as the sixth winner of the Heath Ledger Scholarship, a moment that confirmed his decision to turn his back on a lucrative career in finance and pursue his love of acting.

“The other day I was looking up the Hollywood sign and thought, ‘Wow, it’s not a dream anymore. It’s actually tangible’,” Fern told AAP.

Benefactors of the Heath Ledger Scholarship include Nicole Kidman, Naomi Watts, Hugh Jackman, Deborra-Lee Furness, Michelle Williams, Phil Noyce, Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin.

The award was set up in memory of Academy Award-winner Ledger after his tragic death in 2008. Previous winners are Bella Heathcote, Ryan Corr, Oliver Ackland, Anna McGahan and, most recently, James Mackay.

Fern will be celebrated at West Hollywood’s SLS Hotel on Thursday night at an event hosted by the multi-talented Tim Minchin.

Ledger’s father, Kim, phoned Fern with the news he was the scholarship winner.

“Kim was just flat out generous and said the Ledger family would support me 100 per cent,” Fern said.

“Heath always spoke about how important his family was to him and to now have his family behind me, it is just extraordinary.”

Southern Cross is 400km inland from Perth and growing up, he yearned to be an actor, but after high school, he attended Perth’s Curtain University, earned a commerce degree and honours in strategic marketing, and then scored an Ernst and Young scholarship.

It didn’t feel right, so he packed up, moved to Sydney and scored the lead role in the Australian stage production of War Horse.

He has just signed with an LA agent and manager, and has auditioned for a number of feature films.

“I have to pinch myself when I look out the window and see Beverly Hills,” he said.

“It is so crazy to me.

“Southern Cross has it’s own harsh beauty.

“Beverly Hills is far more manicured.”

The scholarship is designed to give Fern the best shot at making it in Hollywood.

He receives $10,000 cash, a two-year scholarship at the Stella Adler Academy of Acting and Theatre in Los Angeles, two return flights to Los Angeles on Virgin Australia, a 10-day California trip from Visit California, $5000 worth of visa and immigration services from Raynor & Associates, and complimentary lifetime membership to audition website StarNow.

Charlotte Best and Axle Whitehead were named as scholarship runners-up.