Mojean Aria is the 2017 recipient of the Heath Ledger Scholarship. He is an Australian actor and filmmaker, who studied at Australia’s prestigious National Institute of Dramatic Arts (NIDA), with famous alumni that includes acting greats Cate Blanchett and Mel Gibson. His previous credits include The Bronx Bull, where he starred as the young Jake La Motta, a role made notable by Robert De Niro in Martin Scorsese’s 1980 masterpiece Raging Bull. Mojean is based in Los Angeles, where he is currently pursuing acting roles as well as working on film projects with his producing partners at Mystic Makers.
Founded in 2009, the Heath Ledger scholarship was formed by Australians in Film in association with the Ledger family. Learn more about Mojean at Australians in Film.
What was the HLS application process like?
The HLS application experience overall is quite beautiful. Most of all because they ask you a lot of insightful questions that force you to learn more about yourself in the process. Why are you here? Why do this particular thing in your life? Pretty good things to know.
Why did you enter?
I entered for so many reasons, but one major reason was that I truly feel Heath was on a path to revolutionize acting. His passion for continuing to evolve is something I greatly admire and want to do myself. We should never put so much stake in accolades so I would’ve continued on the same course regardless but it’s a nice feeling to be encouraged like this (with the Scholarship) and by way of Heath’s legacy.
How has winning been beneficial so far?
On an emotional level it’s nice to get a lot of love from people whom you admire. On a practical level I’ve been meeting the best agents, managers and production companies in the world and it’s a real pleasure to meet people who are so invested and intelligent in different areas of the business and craft.
You have a product to give and nobody really understands how you got it but you need to keep giving it in the truest sense. You really need to take it not just a day at a time, but moment to moment – Mojean Aria
What is your philosophy about getting work as an actor. Do you create your own opportunities?
Don’t rush. Make sure to develop and know who you are — that is first. I’ve always gotten work as an actor in a nonlinear way. For example, I do scene in a class, someone sees me and recommends me for a role or, I go to an audition, miss out on that particularly part but someone in the room decides to write a role for me in another project.
You have to always be prepared to do the work, that’s the most thrilling part. You have a product to give and nobody really understands how you got it but you need to keep giving it in the truest sense, then the people who have tastes that align with you eventually respond. You really need to take it not just a day at a time, but moment to moment.
How did you get the role in The Bronx Bull?
I got up to do a scene in a class, I was playing Joe in Clifford Odets’ Golden Boy. That character is a musician who is cursed by the gift of being a great boxer with the money and fame it brings. The teacher told me that she is coaching a lot of people for this Jake La Motta role and that she would try to get me an audition. I had no visa, no nothing really. I went to the audition, left and was about to get into my car when I noticed the director chasing me. He looked into my eyes and said he wanted me for the role and would do anything to make it work and that was that.
Acting and filmmaking is not an easy path. What drives you? What keeps you persistent, focused?
It’s my destiny, it’s my focus, I know it, I feel it. It’s that simple. There was time when I just didn’t see a way to get access to quality feature filmmakers and quality work. I thought about quitting. People often say that you start at the bottom in features and work your way up, that might work for some but not for me. I can’t commit to work that seems its only purpose is to get you to doing the next feature, but that’s just me. Everyone is different but that’s why I am attracted to the short film world, in which people can make quality work even though it’s very difficult because you have far less time and resources, but you are on an artistic endeavor. I’m blessed now that because of the Heath Ledger acknowledgment and some of the great people around me. I can now start playing more seriously in the feature world and that is truly exciting for me.
Do you write? If so what is your process?
I do write, I’ve written since I was very young mostly writing screenplays or short stories. As an actor, writers are kind of like gods to me. What a writer does for an actor is truly special, giving them the playground to explore themes and humanity. Actors are like guardian angels in the sense that they protect the writer’s vision, making sure to give it justice. Whoa, I’m getting very weird now but that’s me.
Who/what are your influences as an actor? or as a filmmaker generally?
The list goes on. Francis Coppola touches on the philosophy that filmmaking is a modern art form but has ancient roots. Can you imagine if we always had filmmaking, what kind of films Rumi, Shakespeare, Da Vinci, Michelangelo would’ve made? When I think about that I am filled with inspiration.
What role in a previous film would you both like to have played and why?
Just on the top of my head in this moment I’m gonna say James Bond but a really different one maybe one when he knows the expectations of him as Bond and he’s having internal conflicts to rise to those expectations, nope wait a second that’s just me talking about my life, hahahaha.
But I don’t think I’ll ever move away from my love of acting, I have to be in the trenches with blood and guts. Its nice being the general sometimes but I prefer to win the medals on the battlefield – Mojean Aria.
Are you interested in directing?
What excites me about being a director is being able to create worlds. As an actor I realize what we do is based on understanding human perception, how people take in and process information etc. You can take that exact same skill set and apply it as a director with story and performances and by choosing colors with it and camera movements. But I don’t think I’ll ever move away from my love of acting, I have to be in the trenches with blood and guts. Its nice being the general sometimes but I prefer to win the medals on the battlefield.
Why move to the US?
The platform. I always knew I wanted to include everyone in what I do. The audience that America allows you to reach is exactly that. The whole world.
What advice would you give to someone starting out now?
I have no fucking clue. Ummm breath, be present and get sharp eyes. Like really look at the people around you and when you meet people really connect with them. We have this life and we need to make the most of it. Look within and learn, learn, learn. Learn how to learn.