Rahel Romahn has been named the 11th recipient of the Heath Ledger Scholarship, the richest acting prize in Australia.
The Heath Ledger Scholarship is awarded to an emerging Australian actor with extraordinary ability and dedication to their craft who wishes to work and train internationally. The scholarship has propelled many previous recipients into international careers, including Bella Heathcote (Pieces of Her), Cody Fern (American Horror Story), Ashleigh Cummings (Citadel), Mojean Aria (The Enforcer), and Charmaine Bingwa (The Good Fight).
Ledger died on January 22, 2008 as a result of an accidental overdose of medications. He had just finished filming his role as the Joker in The Dark Knight.Romahn most recently starred in the series Shantaram, as well as Mr InBetween andLittle Monsters. He was nominated for an AACTA and Logie award for his role in The Principal. He is based in Sydney and does not, as yet, have US representation. Announced today at a live online ceremony, Romahn was selected by a jury led by global actor Chris Hemsworth (Thor: Love and Thunder, Extraction), Oscar-nominated Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom, Silver Lining Playbook), UK casting director Nina Gold (Star Wars, Game of Thrones and Power of the Dog), director Rachel Perkins (Total Control, Mystery Road) and US actor Alia Shawkat (Search Party, Animals). “The calibre of this year’s finalists made our job as judges very difficult,” said Weaver. “We were moved and entertained by their performances and know that they all have a big career ahead of them. There can only be one winner and we are proud and excited to award Rahel with this scholarship. He embodies the qualities of excellence in acting combined with the passion and dedication to excel on the world stage. I wish him every success and can’t wait to work with him!” Romahn was born in Kurdistan, North Iraq, fleeing with his parents from war-torn Kurdistan and living as nomadic asylum-seekers for years, until they were finally accepted into Australia. Since then, Romahn has worked tirelessly on his career in film, television and theatre. His other credits include Here Out West, God’s Favourite Idiot, Australian Gangster, Ali’s Wedding and the stage play 7 for the Sydney Theater Company. “Throughout my life, I have learnt a lot from the leaders of the craft of acting,” Romahn said. “From Heath I learned the power of vulnerability, the importance of bravery and the necessity of supporting the ones around you. These are extremely vital aspects to being a performer in our industry. “I want to highlight the importance of inclusivity. I am so proud of our industry for putting diversity at the top of our priority list. Leading by example and creating a safe haven for people of colour, the LGBTQI+ and gender diverse community. It is so simple, we are all human and deserve to be treated with respect and safety. Discrimination has gone on long enough and I believe we are getting closer and closer to becoming one big family who finally accept and learn to understand and love one another.” Charmaine Bingwa, who announced Romahn today, said, “It’s never lost on me, for one moment, what a rich bounty the Heath Ledger Scholarship has brought me. It was one of the most beautifully transformative experiences. In a short space of time it put me on the path to working with world-class talents on world-class projects. I am forever grateful to Heath, his remarkable legacy and his benevolent family. I’m thrilled for the next recipient and the incredible opportunities that lie before them.” The finalists this year included Max Brown (The Tourist, The Gloaming), Mabel Li (The Tailings, New Gold Mountain), Andrea Solonge (Privileged, Girl, Interpreted), Zoe Terakes (Wentworth, Nine Perfect Strangers) and Harvey Zielinski (Don’t Look Deeper, My First Summer). Prizes this year include a US$10,000 cash prize to support the recipient with living expenses in the US while studying, a return economy flight to the US, plus educational training and career preparation training worth over US$40K/AUS$50K.
The Heath Ledger Scholarship is supported by the Australians & Hollywood exhibition at the National Film and Sound Archive, currently in Canberra.