Australia’s Young Leading Man: Cooper van Grootel

Australian actor Cooper van Grootel has long been regarded as a leader of his generation. A working child actor for the past decade, who has recently wrapped filming a lead role in See Pictures’ feature film Go Karts, there’s no doubt that this young lad is reminiscent of the Australian men who paved the way before him: think Hollywood hunks Chris and Liam Hemsworth, and Avatar star Sam Worthington.

Cooper van Grootel as photographed by Deanna Whyte

What sets Cooper apart however is not just his machismo, but also his access to an old soul that is more reminiscent of Emmy-winner Ben Mendehlson, who didn’t hit it big until his late 40s. The difference with Cooper however, and what sets him apart from all of these actors, is that he’s still only a teenager, but he’s already made it.

The award-winning teen, who was honoured by Media Super for Outstanding Commitment and Achievement in the industry, has carved out a niche as a true-blue Aussie with roles in prestige mini-series Mystery Road, audience favourite Jasper Jones, and films like Red Dirt and Absent that both challenge and explore the Australian identity. One exciting project in particular is the feature film, Go Karts.  

For that film, Cooper was up against thousands of other actors, so it’s safe to say his hard work is paying off.

Go Karts hails from the same producers as Golden-Globe winner Simon Baker’s Breath, Netflix film OtherLife and Kylie Minogue and Guy Pearce hit, Swinging Safari. In the film, Cooper was blessed with a starring role of Dean, the film’s antagonist. In the character, Cooper relished playing the bad guy – a force to be reckoned with on and off the race track.

“Many directors and producers have remarked on Cooper’s professionalism and high standard of work ethic,” says his agent, Hallie McKeig from Film Bites in Perth.

There’s nothing arrogant about this surfer though, as many are quick to attest to Cooper’s affable nature. “They’ve also said how easy Cooper is to get along with, and how down-to-earth he is,” Hallie elaborates.

Qualities like these are infrequently found in the industry. Cooper’s American manager Karli Doumanis, of KDM, substantiates this view.

“It is really rare to find young male actors like Cooper who have a high level of confidence, self-awareness and charisma – he’s also really highly accomplished because of the number of projects he’s worked on and who he’s worked with – the American industry has already fallen in love with him.”

One of Cooper’s earlier roles was in the film project, Red Dirt, in which he played the lead role of Benny.

Cooper smiles when recalling the filming process.

“Waking up very early and watching the sun rise over the vast landscape of outback Western Australia, that was a highlight.”

Red Dirt gave Cooper the opportunity to literally play the leader of the pack. As Benny, Cooper was the alpha male to a group of boys in a small town that an older man encounters after his car breaks down.

“Myself and the other boy actors searched for gold with metal detectors,” Cooper elaborates. “That was great fun.”

reddirt film premiere
Cooper, second from left, on the red carpet for the premiere of his film, Red Dirt with Neighbours actor Troy Coward.

Cooper also showed his chops as an actor of true range in Absent, a film from celebrated director Iain Appleyard. In that compelling film, Cooper played a mental handicapped boy at the centre of the film’s drama about a father who abandons his daughter after he accidentally kills Cooper’s character. Cooper brought the role to life with conviction, receiving praise from industry professionals in the process for his deep commitment to performing the role authentically and with respect to people with disabilities.

“Working with Cooper and watching him bring his character to life was…a highlight…for me,” Iain told our publication. “He repeatedly impressed everyone with his professionalism in a difficult role showing dedication well beyond his years.”

He articulates further. “I am proud not only of the work that I have done, but also of the skills I have acquired.”

It’s this focus on his craft and skills that is clearly keeping the screen star grounded, even while he might be sharing the screen with Golden-Globe nominated actors and household names.

“Richard Roxburgh is a man with a great sense of humour and uses that skill and applies it to improvising bits here and there during scenes,” Cooper says when asks about his fellow famous co-stars. “That was cool to watch.”

Up next for this acclaimed actor – who, like any other teenage boy also loves Aussie rules football and skateboarding – is a second season of the Funny or Die hit, Unverified where he’ll resume his leading role of Jackson.

“I really just love jumping between roles – I’m really grateful that I’ve got my family and agents and a manager who have supported my journey.”

Cooper van Grootel is “grateful” for his acting success. Photographed by Deanna Whyte. 


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