While playing the onscreen love interest to two of Australia’s most in-demand actors, Ben Mendelsohn and Ryan Kwanten, Maeve Dermody became practised at staying calm while simulating intimacy. “You have to put that stuff aside,” she says with a laugh. “I’m not really someone that gets star-struck, but you have to be conscious of that and go, ‘I’m putting this aside now.’ ”
As it turned out, Dermody, 24, whose performance opposite Mendelsohn in Beautiful Kate landed her a second AFI best supporting actress nod (she was nominated last year for Black Water), became friends with both actors. “Ben was very protective and he would drive me to work and was kind of my guardian, which was very special,” she says. And True Blood sensation Kwanten, her co-star in the upcoming superhero movie Griff the Invisible? “He’s a beautiful guy. I miss him terribly. We bonded.”
As if that’s not enough reason to be envious of the down-to-earth Sydneysider, until 18 months ago she dated another Hollywood headliner, Avatar’s Sam Worthington. During their three years together they both appeared in killer-crocodile movies, he in Rogue and she in Black Water.
“We thought that was funny — we were always saying that we were having a croc-off,” says Dermody, who studied drama at the same school Naomi Watts attended, Sydney’s Mosman High, after starring at age 5 in 1991’s Breathing Under Water, which was directed by her mother, film academic and Zen teacher Susan Murphy.
Despite the excess of spunky blokes in her life, Dermody isn’t taking one to the AFI Awards at Melbourne’s Regent Theatre on Dec. 12. “I’m not really into this hot-date thing because I’m not adoring anyone at the moment,” she explains. So instead, “I thought, ‘Oh, bloody hell,’ and asked the beautiful Nicole O’Donohoe, Griff’s producer, to come with me.”
Next September she will star in the Sydney Theatre Company production of Our Town. In the meantime, Dermody, whose father is a psychologist, wants to continue her bachelor of arts degree in English, art history and psychology at the University of Sydney: “I’m very dedicated to acting, so I’m doing it just because I go a bit mental if I don’t care for that side of myself.” And undoubtedly the psychology helps with such pesky problems as play-acting love with desirable dudes.The 2009 AFI Awards air on the Nine Network at 9.30 PM on Dec. 12.