IT’S 3am and a 16-year-old Jacob Elordi is wide awake at his Wavell Heights home.
The St Joseph’s Nudgee College student and aspiring actor is gripped with anxiety as the same dreaded question wreaks havoc on his sleep — “What if I never make a movie?”
The stage is Jacob’s second home and he has read hundreds of plays. Hollywood is his “plan A” and he refuses to distract himself with a “plan B”.
Fast forward to today and Jacob, now 21, shares a manager with Hollywood heavyweight Chris Hemsworth and played the lead in one of Netflix’s most-watched summer releases, teen drama The Kissing Booth.
He was back in Australia last month filming another top-secret project, but has since returned to his base in Los Angeles to film HBO teen drama Euphoria alongside Zendaya (The Greatest Showman) and Maude Apatow (This Is 40, Knocked Up), produced by rap megastar Drake.
“Euphoria is my dream role in terms of something meaty and real,” Jacob says.
“That’s the biggest thing happening in my life right now.”
But family remains his rock and Jacob was sure to fit in quality time while home, though visiting his old haunts is no longer so easy. Teenage girls flock for a piece of Noah Flynn — the bad boy heart-throb Jacob plays in The Kissing Booth.
The 195cm actor, who had parts in Swinging Safari (2018) and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017), now has more than six million Instagram followers, multiple fan-pages and a girlfriend — Hollywood actor Joey King, 19, who plays his love interest Elle Evans in The Kissing Booth.
During their first Australian Christmas together in 2017 and prior to the Netflix release, fans would stop more-famous Joey for photos and Jacob would take them.
How the tables have turned.
“In all honestly, it’s been a little bit difficult for me,” Jacob says.
“I’m pretty private … so to me it’s a little unnerving to see my face and my name everywhere.
“I’m so stoked that people enjoyed (The Kissing Booth), and I have a lot of love for people sending letters and writing appreciation posts, but it’s a bit of a shock. I don’t think I’ll get used to it.”
He’s just wrapped filming on his next film, 2 Hearts, in Vancouver, where screaming fans gathered outside his hotel. It’s all been cause for good-natured ribbing from Jacob’s former Nudgee classmates.
“On Instagram people make a lot of compilation videos of me shirtless and smiling and dripping in sexy sweat. I get sent a lot of those by my friends,” he says.
The Kissing Booth was Jacob’s 103rd audition, filmed against a blue sheet on the garage wall at home.
“I’ll never forget the day I got the call saying I got the part. It was a Saturday and I was walking through Westfield Chermside. I could see it was a conference call with about five managers. They always told me that meant either really good or really bad news. When they told me I’d got the part, I collapsed and just started crying. It meant a whole lot.”
When the time came to leave Brisbane, Jacob was ready.
His mum Melissa, the Nudgee College tuckshop co-ordinator, says his American accent has been perfect since he was 10 years old.
“He was in grade four, and for show and tell he rapped an Eminem song. He just loved that American accent,” she says, adding he was 12 when she knew he had serious talent.
“His school did a production of Seussical and Jacob was The Cat in the Hat. He was so confident and so funny, and even then he had such a strong self-belief.”
It was that conviction that Jacob’s LA manager, Christopher Burbidge, saw when the pair met at the Park Hyatt Sydney about three years ago.
Jacob was in town for an audition.
“He basically sat me down and was like, ‘Look, you clearly love acting’, but he said I should ‘win a Logie or something’ before moving to Los Angeles,” Jacob recalls.
But Jacob would much prefer an Academy Award, according to his dad, John. “He told me once that he wanted to win one and I said something like, ‘You know that’s a one-in-a-million chance?’ Jacob looked me dead in the eye and said, ‘Someone has to be that one’.”
Jacob is not the only star in the family.
Sister and “best friend” Isabella, 23, studied at The Australian Ballet School in Melbourne. The Elordi family moved to the Victorian capital for four years after she won her place and Isabella says her next move will be to LA, to help Jacob navigate his new life.
“My family (including brother Michael, 31) are my best friends on the entire planet,” Jacob says.
“There was never a moment when they didn’t support me. They put me through every class and bought me every book. They let me watch any movie (and) let me take days off school to work on auditions. They helped me survive in LA last year.”
Now writing a screenplay, Jacob says his ultimate goal is to return to Brisbane and bring it to life.
“I’m so arrogant about Brisbane when I’m in LA,” he says.
“I tell everyone I’m from Brissy and it’s the best place on earth. I got to Hollywood and realised I wanted all my friends (with me).”
But home will have to wait.
The talent — aged 25 and under — on Variety’s annual list are platform agnostic (and so are the adult reps on the list who’ve impacted the careers of young performers). Showbiz finds stars almost anywhere — and it’s an exciting time when YouTubers move into traditional, while the music biz can mine various platforms for exciting new talent. On our Up Next report, we focus on talent poised for a breakthrough.
Elordi got his big break this summer as Noah Flynn in Netflix hit “The Kissing Booth”— the film Netflix boss Ted Sarandos says one in three viewers re-watch. “In hindsight, I think this movie struck a chord because it’s just pure enjoyment,” Elordi says. The Aussie, who grew up breaking down scripts like “Blue Valentine” for fun, will appear next in tearjerker “2 Hearts,” horror anthology series “The Mortuary Collection” and HBO ensemble drama “Euphoria.” “I got into that three weeks before ‘Kissing Booth’ got released, and it was my dream job straightaway. It’s like a cacophony of madness,” Elordi says of the series produced by Drake.