Meet the young gun being compared to Hemsworth
If you don't know his name, you soon will. Joe Klocek, 25, is on the rise.
The Brisbane talent has been tipped to join the likes of Margot Robbie and Chris Hemsworth in becoming the next Aussie to reach global success.
He's been likened to All the Boys I've Loved Before heart-throb, Noah Centineo, and recently was recognised as an emerging star at the Casting Guild Australia awards.
Right now, he's on the publicity trail for his new movie, The Dry, where he stars alongside Eric Bana. A movie that's become one of the highest grossing Australian films on its opening weekend after it made $3.5 million since release on New Year's Day.
But here, living in his childhood bedroom in Chapel Hill, in Brisbane's west, Klocek's mind couldn't be further from the fame.
"I think I need to move out," he jokes.
"I'm a big Star Wars nerd and I have all this Star Wars stuff that Mum has packed up and put in a cupboard," he laughs, "I'm like, 'how dare you take that down'.
"Mum has definitely redecorated my room but, I admit, it does look great, she has good taste.
"I think they just want me out of their hair."
The young star is as down-to-earth as they come.
He left Brisbane at 19 and after a four-year stint living in Melbourne and Sydney, Klocek moved back to Brisbane almost two years ago where he lives with his parents, Judy, 60, who works as a housekeeper, his dad, Roly, 64, a landscaper and his photographer brother, Daniel, 29.
It wasn't the plan to all be under the one roof but last year was not a year for plans. Klocek (and his brother) had hopes to move to the UK last year where he had "big things" in the works. Things, he says, that were career breakthrough type of big.
But when the pandemic hit, and it hit hard, he found himself where he started, at home with Mum and Dad in Brisbane with his Aunty Jane and Uncle Jim living just around the corner.
It was, and is, he says, a blessing.
"The home cooked meals are fantastic," he laughs.
"I'd ring my mum every day when I was living in Sydney and Melbourne so it's good to be able to talk to her in person. I also love walking into the next room, talking to my brother and playing Mario Kart like the man child I am."
Mario Kart tournaments aside, Klocek has made the most of what the year handed him.
"The year (2020) has been amazing for me but it's been very uncertain as I'm sure a lot of people felt," he says.
"You'll get work, or book work, and then you're not sure if it will go ahead or what it means or how long you will be away from family.
"It was a year full of real highs and lows … yes, opportunities fell away, a lot of international things, big career things, but hey, put it into perspective, I'm working and it's work I'm loving and I've got work on the horizon which is more than can be said for a lot of people."
Not just any work either, major movies including The Dry, which is screening now and Children of the Corn, based on Stephen King's novel, yet to be released.
Klocek was on the set of horror film Children of the Corn, starring US actor Elena Kampouris and directed by Kurt Wimmer (Equilibrium), early last year when the pandemic struck.
"We were shooting in NSW, it was the only film shooting in the world at the time and they managed to be the first film to put together a COVID-safe plan," he says, hoping the movie will be released sometime this year.
The Dry, which was filmed in rural Victoria, wrapped filming a couple of years ago but Klocek was overwhelmed with relief when it was finally released early this year.
"You are constantly hunting the next job to get some sort of notice for something you've done and for people to enjoy," he says.
"It's something people can sit down in the middle of a pandemic and watch and if it's going to bring happiness, that's why I do it, to tell stories."
Klocek couldn't believe his luck when he landed the role in The Dry, based on Australian author Jane Harper's wildly successful book, which has sold more than a million copies worldwide. "I was so excited," he recalls.
"When the casting director started giving me more information on the project, I was thinking 'this is a big deal … if I got this, I'd be working with Eric Bana' and I did get it and it was honestly the best experience."
"He was so down to earth, he's the sort of guy you can ask anything and you don't feel silly."
Klocek still pinches himself.
A boy who grew up in Brisbane, went to Kenmore State High School and is now a rising star on the cusp of big things. He's also the boy who is lucky to be alive.
In 2005, when Klocek was 10, he had a liver transplant, a consequence of being born with genetic liver disease. Four years earlier, his brother Daniel, who had the same condition, also had a liver transplant.
"Both Mum and Dad carried the rare gene and apparently they had one in four chances of having kids with the disease, they lucked out both times," Klocek says.
"Towards the last three years before my transplant, I started getting unwell and probably had another year (to live) maximum if I hadn't received the transplant. "My brother, maybe six months."
He knows how lucky he is and, he says, it's made him count his blessings.
"I don't take things for granted anymore, I do take acting work seriously but I don't take myself seriously," he says.
"When you're put in that position at a young age, your perspective on the world is changed.
"People used to describe me as an old man in a young person's body."
It was traumatic, says Klocek, who not only experienced his own pain but watched his brother fight for his life as well.
But of the things that helped him cope, he says acting was a welcome distraction.
"I was the drama kid … I wasn't particularly sporty, it was drama and academia for me," he says.
"I was very focused on getting straight As to the point where I was pulling my hair out in the middle of the night.
"I realised I was doing that for nothing though because all I wanted to do was act, and that's all I still want to do."
A savvy drama teacher spotted his talent in high school and suggested he join Queensland Theatre's Youth Ensemble Program, which he did and never looked back.
"I picked up an agent through that and started getting work, now I've come full circle and I'm going to be doing a show with them in 2021."
He's since starred in Nowhere Boys, Patricia Moore and appeared in 2017's Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge.
Later this year, he'll return to the Queensland Theatre as he takes on the role of Eli Bell in the stage adaptation of Brisbane author and journalist Trent Dalton's hugely successful debut novel, Boy Swallows Universe.
A role, he admits, he never would have landed if he had not been stuck in Brisbane.
Klocek's barely taken a breath.
His positivity is infectious and he's full of spirit that shines like a glorious sunbeam. He's excited and so he should be.
It's been a tumultuous 12 months but, in what we'll come to learn about Klocek, his glass is always half-full.
He could've lost hope when the arts industry crumbled under COVID-19 restrictions and international opportunities slipped away.
But that's not Klocek. He's a hustler and, he says, you have to be when you never know when your next paycheck is coming.
"I wish sometimes I could relax," he muses.
"I wish I could just enjoy the moment but I'm always pushing to do better, to do something different which is something I'm proud of but I think my family would also prefer if I wasn't always pushing."
In that overzealous and curious mind, where he chases dreams of Hollywood and stardom, he's also just a bloke from Brisbane who loves eating dinner at home with mum and dad.
"The goal is to keep filling out my tax return as an actor, which I've managed to do for five years now and I'm very proud of that," he smiles.
The Dry is in cinemas now
Originally published as Brisbane's next rising star: Meet the young gun being compared to Hemsworth