Australian-born actor Mojean Aria brought the house to tears while accepting the 9th Annual Heath Ledger Scholarship on June 1 at the Sunset Marquis Hotel in West Hollywood, California. The award, which was funded by Ledger’s family in 2001, honors emerging talent from Australia.
“I want the burden and responsibility to represent Heath Ledger,” Aria began his speech. “This really is a full circle moment for me.”
“I met Heath Ledger when I was about 12 years old. It was at a screening in Sydney at Fox Studios,” he continued. “I remember sitting at a theater and Heath came out to a Q&A. And, I had no idea about anything then. I remember his energy. I didn’t know anyone that was like that, anyone that was that open. I think about that moment because as Heath’s career went on, I was like, ‘Oh, I was in a room with that guy.’”
Aria, who now lives in Los Angeles, was honored for his work in the independent film Brox Bull, where he played Jake LaMotta, a character first made famous by Robert De Niro in Raging Bull.
“His sensitivity, I know now that word is called aura, and that kind of led me down a path to explore different sides of myself,” he said. “And, understand that you can be that open and that charismatic. And, you don’t have to be a tough guy all the time.”
Aria went on to thank Ledger’s family and those nominated in his category before giving thanks to this mother, which prompted the actor to get very emotional. Standing by his side was Ledger’s father, Kim Ledger, who comforted him with a sweet hug.
“I have to thank my mother because she comes from Iran. And, she came from a very low class Iranian family,” he said. “She sacrificed a lot for us in Australia for us to have a future.”
“She actually sneaked me into that screening that I met Heath Ledger at. So, I have to extend appreciation to her,” he concluded.
Aria’s scholarship includes a $10,000 cash fund and private acting tuition from the Lisa Robertson and Nancy Banks Acting Studio, among other prizes. This year’s judging panel included Naomi Watts, Ryan Murphy, Gary Oldman, Bruna Papandrea, Kimberly Peirce, Emile Sherman, Jacqueline McKenzie, Gregor Jordan and Ronna Kress.