Think of it as the Ryan Gosling plan.
Start your feature film career with a role in a Nicholas Sparks movie, where you play that teen hunk from the wrong side of the tracks. (Is there any other side?)
Step two: Make sure that the rich girl in the lead really loves you but settles for the rich, spineless, far more ugly guy who believes in a sexless marriage.
Step three: Work the land or build something … shirtless.
Brace yourself: Luke Bracey has arrived. The Aussie hunk stars as Dawson (!) in “The Best of Me,” opening Friday. He plays that high school senior with the abusive father who is obviously the right guy for the prettiest girl in school, Amanda (Liana LIberato). Can their love survive his father, who wants to keep Dawson down, or her parents, who know she can find a better match?
“Dawson is a kid you really root for because he grew up rough,” says Bracey. “He’s not too sure of himself, but deep down he’s a good dude.”
Playing an abused teen was something he took seriously. “It really makes you feel for those kids out there suffering. Not everything in our information age is on the surface. People are still dealing with things behind closed doors.
“Some people are better actors than they think they are and wear masks in their lives,” he says.
The film shows their love story as teens and also adults, where Dawson is played by James Marsden and Amanda by Michelle Monaghan. To that end, Bracey worked with Marsden to make sure their Dawsons matched up and withstood the test of time. “James is from Oklahoma and he has that Midwestern influence,” says Bracey, who hails from Sydney, Australia. “We had to make sure we connected, so the 20 years that this couple spends in limbo makes sense and our accents connected, too.”
Yes, they take the rocky road to love, which begs the question: Was Bracey clueless about love when he was younger? “I went to an all boys high school in Australia. There were a couple of girls’ schools nearby and we’d meet up with the girls on the weekends. I can’t say I had as checkered a background as Dawson. I didn’t go through quite as much and I wasn’t as sensitive.”
Bracey, who played Leighton Meester’s hunk in “Monte Carlo,” says going through the motions of movie love scenes isn’t easy. “You have to make sure it looks pretty while you’re also truthful and committed. Meanwhile, someone is saying to you as you kiss, ‘Move your shoulder to the right so we can see her face.’ ”
This isn’t a problem on his next flick, a remake of “Point Break,” due out next year. Bracey plays the Keanu Reeves role of Johnny Utah. “We have two months more to shoot and we’ve been filming for five months all over the world,” he says. “I call it a reincarnation of Johnny Utah.
“What I can say is everything is a step up from the original. And it’s great as an actor to be a part of something that’s so adored.”
The film’s surfing wasn’t a stretch. “I grew up on the beaches of Sydney,” he says. “ My dad put me on a surf board before I could walk. But the movie isn’t just surfing. It’s all sorts of extreme sports including wing suiting, skateboarding and motocross. We have the world’s best in all of those sports working with us on the film.
“These aren’t stunts in the normal way. It’s not all the time when you have the world’s best snow droppers going down huge vertical drops for a film and the world’s best wing suiters doing the most extreme wing suiting that has ever been done,” he says. “I’m watching these guys and pinching myself that I’m actually in this movie.”