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Yesterday from Teresa Palmer's Twitter

"I have to not take myself too seriously and I have to realise that if it is meant to be, it will be."
Teresa Palmer on her next three movies

Teresa Palmer’s international profile has risen steadily since her attention-grabbing debut in the controversial low-budget drama 2:37.

But the complexity of the movie roles she has been offered hasn’t necessarily kept pace with the size of the film’s budget.

“The first role I played was a rape victim who was pregnant with her brother’s baby,” the 26-year-old actor said during a brief stopover in Sydney for the premiere of Australian thriller Wish You Were Here, in which she plays Joel Edgerton’s sister-in-law.

In terms of dramatic opportunities, it was always going to be difficult to top that.

After relocating to Los Angeles in 2006, Palmer landed a couple of plum Disney roles – as Adam Sandler’s dream girl in Bedtime Stories and Jay Baruchel’s romantic interest in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

Then she got to test her action girl mettle in the sci-fi thriller I Am Number Four.

“I really embraced that genre. I never thought I would, but it was a great role for me. I loved Number 6,” Palmer says of her leather-clad avenger.

“She was so empowering. Sassy, enigmatic, I really sank my teeth into that role. I got supremely fit – I did martial arts for three months before the movie, and weight training. I loved the physical challenge.”

Sadly, D.J. Caruso’s film failed to perform at the box office. A planned sequel, in which Palmer had a bigger role, was canned. But when one door closes, another opens.

That gap in Palmer’s schedule meant she was available when actor-turned-director Kieran Darcy-Smith came calling to offer her a part in her first Australian film since December Boys, with Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe.

Palmer had become friends with Joel and Nash Edgerton after auditioning for a role that eventually got cut out of The Square.

It was through them that she met Darcy-Smith, an old mate of Joel’s and one of the founding members of their film-making collective, Blue Tongue Films.

He sent her the screenplay for Wish You Were Here, co-written with his actor wife Felicity Price, and Palmer said “yes”, even before she had consulted her agent.

The actor had no qualms about giving up the luxuries of life on a multimillion-dollar Hollywood production for the low-budget first feature shot in Cambodia and Sydney.

“It was a real guerrilla-style shoot (in Cambodia). We hardly wore any make-up. The clothes in the poster, they are all my own. It was very much that way of film-making.

“It was like being part of a close-knit family. I had forgotten how that felt. When you are doing these big $200 million films, you feel more like a puppet.”

Palmer says it was not the rudimentary conditions that pushed her buttons, but the psychology of her character, who finds herself in a very dark place after her boyfriend mysteriously disappears on holiday in Asia.

“She’s the antagonist in a way,” she says. “I try to play her in a way that the audience can understand where she is coming from. That she has just made some really irresponsible decisions. That was a bigger challenge than shooting it.”

In Hollywood, most actors have a “what if” list, roles that slipped from their grasp because of bad timing or financial imperatives. In Palmer’s case, that list includes Jumper, The Power of Six and the George Miller films Justice League of America and Mad Max 4.

But she refuses to be defined by the roles that got away.

“I came to peace with letting that opportunity go,” she says, when asked if she is sad not to be part of the Mad Max sequel.

Palmer’s Australian connection continues into her next film, AWOL, a romantic drama set during the Vietnam War, in which she stars opposite The Hunger Games’ Liam Hemsworth.

“I loved working with Liam. And my character is a strong woman with great morals,” she says.

“I started off doing dramatic work and I feel like that is my niche. When you first get to America, you have to play the girl a few times to raise your profile. Those are the opportunities you get.

“But I am now at a point in my career where I have decided to step back from that and go back to my roots. I like dark material. I like being challenged. That’s way more inspiring to me.”

Which is why Palmer fought so hard for her role in the romantic horror film Warm Bodies, opposite Nicholas Hoult and John Malkovich.

“So many of the characters written for women are one-dimensional,” she says. “You have to sift through hundreds of scripts to find something that has a real edge.”

Palmer says Warm Bodies was very different from anything she had read before.

“It’s so romantic. It’s set in this post-apocalyptic world and it’s about a zombie who feels trapped in this life. I knew I had to be a part of it. I fought so hard to get that role. I did so many auditions. I was so happy when I got the phone call to say I had got it.”

After completing three films back to back, Palmer is currently “between projects”.

“I’m reading things and trying to be patient,” she says. “I’m the sort of person who likes to work, but I want to make sure that what I am doing is something special, something I feel connected to. I haven’t found that yet.”