“We made a real film about bondage,” says Mark Webber. “It was a conscious decision on my part for ours to be the anti-Fifty Shades of Grey movie. I wanted to play against the idea of another pretty traditional study of sexuality.”
The film Webber’s talking up is The Ever After, a raw-and-relentless study of the friction that surfaces between two damaged spouses once the honeymoon period ends. Directed by Webber, it stars the real-life husband-and-wife duo of Webber and actress Teresa Palmer (also co-writer) as a couple whose own personal demons begin to creep into their relationship and threaten to tear it to shreds. Thomas (Webber) is a hip fashion photographer who finds himself constantly tempted by his stunning subjects, while Ava (Palmer), when she’s not battling severe depression, spends most of her time at home raising their child.
As far as the Fifty Shades comparison goes, Thomas and Ava enjoy a dom-sub dance in the bedroom—one that is far more risqué than the light tush-slapping administered by Mr. Grey. One of the first scenes of the film looks like a rape, with Thomas furiously taking Ava from behind and her screaming in pain. Then, the camera turns on her face and we see the ecstasy washed over it, followed by her plea for more, lending its audience an air of relief that the act is consensual. Later, the tables are turned with Eva dressing up as a cop and forcing her sub-hubby to do her bidding.
Things begin to spiral southward when Thomas is raped by a male acquaintance at a cocaine-and-models party gone terribly awry. He retreats emotionally, while Ava, struggling with her disease and Thomas’s debilitating distance, finds solace in a kind, older shop owner, played by Melissa Leo. The film is buoyed by appearances by Rosario Dawson, Moby, Joshua Leonard, and Scott Mescudi, a.k.a. Kid Cudi.
The Ever After is the opening salvo of a massive 2015 for Palmer, who will star in no less than four movie this year, including the female lead in the Point Break remake, an important part in Terrence Malick’s Hollywood-skewering Knight of Cups, and the heist-thriller Triple Nine, alongside an all-star cast of Kate Winslet, Woody Harrelson, Aaron Paul, and Chiwetel Ejiofor.
While things seem to be going swimmingly for the 28-year-old Aussie actress now, early on in her career she was the constant victim of bad luck.
A one-time journalism student in her native Adelaide, Palmer changed careers at 17 when she was cast in the gritty Australian film 2:37.
“I was raped and pregnant with my brother’s baby,” says Palmer. “I had no idea how to act and had never done anything before besides a Subway commercial where all I did was pour fries on a sandwich. I had to have the make-up woman blow tears in my eyes. By the end of it, I could just put on some Enya and cry on my own.”
The film was accepted into the Cannes Film Festival where Palmer received plaudits for her courageous performance. Agents and manager were also down in the Côte d'Azur, and she landed representation, planning a two-week trip to Los Angeles in 2007 for auditions. While in Tinseltown, Palmer didn’t sleep for much of two weeks, shuffling between auditions, line memorizations, and dialect coaching sessions to perfect an American accent. Still, she somehow landed three plum roles—in The Grudge 2, Jumper, and The Lookout.
Then things began to fall apart.
Palmer moved to Los Angeles, and had a conflict with The Lookout, which turned into a critically acclaimed film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt. She and co-star Tom Sturridge were also let go as the two leads of Doug Liman’s Jumper, replaced by Hayden Christenson and Rachel Bilson. “They cast older and more famous people,” says Palmer. “So we got fired from Jumper.”
If that weren’t enough, Palmer also played the female lead in the comedy Take Me Home Tonight, opposite Topher Grace, Anna Faris, and Chris Pratt. She thought it’d be a hit, but it was shelved for 4 years by distributor Universal and eventually released with little fanfare. She was also cast in a pair of George Miller projects—Mad Max: Fury Road and The Justice League, but had to drop out of the former due to delays, and the latter was put in turnaround.
“A part of me saw the [Mad Max] trailer and was like, ‘Nooooo!’” she says. “There were those, and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and I Am Number Four both bombed, and those were meant to be trilogies. It was a beautiful experience for me to just let go and realize that there are no guarantees in this business.”
Her luck changed in September 2012. Palmer caught the trailer for Webber’s film The End of Love and tweeted praise for it, urging her 124,000 followers to check it out. Webber was shooting the movie 13 Sins in New Orleans, and woke up to a surge of tweets. He sent Palmer a private message requesting her email, writing, “I’m an admirer of yours, and I’m so honored that you tweeted me.”
What followed was 40 days of back-and-forth emails, with the two actors realizing just how much they had in common. “We decided to only email and not hear each other’s voice until we met in person,” says Palmer.
In lieu of hearing each other’s voices, they’d fall asleep watching each other’s interview clips on YouTube over and over again.
“About 20 emails in, I realized, ‘Shit, this is my soulmate,’” says Webber. “And I told her I loved her.”
“We decided to get pregnant in our emails,” chimes in Palmer. “We were like, ‘This is happening.’ We are husband and wife.”
They were married and, at their wedding, read several of the gushy emails aloud to their friends and family, including Webber’s claims that he just loved horses and dogs (both baloney). After all the marital festivities, the two were eager to collaborate together on what Webber calls “a brutal love story” that “turns gender roles on their heads a bit.” They mined ideas from their lives, including Webber’s bout with addiction and Palmer’s family history of mental illness.
“I drew all of my inspiration from people who are very close to me in my family who have mental illness,” says Palmer. “My mother has schizoaffective disorder, which is essentially bipolar with schizophrenic tendencies.”
Her zom-com Warm Bodies came out, and was both a critical and commercial hit, with Palmer drawing comparisons to Kristen Stewart—including by her co-star in the film, Nicholas Hoult.
“Everyone says that!” says Palmer of the KStew comparisons. “Nick would say that to me, and then I was at the Met Ball a couple of years ago and Kristen came up to me and said, ‘Dude, we really do look so much alike. And everyone tells me that.’ And I said, ‘We do! Everyone tells me that, too!’”
Then, eight months into Palmer and Webber’s relationship, and with Palmer several weeks pregnant, they began filming The Ever After. The first scene they shot was the aforementioned angry sex scene. After they shot the first take, Webber got down on one knee and proposed using his character’s ring—since the one he was custom-making for her wasn’t quite ready.
“It was really apropos,” Webber says. “We were filming this raw scene about a couple and it just reinforced why I love her.”
Their son, Bodhi, was born after filming wrapped. “I was unsure of how I’d feel about going back to work after I’d had a baby,” says Palmer. But Webber gave her a series of lively pep talks to raise her confidence. She ended up booking the trio of films Knight of Cups, Triple Nine, and Point Break. The final film was an incredible coincidence considering that the title character’s name is “Bodhi.”
“He was born before I was cast. It’s crazy,” says Palmer. “In my first meeting with the director, I said, ‘You will not believe this, but my son is named Bodhi.’”
According to Palmer, Point Break—a remake of Kathryn Bigelow’s 1991 action flick starring Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze—isn’t as homoerotic as the original, and is a “re-envisioning of the story set in the international world.” The film shot in Italy, Tahiti, Austria, Berlin, Mexico, and Venezuela, and Palmer says she “can’t remember if anyone jumps out of a plane or not” in it. What she does reveal is that they play a gang of eco-terrorists called “The Wolfpack” who are “radical revolutionaries” that are very passionate for their cause.
When the visually arresting trailer for Malick’s Knight of Cups dropped last month, the Internet lost its collective marbles. The film boasts an all-star cast of Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, and Natalie Portman, with lensing by Oscar-winner Emanuel Lubezki (Gravity), and, of course, Malick at the helm. Palmer auditioned for a role that eventually went to Freida Pinto, but then received a phone call the day before shooting saying, “Terry wants to see if you’d like to come be in one scene in the movie. You’ll be with Christian Bale, and you change the course of his life.”
Palmer jumped at the opportunity, and what was supposed to be one day on set turned into 9 days of shooting, with Lubezki giving Palmer and Bale GoPro cameras and having them film each other at the Santa Monica Beach, as well as several scenes in Las Vegas.
“I look at my life, and I just feel incredibly blessed,” says Palmer. “I met a man—he’s my husband—I have a child, we made a movie together, I’ve been working a lot, and I bought a house in Beachwood Canyon, which was always my dream. The last few years have felt like home to me, and it took me a long time to get to that place.”