The Echo of Thunder (1998)
Abandoning notions of becoming a fashion designer, Melbourne resident Emily Jane Browning made her first film appearance in TV movie Echo Of Thunde r. “I got serious about acting when I was eight,” the actress notes. She received support from a friend’s dad who was in the acting business, and had been impressed with her “ditsy” performance in a school play.
Adapted from the children’s novel Thunderwith by Libby Hathorn, Thunder aired on the Hallmark Channel and was shot on location in Victoria, Australia. Browning played the role of Opal, the young daughter of a farmer.
Action-Star Potential? Not just yet.
High Flyers (1999)
Browning’s next role came a year later in this little-seen Australian TV series. Fifty-two half-hour episodes were filmed, with the show revolving around a collection of kids who discover their own individual talents thanks to a children’s circus.
As Phoebe, Browning plays a town newcomer who struggles to fit in with her new environment. But when she and her brother discover the circus, she finds herself opening up to new adventures.
Action-Star Potential? At one point she’s loaded into a play canon ready to be fired – so that’s a hell yes.
More TV work came along with this sci-fi children’s series, which is set in a post-apocalyptic Earth that has been rocked by a comet. Teenager Noah lives in an underground research station and accidentally discovers time travel, which he uses to repopulate the Earth’s devastated animal populace.
Browning pitched up in the show’s third and final season as a character called Cleo.
Action-Star Potential? The outfit screams superhero, that’s for sure.
Halifax f.p: Playing God (2001)
Browning sticks with Aussie TV, landing a role in this ongoing series of TV movies. The films followed Dr Jane Halifax, a forensic psychiatrist working in Melbourne who investigates cases from the point of view of a victim/suspect’s mental state.
The first feature-length film aired in 1994, with Playing God the final instalment. Browning was lauded for her role, though by the time she turned up the concept had pretty much run its course.
Action-Star Potential? Still waiting for those action star signs to hit full throttle.
Another TV mini-series, this drama was based on the life of Marilyn Monroe and starred Poppy Montgomery as the breathy bombshell.
Blending together fiction and real events from Monroe’s life, the film follows her teenage marriage to first husband James Dougherty and her later unions with Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller. Browning appears in a supporting role.
Action-Star Potential? Still nothing, though we’re sure Emily was making notes while watching Montgomery’s performance.
Something In The Air (2000-2001)
Still no mainstream movies, as Browning appears in five episodes of this soap opera. It only aired for two seasons, totalling 320 episodes.
Set in the rural town of Emu Springs, Something In The Air failed to catch alight the same way that Neighbours and Home And Away did. Emily appears as the ferret-loving Alicia, who’s convinced the world would be a better place if there were more ferrets in it – and less people.
Action-Star Potential? She’s definitely strong-willed and defiant here – the seeds are being sewn.
The Man Who Sued God (2001)
Finally, Browning starts making her way into the big league, appearing opposite Billy Connolly and Judy Davis in this Australian drama.
Connolly plays a disillusioned lawyer who’s tired of the corruption within the judicial system, and quits the business. When his fishing boat is destroyed by lightning, he decides to sue God for damages. Browning pitches up as his wee daughter Rebecca.
Action-Star Potential? It’s not really that kind of a movie, to be honest.
Blue Heelers (2000-2002)
And we’re back on telly again, Browning lending her talents to nine episode of this seriously long-running Aussie police procedural. The show lasted 13 seasons, and pumped out 510 episodes of Victoria-set bobby action.
Specific details of Browning’s involvement in the show are scarce, but from what we can gather, she plays Hayley, who Sgt. Theresa 'Tess' Gallagher looks after (we’re presuming through a child cruely case). But Tess loses Hayley when she returns to her real family.
Action-Star Potential? Plenty of drama, she’s definitely going in the right direction.
Ghost Ship (2002)
Browning made her American film debut with this murky horror movie, having apparently learned a decent American accent by religiously watching Sesame Street as a child.
She plays Katie, a little girl who’s aboard the Antonia Graza ship in 1962 when everybody onboard is killed during a fight for gold. When a modern salvage crew discover the ship’s wreckage, they discover Katie still there – now in ghostly form. Handily, Katie is able to show them what happened to those onboard.
Action-Star Potential? Emily’s put through the wringer in this one, definite little action star emerging.
Darkness Falls (2003)
Emily stays with American horror films, appearing in this critically-mauled debut effort from Battle: Los Angeles director Jonathan Liebesman. The plot centres on the fable of the tooth fairy, re-telling it from a decidedly horror angle.
Browning plays a young version of the character of Caitlin (played when older by Emma Caulfield), whose friend Kyle is taken away as a child when he’s accused of killing his mother. Twelve years later, she seeks him out for help with her dark-phobic brother.
Action-Star Potential? Unfortunately Caulfield gets most of the action here.
Ned Kelly (2003)
“My biggest highlight was meeting Heath Ledger and Orlando Bloom,” Browning said at the time of filming Ned Kelly . “They were both really, really nice.”
Fellow Aussie Ledger played the titular Kelly, who forms a gang of Irish Australians when tensions between the Irish and the English escalate in 19th century Australia. Browning appeared briefly as Grace Kelly.
Action-Star Potential? This one’s pretty light on action, but she does have a very Hitler-like voodoo doll.
After The Deluge (2003)
Browning returns to Australian TV for another made-for-TV movie, this time starring opposite Hugo Weaving and David Wenham. The story revolves around the men in the Kirby family, whose lives are all in different states of disrepair.
Deluge was commended for its portrayal of family life, and in particular the way it showed how much of an influence a father can have on his sons.
Action-Star Potential? This is pure drama again, no room for action here.
Lemony Snickets A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)
“Emily is a classic case of somewhere, somehow you find the actress you are supposed to find,” said Snicket director Brad Silberling. “She was 14 going on 42. She’s intelligent, articulate and very serene.”
Browning gets her first proper mainstream gig in this book adaptation, which sees her starring as Violet, one of three children sent to live with a strange relative when their parents are killed. Annoyingly, the relative (Jim Carrey) wants to kill them for their money.
Action-Star Potential? Browning boasts brains and brawn in this adap, the action star is emerging.
A dark comedy exploring death and love in a family falling apart, Stranded stars Emily as Penny, a young girl who refuses to go to school after the death of her mother fractures her family. Fighting with her sister, Penny turns to stealing and drug-taking for solace.
A thoughtful Australian drama, Stranded is only 52 minutes long but is crammed full of emotion. Browning’s portrayal of Penny was particularly celebrated. The same year, she appeared in the music video of Evermore’s ‘Light Surrounding You’.
Action-Star Potential? Maybe not action, but Browning definitely proved her acting mettle.
The Uninvited (2009)
Browning took a break from acting in order to complete her education at Eltham High School, and concluded her studies in November 2006. A few months later in February 2007 she became the ambassador of the L’Oreal Fashion Festival.
With The Uninvited , she made her return to movies. Originally auditioning for the role of Alex, Browning was eventually cast as Anna – this despite the fact that the character was meant to be 14, though Browning was 20 during filming. A remake of Korean horror A Tale Of Two Sisters , the film received a mixed response.
Action-Star Potential? Brain action more than physical action.
Sucker Punch (2011)
Rendering herself almost unrecognisable, Browning dyes her brunette locks platinum blonde and shrugs into all manner of skin-tight outfits to head up Zack Snyder’s ambitious action film. She plays Baby Doll, who’s slammed up in an asylum, and escapes her wretched existence by daydreaming extravagant action sequences.
Browning trained alongside her co-stars for 12 weeks. Released in the States last week, the film has divided critics and was beaten to the box office top spot by the second Diary Of A Wimpy Kid movie.
Action-Star Potential? Browning fulfils her action star potential, but where does she go from here?