By Cathy Carter
12:43 PM EST, January 7, 2013
Late last month, Tom Cruise heroically came to Sara Lindsey's rescue. More recently, Matt Damon offered the Howard County native a boatload of money to allow his corporation to lease her land.
Granted, these events happen in the movies and not in real life, but it's all pretty exciting just the same.
"I have been super lucky," says Lindsey of her eventful first year in Hollywood.
With pivotal roles in two high-profile releases, Cruise's action flick "Jack Reacher," and "Promised Land," opening on Friday, Jan. 3, the 23 year-old actress seems poised to make an even greater big-screen splash in 2013.
The rising star was able to make it home for the holidays, but was back on a plane the day after Christmas to take care of business in her new home base of Los Angeles.
"I'm always auditioning and waiting for my next project," said Lindsey during a Christmas Eve phone conversation from her parent's home in Ellicott City.
That kind of drive and determination wasn't always so evident. When Lindsey, known as Sara Trapnell when she was a student at Wilde Lake High School, was first a member of the school's drama club, her attention was often directed elsewhere.
"I had the typical teen angst over boys and whatever my friends were involved with," she remembers with a laugh.
By junior year though, Lindsey's high school dramas were playing out on stage, not in her social life.
"I vividly remember being in a rehearsal one day and I must have been fooling around," she recalls. "My drama teacher pulled me aside and told me that I had to start focusing and really working hard if I wanted to succeed."
The pep talk had its intended effect.
"I realized at that point what it was going to take, and I started getting really serious," she said.
Several parts at Toby's
Soon after, Lindsey was winning leading roles in such Wilde Lake High School productions as "Grease" and "Beauty and the Beast." She also performed in several plays at Toby's Dinner Theatre in Columbia and was an active member of the Maryland All State Choir. Then there were all those singing and dancing lessons. Luckily, Lindsey's parents approved of her extracurricular activities.
"They were always toting me around to one thing or another," says the youngest of four children and only daughter of Ellicott City physicians Carol Braun and Charles Flexner.
"They were always supportive and encouraging. My mom is probably my biggest fan."
Even so, acting was never allowed to trump algebra when Lindsey was growing up.
"School was always the number one priority," says the 2007 Wilde Lake High graduate. "My parents always stressed to me that I was going to get an education and I was expected to do well."
Lindsey went on to study drama at Pittsburgh's prestigious Carnegie Mellon University and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 2011. That same year she landed her first movie role in "Super 8," produced by Steven Spielberg.
After getting her diploma, Lindsey packed her bags and headed to LA to pursue her professional career. Within one year of graduating, the actress had landed roles in four feature films.
Last September, she played a principal's assistant in the drama "Won't Back Down," a film about two mothers trying to transform a failing inner city school. The following month, the actress was a sexy college coed in the Halloween themed comedy "Fun Size." In "Jack Reacher," she plays a woman whose abusive boyfriend is taught a lesson in manners by Cruise.
"It's exciting to be able to do such a variety of roles," Lindsey notes. "It's so easy in Hollywood to get put into a certain category."
In "Promised Land," Lindsey has her most prominent role to date as Claire Allen, a single mother trying to do what's best for her young son.
"You can track my character throughout the whole movie," says Lindsey. "She's an integral part of the story."
"Promised Land," directed by two time Academy award nominee Gus Van Sant, is set in a rural Pennsylvania town hit hard by the economic decline. Matt Damon is a salesman for a natural gas company who arrives in town to buy drilling rights from local residents. The process of hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" is a controversial method which has recently emerged as a subject of heated debate.
A 'phenomenal' script
In the movie, the townspeople have to decide what's best for the community.
"The messages in the movie are incredibly powerful and very topical but it's also a story about people and relationships and love," says Lindsey. "My character has to make some tough decisions. Her choice could turn things around for her family but it comes with a sacrifice. The script is really phenomenal."
With its impressive cast and contemporary story line, "Promised Land" is expected to be a big draw at the box office. It's a good thing then that Lindsey auditioned for the movie despite warnings from several friends.
"They told me not to get my hopes up because they thought I was too young to play a mom," the actress recalls.
That assessment seemed as though it might be on target, even after Lindsay got a callback to meet with the film's director.
"I auditioned two or three times with the casting people before I was asked to audition for Gus," recalls the actress. "After I finished, all he just said was OK, great, thanks. As I was leaving I was thinking to myself that I definitely did not get the part."
But as she was heading for the door, Van Sant called Lindsey back into the room and asked if he could take her picture. Several weeks later, she got a call from the casting director.
"I was at the beach when I found out I got the part," says Lindsey. "I was like, 'Oh my God,' I starting jumping up and down. My friends were a few feet away getting food and they saw me. They knew I was waiting for the call and they came running over and we all did a joyous dance right on the beach."
Filming for "Promised Land" wrapped in September and Lindsey is currently doing promotion and attending some of her first red carpet events. It's a heady time, but the life of a Hollywood newcomer certainly has its challenges. For every part she gets, Lindsey may hear dozens of no's. How does she manage to navigate all the ups and downs?
"I really try not to be too hard on myself," she says. "There is a lot of auditioning and a lot of not getting jobs. I just do the best that I can and try to get my name out there. You never what kinds of things are going to catch."
Additionally, Lindsey also is a writer, so when she's not working on a film or auditioning, she collaborates with colleagues on screenplays and independent projects.
"Keeping busy is really important, not only for your mental health but to keep up your chops," she says. "You can't sit around waiting for the phone to ring. A lot of my friends struggle with that and sort of place their worth on whether they're getting work or not. You can't do that. You have to know that you are awesome and amazing just the same. You can't doubt yourself."