Actress Sara Lindsey

Actress Sara Lindsey posses in the backyard of her parents home in Dorsey Search. A 2007 graduate of Wilde Lake High School, Lindsey has a role in the new Matt Damon movie, "Promised Land." (Photo by Nate Pesce / December 23, 2012)

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.

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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.