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SYDNEY - New Zealand actor Martin Henderson knows all about rejection -- and so does his mate Heath Ledger.

It was this common bond that resulted in Ledger, a West Australian-born actor whose star was on the rise in Hollywood, lending Henderson some cash when he'd hit rock bottom in Los Angeles.

Henderson, who lived in Australia for three years and scored a role in Home and Away and feature film Kick, had just moved from New York to Los Angeles and was broke.

Audition after audition, the door was slammed in his face and, with no money, Henderson was doubting the career path he'd chosen.

"He (Ledger) was a great support," the 32-year-old Henderson recently told AAP while visiting family in New Zealand for the summer holidays.

"It can be very tough that town (Los Angeles) and there were many moments when he and I would talk about it and he could relate. It was so good to have a mate that could relate to it.

"He'd just spent two years going through all the bullshit of Los Angeles he could understand."

It was the year 2000 and Ledger was making a name for himself in Hollywood after scoring a major break in American war drama The Patriot opposite Mel Gibson.

Henderson says Ledger's generosity saved him leaving the Hollywood lifestyle and acting grind behind.

"He helped me when I moved to LA from New York," he said.

"By the end of that year, I was just broke and on the bones of my arse. He was very supportive and generous, giving me some money that he got on the movie (The Patriot)".

Ledger's goodwill appears to have paid off.

Buzz surrounding Henderson's acting ability suggests he's the "next big thing".

In February, Australians will see Henderson in action in the war film, Flyboys, and later this year in the political drama The Battle in Seattle, in which he features opposite Woody Harrelson.

In Flyboys, a film based on a true story, Henderson plays young fighter pilot Reed Cassidy.

"You are always invested in a film, but there is always a different feeling you get when you are portraying a character that is based on real life and you are re-telling events that actually took place," Henderson said.

"One to do with the war or anything epic like that, that is ingrained in people's minds and there is a responsibility to it. It's a hard line to walk, because Hollywood is about entertainment first, but you want to be true to the story.

"Everything is heightened and dramatised and it's about finding a balance where you are true to the movie and true to the people who the events are based on."

Having also starred in a Bollywood-style musical Jane Austen adaption, Bride and Prejudice, by Bend it Like Beckham director Gurinder Chadha, Henderson's film credits are diverse.

"I think the buzz of acting is playing people different to you and, for me, that means traversing all genres," he said.

"Because of that I have a bit of a diverse resume at this point. I have done the action stuff too, but I don't fully connect with that genre. There are many sides to all of us. I like dramatic stuff and I have a goofball side too. I like to do comedy and off-beat things as much as something really, really serious."

But, despite his recent success, Henderson says he regularly considers quitting acting.

"Every six months," he laughs.

"I have seriously gone through moments of: 'What am I going to do? What should I do?'

"I find it (acting) a very painful profession because you are never entirely happy with what you do and that can be boring after 18 years.

"But, to be honest, there is nothing I feel that connected or passionate about that would take me away from acting."

The only career choice that came remotely close to his passion for acting was business studies.

Henderson, who was first discovered at age 12 starring in a New Zealand children's drama series, was enrolled into university to study business.

At the same time he was recruited as a teenager in local New Zealand soap Shortland Street.

"I had always taken my studies pretty seriously and did quite well," he remembers.

"I could have started university and got a "proper career" or kept acting. I chose acting."

After completing a three-year stint on Shortland Street, Henderson moved to Australia where he featured in short-lived soap Echo Point and the drama series Sweat, a show about aspiring athletes which also starred Ledger.

As well as convincing a young Ledger to move from Perth to Sydney to pursue acting seriously, Henderson also won an Australian Film Institute (AFI) Award nomination for his supporting role in Kick.

Henderson has a straight answer when asked about the value of beginning his career in TV soaps.

"I certainly learned what I don't want to do, I figured that out pretty early on," he said.

"It was a funny time for me in Australia, because I was unsure as to whether I wanted to keep acting. I just felt I was drifting from job to job. I felt quite directionless. I was at work one day on a show and I thought, 'I am not enjoying this'.

"That was my turning point".

After this realisation, Henderson packed his bags and headed to New York. The rest is history.

Right now, the down-to-earth actor doesn't care for fame, he just wants to continue his passion and portray challenging characters.

"The whole point for me going to America and working over there was because I wanted to see how good I could get," he said.

"I wanted to work with the best people and realise my own potential and I think that's still very true."

- AAP