Sorcerer's Apprentice star Teresa Palmer leaves behind some awkward years as she heads up the Hollywood starlet ranks, writes Jacqueline Smith.

It's hard to believe Teresa Palmer was less than a babe at school, but she insists she did her time as the nerdy kid.

"I was so dorky up until I was about 14 or 15 and started to get a little bit cooler, but I was a socks and sandals girl. I would wear big frilly socks with sandals and all the kids would tease me."

Having dealt with her own awkward stage, Palmer says she was able to identify with the nerdy hero of her latest film the The Sorcerer's Apprentice. Physics geek Dave Stuttler (Jay Baruchel) has been trying to forget about the day he blew his chances with his crush Becky Barnes. That was the same day some guy called Balthazar told him he had been chosen by Merlin to save the world from evil ... and the day he was sent to a psychologist for help.

When, more than a decade on, he bumps into Becky at New York University, he pulls out all the stops for a second chance - and this time he has physics and magic on his side.

"It's sort of the nerdy guy gets the girl, and it's very sweet and endearing. I think a lot of women are going to fall in love with [Baruchel] in this movie. Nerd physicists are going to start getting some action all around the world," Palmer says.

She insists the story is similar to something she went through as a teenager. She had a crush on a guy through her entire schooling and didn't think she stood a chance, but then he ended up being her first boyfriend when she was 15. "I had been crushing out on him for years and years but he never noticed me. Not until I was a little bit older and I grew some boobs," she says.

It's funny how things work out - these days the 24-year-old Australian actress is turning heads in Hollywood and has two other films due for release in the next year - I Am Number Four, with Glee actress Dianna Agron, and Kids of America, with Anna Faris.

Palmer says she fell into acting almost by accident, when she was "randomly" asked to be in an 18-year-old's first film Wolf Creek, shot in Adelaide. It went to Cannes and she became famous.

Hollywood came as a surprise, and is rather a large step from dressing up as a Strawberry Shortcake doll and Santa's Little Helper and parading around shopping malls, which is what she did before she was selected for Wolf Creek.

"I was definitely very interested in acting and the idea of becoming an actress but hailing from Adelaide ... I didn't see it as a reality," she says.

She recently fulfilled another fantasy by playing the kick-butt Angelina Jolie-style character in I Am Number Four - dressed top to toe in leather, beating people up and riding a motorcycle. But what is most exciting about that film is she is not only the tough-chick, but the Australian tough-chick.

"It was so refreshing because I haven't been allowed to be an Aussie so far in my career. But they decided that my character, who is an alien, was placed in Australia as a young girl and grew up as an Australian, so I got to keep my accent - even my Adelaide one, my very thick South Australian accent," she says proudly.

LOWDOWN
Who: Teresa Palmer, actress
Latest: The Sorcerer's Apprentice starring Nicolas Cage and Jay Baruchel
When and where: In cinemas today.