10 great upcoming British actors

The UK may be struggling to keep up with the rest of the world in the arena of football, but we’re at least producing some top quality actors. Here’s Matthew’s pick of upcoming talent…

In a review I read for the BBC film, Dive, it stated, “It is lucky that, at a time when we are failing miserably to produce young footballers, we are producing such wonderful young actors.” I’m not exactly sure why one would make up for the other, but I agree with the assertion. We have some great young actors and our young footballers are rubbish. For me, that’s the best way round, though.

Here’s a list of ten young British actors whom I expect to be making big moves in the world of entertainment in the near future, if they aren’t already. The list is based on some completely subjective criteria such as talent, potential, and marketability.

Here, then are the ten…

Nicholas Hoult

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He’s best known in the UK for his role in Skins as Tony ‘preening fool rescued from his own wankiness by being hit by a bus’ Stonem (a role which he handled with aplomb).

However, his most impressive performances to date have come in his breakthrough role as Marcus in About A Boy, providing a much better foil for Mr Grant than Bullock, Roberts, McDowell or Barrymore ever could, and in the BBC drama Coming Down The Mountain. In this Mark Haddon-scripted teleplay he managed to evoke empathy for his character, David, whose main pastimes included abusing his Down’s syndrome suffering brother and trying to kill him. This may not be quite as big an achievement as making Hugh Grant seem likeable, but it’s impressive all the same.

Following minor roles in Clash Of The Titans and Adulthood and a stellar performance in A Single Man, he looks to have hit the big time in the movies, cast as Hank McCoy in the upcoming X-Men prequel  X-Men: First Class. His agent must watch About A Boy on his HDTV in his penthouse apartment bought with his fifteen percent thinking, “thank God he got so handsome!”

Thomas Turgoose

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An interesting entry. His appearance in This Is England was phenomenal and his performance in Sommers Town, in many ways, was even better. Tomo was much less driven by rage than Shaun, which I think requires a more subtle approach for an actor. Also, the film was much more his to carry, without the overwhelming presence of Stephen Graham in support.

On the basis of talent, I have to include him, as he has such a great onscreen warmth and honesty and looks so relaxed in front of the camera. But will he go on to a big career? I hope so, but you have to wonder if there are enough leading roles out there for him.

I suspect as he gets older he will become one of those solid British character actors who appear in Northern dramas like The Street and The Lakes, but you never know. His performance (alongside that of Holly Grainger) made the rather silly The Scouting Book For Boys actually quite affecting, so, hopefully, there will be more roles heading in his direction in the near future.

I can’t exactly see him in Hollywood, but what’s wrong with good old fashioned gritty British melodrama?

Jack O’Connell

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Jack has appeared in both This Is England with Thomas Turgoose and Skins without Nicholas Hoult. (He was in the second generation, but he was getting up to no good with Hoult’s onscreen little sister, so that must count for something.) His function in these roles was to be a bit shouty and then punch people. That was pretty much it. In Skins, they tried to tack on a ‘he’s only like this cos no one loves him’ line in a couple of episodes, but his character was too firmly established as a wanker by this point for it to be remotely affecting or credible.

It looked to me like he had a long career ahead of him playing shouty men who punched people (I already had him penciled in to play Clamps in any live action Futurama film), but then he went and spoiled it by showing proper acting talent in the BBC drama Dive.

Dive wasn’t to everyone’s tastes. It was rather ponderous, the cellos got a bit irritating after two hours and they didn’t really bother too much with a script. But I, for one, enjoyed it immensely. If Dive had been about destroying replicants rather than teenage pregnancy, it would have resembled Blade Runner quite closely (and we’re talking the director’s cut without the voiceover).

The limited dialogue must have presented quite a challenge to an inexperienced actor like O’Connell, but he does a great understated job of portraying the cracking of Robert’s Jack the lad facade, as the character develops a relationship with Aisling Loftus’ Lindsay that becomes more and more complex. It was nice to see Jack adding subtle tones of confusion, defeat, contentment, relief and redemption to his acting pallet to go with his already firmly established ability to say “fuck” in an amusing East Midlands accent.   

Aisling Loftus

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I missed Dive when it was on TV, but I became compelled to watch it. I don’t go to the theatre very often. However, I had the fortune of being invited to see Spur of The Moment at the Jerwood Theatre a couple of weeks ago (written by a seventeen-year-old, don’t you know). I rather enjoyed all the performances, so had a bit of a read up on the cast and, of the five members, one had recently starred in a BBC drama. Thus, I quickly located Dive and had a bloody good time watching it. According to Radio 4, Aisling Loftus has an ‘enigmatic face.’ 

I’m not really sure what they mean, but apparently, it was very effective in Dive. Sounds more like an insult to me, but anyway, she’s a talent.

She had really good chemistry with O’Connell too, as her quiet persona would boil over into emotion just as O’Connell’s gobby ladding would simmer down into sensitivity and they would meet in the middle somewhere. There’s a scene in a school hall where Lindsay drags Robert into line in no uncertain terms, which contains the best acting/reacting I’ve seen in a long time. Definitely looking forward to her future output.

Felicity Jones

My mum doesn’t like Felicity as, in her eyes, she will always be “that slapper, Emma” from The Archers. However, I’m not that bothered about the dynamics of the Grundy family and I did think Felicity was rather fantastic as Catherine Morland in ITV’s 2007 Northanger Abbey production. It says a lot for her performance that, of the three original productions in ITV’s Jane Austin season (also containing Mansfield Park and Persuasion), this was by far the most accomplished, even though the other two clearly had more money thrown at them and unarguably have much stronger source material to work from.

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Felicity’s character was also the most intriguing thing in the polemic Channel 4 thriller, Cape Wrath, which is quite something in a show in which the writers spend most of their time trying to prove how much smarter they are than you, whilst David Morrissey chews up the scenery.

Recently she’s been in some garbage (Flashbacks Of A Fool and Brideshead Revisited were particularly bad) but Cemetery Junction was good fun, so, hopefully, she’s heading back in the right direction. Maybe one day she can even reach the dizzy artistic heights she achieved at Cackles Academy in the late nineties once again. (The Worst Witch was classic. No arguments!)

Andrew Garfield

To say Andrew is a young actor is probably pushing it a bit, but he’s pretty much exactly the same age as I am, so, in my mind, he definitely counts as young.

Garfield first came to public attention in Boy A, the controversial drama based on the novel of the same name, which had been inspired by the James Bulger murder case. For his role as the wide-eyed reformed child killer, Jack, trying to reintegrate himself into society, Garfield picked up a 2008 TV BAFTA for best actor.

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Since the program, I’ve followed him quite closely (his career, that is) as I found his performance rather heartbreaking, but disappointingly, he seems to have spent most of his time playing supporting roles in crap films.

It’s not been all bad, though. He played the lead role in Part I of the magnificent Red Riding Trilogy (Red Riding: In The Year Of Our Lord 1974) on Channel 4, which involved, amongst other things, massacring a club full of Northern people and possibly the most disturbing attempt at picking up a dead girl’s mum ever witnessed on television . His performance didn’t dominate the piece, as such, because every single actor in the whole project was superb. David Morrissey, Warren Clarke, Maxine Peake, Rebecca Hall, Sean Bean and Eddie Marsan were all absolutely brilliant, but he certainly held his own whilst playing a far less dominant character than the likes of Bean and Clarke.

His film career looks like it’s about to take off now too, with the promising looking features The Social Network, about the early days of Facebook, and Never Let Me Go, based on the Kazuo Ishiguro novel (which I’m very excited about) due for release in the next six months. Also, there’s the small matter of the Spider-Man reboot, which will shoot him onto the A list, even if it is a load of rubbish.    

Will Poulter

Will Poulter’s not done a lot of note, but his performance in Son Of Rambow makes him worth a mention, if only for the fact that he’s got such an amazing onscreen presence for someone so tiny. He shows a bit of versatility in the mildly amusing School Of Comedy as well. (I like his estate agent.)

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I am confident, however, that his role in the upcoming Narnia movie, Voyage Of The Dawn Treader, will make him a star. His role as the cocky yet misunderstood Lee Carter, who stole Son Of Rambow will, no doubt, prove to be excellent training for the role of the cocky yet misunderstood Eustace Scrubb, who is bound to steal Voyage Of The Dawn Treader from the thoroughly wet Ben Barnes and those pesky Pevensie children. He may have to cede a bit of the action to Tilda Swinton, who’s bound to turn up in a hugely camp cameo at some point, but there is no doubt in my mind it will be his film.  

Juno Temple

We all agree that the two recent St Trinian’s films were rubbish. However, they contain a lot of young British female acting talent. But which ones to choose? Gemma Arterton or Jodie Whittaker? (Too established.) Talulah Riley? (Too annoying.) Lily Cole? (Too crap.) Tamsin Egerton? (A possibility, but I fear my critical eye may have been blinded slightly by aesthetics.)

I guess that just leaves me with the delightful Juno Temple, then. Was St Trinian’s crap? Yes. Was Wild Child crapper? Yes. (And, yes, I have watched it from start to finish). Was Year One crap? Yes. However, I would say she has always performed well and with very accomplished minor contributions to the critically acclaimed adaptations of Notes On A Scandal and Atonement, she seems to have the talent.

With big time projects coming up in the form of The Three Musketeers and Dirty Girl, she looks well on her way.  

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Lenora Crichlow

I didn’t watch Material Girl. If I had, maybe Lenora wouldn’t be on my list. But I haven’t, so she is. In Sugar Rush she was nothing short of a charisma assault. It must have been a particularly fun character to play for a young actress, but she did such a good job that even the perpetually bitter author of Sugar Rush, Julie Burchill, was rich in praise for her performance. (She wrote a follow up to the original novel inspired by Lenora’s portrayal.)

In Being Human (which must be second only to Buffy in vampire-based amusement) she has to tone it down a bit to fit with the darker feel of the show, but she still remains completely absorbing. I thought season 2, episode 6, where she works alongside a psychic through whom she communicates with her mother, took the show to an emotional depth which it had hitherto not yet visited.

No matter how good the show is, though, and no matter how spot-on Lenora’s performances are, after every episode I have the same two questions: can Russell Tovey actually act? And was he ever in Byker Grove? I’m convinced he was, but I have found no evidence whatsoever to back up this theory.

Aaron Johnson

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It’s difficult to accept someone who has been in the abomination that was Angus Thongs And Perfect Snogging. (I’m sorry, middle class parents, but no kids are that lame no matter how much you hope they are).

Nowhere Boy was a step in the right direction, but, then again, Aaron also starred in the truly awful self-indulgent mush that was Nearly Famous, an insanely annoying teen drama on E4 that I sometimes watched because there was a really hot girl in it. (Anna Brewster. Look her up.)

However, after Kick- Ass all was forgiven. You can’t not love a man who utters the words, “Jesus doesn’t that bug you, guys. Like thousands of people wanna be Paris Hilton. Nobody wants to be Spider-Man.” And the unforgettable “Fuck you, Mr Bitey.” He’s got the talent, he’s got the lines, and he’s a pretty boy too. He’ll go far.

Honourable Mentions

Katie Jarvis

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Great in Fishtank, but is she an actress or just a gobby chav?

Georgie Henley

Not the greatest actress in the world, but the difference between Lucy in The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe and Prince Caspian was immeasurable. At this rate of improvement, she’ll be better than Meryl Streep by the time her Cameo in The Last Battle is due.

Carey Mulligan

I love her little pixie face so much that I can even overlook her shocking taste in men. She’s already had an Oscar nomination, though, so I don’t think she can really constitute potential!

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