UK actors are important exports, especially when they come home again.
It’s a satisfying exercise to look back at the Screen Stars Of Tomorrow 2010 photo spreads and see faces pop out which now seem familiar. After last year’s issue, you could discover Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige in Submarine and Ella Purnell in Never Let Me Go, both which bowed at Toronto.
Jessica Brown Findlay made a big impression in winter TV hit Downton Abbey, while Emilia Clarke is one of the most memorable faces in this year’s TV sensation Game Of Thrones. Sam Claflin had also made waves in the BBC’s Any Human Heart before appearing in Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides opposite Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz.
And that’s just a sample of the actors.
It might look like a straightforward exercise to select these young stars on the cusp, but you never know whether their careers will catch fire or not. Patricia Dobson, who curated the Stars last year, and Fionnuala Halligan who did it this year, will tell you that the range to choose from is extensive, the agents and managers are all persuasive and aggressive, and on paper every one looks a winner. The trick is to find the names who have generated real buzz for their talent, a distinctive talent which is exciting all those experienced in recognizing it including casting directors, film school staff and producers.
The stakes are high. UK talent has a shot at a much wider canvas than most of their European counterparts because it’s easier for Brits to move seamlessly between the US and UK. Looking at Hollywood studio release schedules this year, it’s stunning how broad is the employment of UK actors and directors.
This summer we’ve already seen Pirates with Claflin, Ian McShane, Roger Allam, Kevin McNally, Stephen Graham, Richard Griffiths et al. Lucy Punch had a starring role in Bad Teacher. Kenneth Branagh directed Thor with Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba and Ray Stevenson. Matthew Vaughn directed X-Men: First Class with James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult and Ireland’s Michael Fassbender. Gugu Bbatha-Raw has a key role in Larry Crowne. Hayley Atwell and Dominic Cooper have starring parts in Captain America: The First Avenger.
Daniel Craig, of course, is the star of Cowboys And Aliens; the final Harry Potter film is a who’s who of British actors directed by David Yates; Andy Serkis, Tom Felton and Brian Cox are in Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes directed by Rupert Wyatt. The list goes on and on and on.
It’s much harder for actors and directors who don’t speak English as their first language to cross over to the high-paying Hollywood market. For every Alexander Skarsgaard, there are ten British actors who make it there.
So, thanks to the US industry and its “special relationship” with the UK, the stage could be a global one. That also encompasses US TV where talent such as Danny Cannon, Dominic West, Andrew Lincoln and Hugh Laurie has scaled the heights in hit small screen franchises.
Yes, there are downsides to an indigenous industry whose brightest talent is forever racing to work out of the country, but there is also the benefit that Hollywood creates stars out of our biggest exports – all the better if, and usually when, they return to the UK to work again.
The challenge for UK producers is to entice UK stars of today and tomorrow back to the UK with outstanding material.