He has not yet graduated from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (Lamda) but Ben Aldridge has already caught the eye of UK casting directors. Earlier this year he was cast opposite Parminder Nagra and Ray Winstone in the ITV drama Compulsion and from there he went straight to Channel 4/HBO's prestige autumn series The Devil's Whore, set during the English Civil War. Directed by Marc Munden, the series also stars Andrea Riseborough, Dominic West, Michael Fassbender and John Simm.

Working on his first two screen productions with such a formidable line-up has, says Aldridge, been an inspiration. "Drama school gave me a hugely diverse training, and allowed me to find my own method. But to observe these great actors was a privilege."

Contact: Hamilton Hodell, (44) 20 7636 1221


Claire Foy has had a busy 12 months since graduating from drama school. Following small roles on television, she joined the ensemble cast in the acclaimed National Theatre triptych DNA/The Miracle/Baby Girl, playing a teenage bully. Her big break will be the BBC's Andrew Davies-penned Dickens adaptation Little Dorrit, due to screen later this year, in which she plays the lead.

"It's a massive learning curve," Foy says of the production, which features a huge cast of A-list UK talent including Matthew Macfadyen, Mackenzie Crook and Tom Courtenay.

But if she is at all intimidated by such a formidable set of co-stars, her meticulous preparation and hard work - not to mention her considerable screen presence - are seeing her through. "She's bright and witty and I was beguiled by her when she came to do a reading," says one UK casting director.

Contact: Independent, (44) 20 7636 6565


Making the leap from TV soap star to film actor is fraught with complication, with many finding it difficult to shake off their TV persona. Scarlett Johnson is about to prove it can be done. Known for her role as Vicki Fowler in the BBC's EastEnders, Johnson has been lying low since leaving the show in 2004, honing her talent on stage. Now she has begun to focus on the big screen.

In Noel Clarke's Adulthood, released in the UK last month, she gives a scene-stealing performance as a tough twentysomething who dreams of a life free from drugs and violence. She has also just completed Imago Mortis, a horror film by Italian director Stefano Bessoni, and is attached to two independent films, one in the UK and the other in Los Angeles. "I never set out with a plan," says Johnson. "But I'm very fortunate to have worked with good people so far. I'm not interested in generic characters; I'm only interested in doing work I'll learn from."

Contact: ARG, (44) 20 7436 6400


Olly Alexander has had a baptism of fire in his first year as an actor. After playing a bright, artistic schoolboy in BBC children's series Summerhill, this 17-year-old segued into one of the lead roles in French maverick Gaspar Noe's Enter The Void. Shot over two months in Tokyo and now in post-production, the film takes on an array of controversial issues as it follows two young men whose lives are ripped apart by drugs.

Playing the volatile, confused, drug-addicted co-lead gave Alexander the chance to stretch his acting muscles and prove he is not afraid of a creative challenge. "Making the film was a real chance to explore the character in depth," he says. "Those are the kind of projects I would like to make - ones that provoke a reaction and have something to say. Someone told me it's never good for an actor not to take risks. And Enter The Void is a risk."

Contact: Curtis Brown, (44) 20 7393 4400


"I can't wait to cast her in a film," says one UK casting director; another bemoans the fact Michelle Dockery is never available because she is always on stage. She has been propelled into the limelight this year thanks to her captivating performance in Peter Hall's production of Pygmalion, which had critics hailing her as a theatrical revelation.

Dockery graduated from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in 2004, taking a smattering of roles on UK television while building her theatre credits. Now she is ready for the big screen. She cites Mike Leigh, Shane Meadows, Adrian Shergold and the Coen brothers as the type of directors with whom she would like to work. "Theatre has been the way it's happened for me so far," says Dockery. "But all you want as an actor is a versatile career."

Contact: Independent, (44) 20 7636 6565


After winning two nominations in the best newcomer category at the UK theatre industry's Laurence Olivier Awards this year (he won for his performance in Cymbeline at the Barbican), Tom Hiddleston is now proving his credentials on the screen.

This Rada-trained actor's first major television role was in Richard Loncraine's Winston Churchill drama The Gathering Storm in 2002, and he was recently seen in the BBC's Miss Austen Regrets, directed by fellow Star of Tomorrow Jeremy Lovering (see ^p25). Hiddleston has just filmed the three-part crime series Wallender for the BBC, in which he stars opposite Kenneth Branagh, with whom he will team up again on the London stage for a production of Ivanov, directed by Michael Grandage.

Moving between theatre and screen has proved an enjoyable challenge: "Theatre is all about action, you're responsible for the pace and the tone," says Hiddleston. "Film is about focusing on the character, it's about intimacy."

Contact: Hamilton Hodell, (44) 20 7636 1221


Charles Mnene is no stranger to controversy. His first screen experience was in Thomas Clay's uncompromisingly bleak The Great Ecstasy Of Robert Carmichael which caused a stir at Cannes in 2005, and he has since appeared in a number of tough films that tackle big issues.

The most recent is Fallout, alongside another Star of Tomorrow, Gugu Mbatha-Raw (see right), in which he plays a gang member who murders one of his classmates. "Like the best actors, he's got a very vivid sense of the inner life of the character," says Fallout's director Ian Rickson. "He beckons you in. I wanted a film where you understood those boys and that's what he managed." It is no wonder Mnene is drawing so much attention. He recently finished shooting Richard Jobson's New Town Killers, and is starring in writer-director Paul Wilkins' 7 Lives, which is shooting. Next up are Irish director Johnny Gogan's The Straits and John Akomfrah's Games Men Play.

Contact: CAM, (44) 20 7292 0600


Jack O'Connell has done well considering he fell into acting just to impress a girl. After a two-year stint with the Carlton TV workshop (he got in, the girl did not), he had his first break with his performance as an adolescent rapist on the ITV soap The Bill when he was just 15. That caught the eye of Shane Meadows who created a small part for him in This Is England. Since then, O'Connell has been edging his way into the spotlight. He won plaudits for his compelling stage performance in Fiona Evans' Scarborough at the Royal Court earlier this year and will soon be seen in James Watkins' Eden Lake, playing the leader of a gang of teenage thugs who terrorise a holidaying couple played by Kelly Reilly and Michael Fassbender. He has just come off the ITV series Wuthering Heights opposite Tom Hardy and fellow Star of Tomorrow Charlotte Riley (see ^p19) and is soon to start work as one of the leads in Channel 4's third series of Skins.

Contact: Conway Van Gelder Grant, (44) 20 7287 0077


Having turned heads with arresting performances in two critically lauded stage productions, Romeo And Juliet at Manchester's Royal Exchange and Big White Fog at London's Almeida, Gugu Mbatha-Raw is now showing what she can do on the screen.

In Ian Rickson's recently screened Fallout, adapted for Channel 4 from the play by Roy Williams about the aftermath of a young boy's murder on an inner-city estate, she stars alongside Lennie James and fellow Star of Tomorrow Charles Mnene. She plays a 16-year-old torn between loyalty to her boyfriend and doing what's right. The role was, she says, a "huge responsibility" as well as a great challenge. The daughter of medics, Mbatha-Raw grew up in leafy Oxfordshire, but she gives a luminous performance that eschews cliche and gets to the core of her character's moral dilemmas. She will soon be seen in the BBC's six-part drama Bonekickers from the team behind the award-winning Life On Mars.

Contact: Curtis Brown, (44) 20 7393 4400


Aaron Johnson had an early taste of Hollywood, featuring as the younger version of Edward Norton's character in The Illusionist in 2006 and as a sidekick to Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson in 2003's Shanghai Knights.

This year he graduates to leading man status with two very different films. The first is Gurinder Chadha's Angus, Thongs And Perfect Snogging in which he plays the school heart-throb alongside fellow Star of Tomorrow Georgia Groome (see opposite). The second is Dummy, directed by Matthew Thompson (a 2004 Star of Tomorrow), which has just screened at Edinburgh and sees him as a teenager coping with his mother's death with the help of drugs and sex.

"I have a huge passion for acting but I'm interested in variety, both in the characters I play and the kinds of films I'm involved with," says the 18-year-old. He has just been cast opposite Susan Sarandon in Shana Feste's The Greatest, produced by Pierce Brosnan's Irish DreamTime.

Contact: Hamilton Hodell, (44) 20 7636 1221.