Confidence, charisma and charm characterise the hottest young actors in the UK. Patricia Dobson profiles the emerging talent. (Click on contact names for links)
Following his performance as the lead terrorist in Paul Greengrass’ riveting United 93, the Anglo-Egyptian Khalid Abdalla stars in Marc Forster’s adaptation of bestselling novel The Kite Runner, playing the narrator, who travels back to Kabul to exorcise his demons. The film is already being positioned as an Oscar contender.
‘I’m very proud of the two films I’ve done so far,’ says the actor. ‘They go against the grain in terms of representations of Arab people. United 93 found humanity in all the characters and The Kite Runner shows an Afghanistan not identified by violence.’
Contact: Julian Belfrage Associates, (44) 20 7287 8544
‘It’s really a massive accident that I got into acting,’ says Arsher Ali. ‘I picked up a leaflet at college by mistake and decided to give it a go.’ Something obviously clicked because when Ali applied to London’s renowned East 15 drama school he was accepted at the first attempt and then won the Laurence Olivier Student Award in his second year.
After graduating in 2006, he immediately landed a couple of small parts in TV dramas, followed by a supporting role in Peter Kosminsky’s forthcoming Channel 4 film Britz, about Asian identity in the UK. He was then cast in Ayub Khan-Din’s stage play Rafta Rafta, directed by Nicholas Hytner, at London’s National Theatre, which will take him to November. It is that performance that is turning the heads of several UK casting directors, who have been impressed by his talent, charisma and watchability. Not bad for someone who had never considered acting.
Contact: PFD, (44) 20 7344 1010
Only just graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (Rada), Gemma Arterton has played a leading role in Stephen Poliakoff’s drama Capturing Mary for the BBC and HBO alongside Maggie Smith, wrapped Barnaby Thompson and Oliver Parker’s St Trinian’s, in which she plays the head girl, and been cast by Dominic Dromgoole as Rosaline in Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost at the Globe theatre in London.
It is not just Arterton’s talent and versatility that is getting this photogenic actor noticed by UK casting directors; it is also because she has not allowed her working-class roots to be grubbed up by the drama school experience.
‘The producers were looking for someone more famous for the role but she was confident and bold at the audition and she has a luminous presence,’ says Parker. ‘I know she wants to get some theatre experience but the film world is really going to want her, too.’
Contact: ICM, (44) 20 7636 6565
Ben Barnes is right on the cusp of the big time. He is starring as Prince Caspian in the second two instalments of Walt Disney and Walden Media’s The Chronicles Of Narnia. Not that he has had any time to think about what awaits him when the film is released.
Barnes was starring in the touring production of The History Boys at the end of last year, having just filmed a small role in Matthew Vaughn’s forthcoming Stardust, when he was cast as the orphan prince in the two Narnia epics. He then spent five months in New Zealand and Prague surrounded by a huge crew, vast sets and a cast of thousands.
He says the experience has not gone to his head: ‘I want to do character-driven films; I don’t care if it’s filming for seven months or five weeks.’
Contact: CAM, (44) 20 7292 0600
He has been acting since he was seven years old, most notably in UK television dramas Sons And Lovers and An Angel For May, and now Matthew Beard is creating serious advance buzz for his performance in Anand Tucker’s father-son relationship drama And When Did You Last See Your Father’
He is described by one UK casting director as a ‘proper actor, who uses not just his instinct but his intellect, too, researching parts thoroughly and thoughtfully’.
Tucker, meanwhile, was bowled over by the actor’s ‘humility and confidence’ and his ability to hold his own against his formidable co-stars, Colin Firth and Jim Broadbent.
Beard himself is refreshingly modest about his talent. ‘I’ve never had an acting lesson,’ says the actor, who has just finished school. ‘I thought about going to drama school because sometimes I worry that I don’t really know what I’m doing. But that seems to be working so far.’
Contact: ICM, (44) 20 7636 6565
Lucinda Dryzek had a taste of Hollywood as a child, playing the young Keira Knightley in Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl. It is as a teenager that she has really started to shine. Dryzek gave a scene-stealing performance in the BBC ensemble thriller Five Days earlier this year, before shooting Whistleblowers for ITV. She is about to start on Gil Kenan’s adaptation of Jeanne DuPrau’s fantasy novel City Of Ember, alongside Bill Murray, Toby Jones and Saoirse Ronan.
‘I want to try everything,’ she says. ‘I was very lucky in doing Pirates when I was only 11 so the whole thing went over my head. I’m not in it for the fame; Imelda Stauntontold me it was best to be recognised for your talent, not for going to parties.’
Contact: ARG Talent,(44) 20 7436 6400, email@example.com
Click here for Stars Of Tomorrow 2007: The Actors (2)