In Part 1 of this post, I had a look at the careers of Hayley Atwell, Emily Blunt, Felicity Jones and Lily James as they successfully came up through the ranks of British drama films and TV shows, then made the jump to big screen blockbusters. Here are another 4 young actresses who have been making waves:-
Technically, Carey Mulligan (30) shouldn’t be on this list, as she has never crossed over to an action movie role. Nevertheless, it wouldn’t do to leave out one of the important young actresses of this generation. Like many of the others in this list, she cut her teeth on those gritty TV dramas and immaculately produced literary adaptations that British TV excels at; during the two years from 2005-07, Ms. Mulligan covered everything from Bleak House and Northanger Abbey to appearances in episodes of Agatha Christie’s Marple and Dr. Who. Then in 2009, she broke out in acclaimed Danish director Lone Scherfig’s English-language debut, An Education. This coming-of-age story had Mulligan playing a wide-eyed and idealistic schoolgirl who is seduced by an older man and briefly experiences his glamorous lifestyle before coming back down to earth. She received an Oscar nom and this led to her appearing in a number of interesting films; unfortunately, the high profile ones like Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps and The Great Gatsby haven’t received great reviews and the well-reviewed films like Inside Llewyn Davis and Far From the Madding Crowed haven’t found an audience. I am looking forward to her forthcoming film Suffragette (below), which as the name indicates tells the story of the early days of the feminist movement, with Meryl Streep playing the legendary Emmeline Pankhurst.
The classy Rosamund Pike (36) started off her career with the customary British period dramas but then got a fantastic break as the femme fatale in Die Another Day (below left). This was Pierce Brosnan’s final outing as Bond and by then the series was making more money at the global box office than ever before (although the quality of the films was questionable). She has acted in several movies since then, though many of them aren’t particularly notable; perhaps she should be hiring Emily Blunt’s agent! There are exceptions – the heart-warming true story Made in Dagenham (below right), the 2012 Tom Cruise vehicle Jack Reacher and of course, Gone Girl in which her chilling performance earned her an Oscar nomination this year. Two of her forthcoming projects look interesting – A United Kingdom tells the true story of an African prince who married a white British lady in the 1940’s and sparked international outrage; in HHhH, she plays the wife of Reinhard Heydrich, the head of the Gestapo and the architect of ‘the final solution’.
Imogen Poots (26) first caught my eye in the classical music drama A Late Quartet (2012). This is the absorbing story of the build-up to the final performance of a string quartet whose cellist has to retire due to Parkinson’s disease. Poots plays the daughter of a couple who are both members of the quartet. When they discover that she is having an affair with the 4th player in the ensemble, it only adds to the stress everyone’s going through. In spite of all the angst and conflict, their love for the music and their loyalty to one another leads to a fitting and satisfactory finalé. Ms. Poots really owns the screen for the short time that she is on it. Likewise her small role in Me and Orson Welles (2008) also was memorable. Unlike the others in this post, Ms. Poots has not done the usual tour of British TV period dramas; instead, from her teen years, she has taken supporting roles in all sorts of films – zombie apocalypse (28 Weeks Later in 2007), rom com (Solitary Man in 2009) and musical biopic (Jimi: All Is By My Side in 2013). Sadly, many of her films are neither critically nor commercially successful, even the ones where she has worked with legendary directors like Peter Bogdanovich (She’s Funny That Way) and Terrence Mallick (Knight of Cups); perhaps because both are well past their prime. Unexpectedly, a recent horror film called Green Room which will get released only in April 2016 is earning some rave reviews from critics who have seen it at various film festivals this year. I really hope this young actress can get roles worthy of her screen presence and acting prowess.
Daisy Ridley (23) is guaranteed to become a household name with the release of her debut film this December. With just a handful of TV appearances on her CV, Ms. Ridley was picked as one of several new faces for the much anticipated continuation of a beloved space opera. For anyone who’s been living under a rock, the upcoming film Star Wars: The Force Awakens is releasing this December and is expected to shatter all kinds of box office records. In the trailer, Luke Skywalker is heard saying “The Force is strong in my family. My father has it. I have it. My sister has it. You have that power, too.” It is widely assumed that he is referring to Ridley’s character Rey. Naturally, she will appear in the next two parts of the new trilogy, scheduled for 2017 and 2019. Of course, only time will tell if her career will go the way of Harrison Ford who used Star Wars as a springboard to become one of the biggest movie stars of the ’80s, or if it will go the other way, like Mark Hamill who has mainly been a voice actor for animated TV shows (especially DC Comics villain The Joker) for the past 20+ years.
In most cases, these actresses have been able to continue taking roles in meaningful films with strong characterizations, while appearing in mass entertainment films which allow them to pay the bills. The remaining names in the list come out in Part 3!