Nextgen British actresses excel at both indie drama and blockbuster action, Part 3

Concluding this series about young British actresses. In Parts 1 and 2, I covered the careers of Hayley Atwell, Emily Blunt, Felicity Jones, Lily James, Carey Mulligan, Rosamund Pike, Imogen Poots and Daisy Ridley. In Part 3, let’s look at 4 more up-and-coming British actresses (well, one’s been around for several years):-

In 2007’s Atonement (below left), a 13-year-old Saoirse Ronan made us hate her for putting poor James McAvoy in jail on false charges; she was so convincing that she was nominated for a Supporting Actress Oscar, making her among the youngest acting nominees alongside the likes of Abigail Breslin, Anna Paquin and Keisha Castle-Hughes. Since then, her only other notable solo performance has been in Peter Jackson’s heart-breaking The Lovely Bones (2009); however, poor reviews and the tragic storyline conspired to kill it at the box office. Among her other notable roles – a 16-year-old assassin in Hanna (made by her Atonement director, Joe Wright) and a teenage vampire in Byzantium (directed by fellow Irishman Neil Jordan); the first was a moderate success, while the second sank without a trace. I feel that Ms. Ronan has generally been drawn towards challenging scripts tackling difficult subject matter. This makes it unlikely that she will opt for escapist entertainment (I don’t expect to see her in a Marvel or Star Wars movie, for instance). One exception was the 2013 movie adaptation of Stephanie “Twilight” Meyer’s young adult best-seller The Host; but the movie was a critical and commercial dud. It was also nice to see her as part of the fantastic ensemble cast in The Grand Budapest Hotel. I am looking forward to watching the 21-year-old’s new film Brooklyn (below right) which comes out next month; the Nick Hornby scripted film tells the story of an Irish immigrant in 1950’S NYC and the challenges she faces transitioning to her new life.

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Kaya Scodelario (23) started acting in the acclaimed and edgy British TV show Skins at the age of 14, eventually becoming the central character by the time she left the show four years later. The show was a proving ground for several talented young actors like Dev Patel, Nicholas Hoult and Jack O’Connell. Since 2010, she has had small roles in a few films, but came to wider public attention only last year as Teresa (“It’s a girl!”) in the dystopian young adult film Maze Runner. Global exposure is now assured via its sequels The Scorch Trials (Sept 2015) and The Death Cure (Feb 2017). But there’s more to come in 2017; Ms. Scodelario will appear opposite Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. While the series has been getting progressively poor reviews, audiences have delivered a billion dollars of ticket sales for the last two entries in the franchise, so it’s a pretty good place to be for an up-and-coming actress. She has also acted in an unusual fantasy film called The Moon and the Sun, based on the award winning 1997 novel by Vonda McIntyre. It tells the story of a mermaid that is captured and brought to the court of King Louis XIV, who wants to steal its life force in the belief it will give him immortality. Pierce Brosnan plays King Louis and Scodelario plays a lady-in-waiting who befriends the mermaid and tries to save its life. The movie’s release has been postponed indefinitely; usually a sign that the studio has serious concerns about the film’s prospects. Having seen the trailer, I can understand; I suspect someone at the studio woke up and wondered, “what were we thinking?”. Hopefully, while she pursues commercial success through these big-budget films, the audiences will also get to see some of the acting prowess which she showcased as a teenager on TV.

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Fans of HBO’s Game of Thrones (below right) will be familiar with Sophie Turner, having seen her survive a seemingly never-ending series of travails as the hapless but determined Sansa Stark over 5 engrossing seasons. Next summer, she makes her first big screen appearance as mutant Jean Grey in X-Men: Apocalypse (below left, seen with co-star Tye Sheridan, who plays Cyclops). This film caps the 2nd X-Men trilogy and presumably will be the last to feature both ‘first trilogy’ (Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman) and ‘second trilogy’ (Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence)  actors together. It is sure to do blockbuster business and will potentially bring many other big screen offers her way. I haven’t read the Game of Thrones books and even if I had, with the way the show is deviating from the books, I can’t say how many of the remaining 3 seasons of GoT Sophie Turner will have to commit to. Assuming she will be in at least 1-2 more seasons, she may not be able to commit to more than one film per year. But at the age of 19, she can afford to be patient!

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It’s been four years since Emma Watson walked away from the Harry Potter universe. In addition to acting, she has been modeling for the likes of Lancôme and Burberry, launched a new clothing range with ‘ethical fashion’ label People Tree and has also been appointed a UN Goodwill Ambassador! Quite a lot for a 25-year-old, but of course this is someone who has literally grown up in the front of a global audience, starting with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in 2001. Perhaps because she’s appeared in 8 fantasy/action films, Ms. Watson seems to have gone for more character-driven indie assignments since then; I loved her sensitive heartfelt performance in 2012’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower (below right), but 2013’s The Bling Ring (below left) is notable because she was cast against her established ‘good girl’ stereotype, portraying a spoilt rich kid who along with her friends burgle the homes of Hollywood celebrities (based on a true story). She will go back to blockbuster territory again soon with two big films – she shares the screen with Tom Hanks in the scifi thriller The Circle (2016) and then steps into the iconic shoes of Belle in the live-action Disney adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, releasing in March 2017.

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No doubt there are many more talented actresses emerging from the British theater and TV ranks, who will make a splash in big budget movies, as Hollywood casting agents continue to look for ‘the next big thing’. In this notoriously fickle industry, it’s only a few who will be able to stay in the spotlight for any extended period of time, which tends to be much shorter for women than it is for men.

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