Acting up: The new generation of British screen talent

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

In films as diverse as Jane Eyre and Junkhearts, a new generation of British actors and actresses is about to give Dominic Cooper and Carey Mulligan a run for their money. Their hallmark? Versatility, says James Mottram, as he selects 10 talents to watch

If acting is a cyclical profession, then the British are back. Whether it's from the hallowed corridors of Rada or the Nottingham-based The Television Workshop that helped unearth the cast of This Is England, the nationwide talent pool feels unusually deep right now. Never mind that Hollywood regulars Keira Knightley and Carey Mulligan both turned 26 this year; there are handfuls of homegrown stars in their late teens and early twenties coming up just behind them.

What follows is our selection of the 10 most exciting up-and-coming British actors and actresses out there. Not yet household names – though you'll surely recognise some faces – they come from all corners of the British Isles, from all backgrounds. But if one thing unites them, it's diversity. Take Jack O'Connell: if he's cornered the youth market (This Is England, Skins and the upcoming old-school rave film Weekender), he's proved he's versatile, playing Bobby Charlton in the BBC's drama about the Munich air crash, United.

Lone Scherfig, who directed Mulligan in An Education, recently lamented the lack of British male talent of a certain age. "At some point, those people that you keep casting just get too old," she told me. "So there is a gap from Jude Law to Robert Pattinson." While Dominic Cooper and Jim Sturgess – who stars in Scherfig's new film One Day – have plugged the gap, they're no longer alone. Tom Sturridge, who is soon to be seen as Carlo Marx in Walter Salles' adaptation of Jack Kerouac's On the Road, is currently on the verge of a glittering career. The same can be said for the Welsh actor Aneurin Barnard, fresh from his Olivier win for Spring Awakening and about to launch a glut of films on the world.

As for the young women, the likes of Holliday Grainger and Joanna Vanderham (who made her debut opposite O'Connell in the Martina Cole adaptation The Runaway) already look like they've got down pat the period roles that British actresses so often cut their teeth on. But then where do you place the unpredictable talent of Jessica Barden? Or Alexandra Roach, who will play the young Margaret Thatcher (before Meryl Streep gets stuck in) in the much-anticipated biopic The Iron Lady? Gutsy doesn't even cover it.

As is always the case, there have been cuts to make. Vanessa Kirby, for example, who has gone from a whirlwind stage career to the BBC2 drama The Hour (as the luckless debutante Ruth Elms) to winning the role of Estella in a forthcoming BBC version of Great Expectations. Likewise John Boyega, the Peckham-born actor who made such a muscular impact in Joe Cornish's Attack the Block earlier this year and will soon be seen opposite Sturridge in Junkhearts.

Were he not in the generation just below these stars-in-waiting, you might also include Asa Butterfield, who caught our attention in The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. Still only 14, this tween star has just completed playing the title role in Martin Scorsese's 1930s Parisian children's tale Hugo – so maybe his star has already risen.

Those in our selection are only just feeling the heat. But one thing's for sure, Keira, Carey and co: you better start looking over your shoulders. There are some new kids on the block.

Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Healy of The 1975 performing on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset

music
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Arts and Entertainment
The Clangers: 1969-1974
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific
    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    Dame Colette Bowe - interview
    When do the creative juices dry up?

    When do the creative juices dry up?

    David Lodge thinks he knows
    The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

    Fashion's Cher moment

    Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
    Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

    Health fears over school cancer jab

    Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
    Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

    Weather warning

    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
    LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

    High hopes for LSD

    Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
    German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

    Saving Private Brandt

    A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral