Baftas look to new generation of rising stars

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The Independent Culture

Film industry veterans have identified a new generation of rising stars including Ben Whishaw, the lead in Perfume, Cillian Murphy from The Wind that Shakes the Barley, and the Casino Royale Bond girl Eva Green.

All five will face a public vote to decide who will win a special award honouring emerging talent at the British Academy Film Awards in February.

Whishaw, Murphy and Green are joined on the shortlist by Naomie Harris, who first attracted attention in Danny Boyle's futuristic movie 28 Days Later in 2002, and Emily Blunt who turned in an acclaimed performance in the international hit The Devil Wears Prada after the independent British film success My Summer of Love.

The shortlist was selected by a jury including the director Anthony Minghella, the actress Thandie Newton, star of the 2006 Oscar-winning film Crash, and James McAvoy, the former star of television's Shameless, who is about to be seen in the film The Last King of Scotland, about the Ugandan leader Idi Amin.

McAvoy, who won the award last year, said: "It's important to remember that the award is not best newcomer. This is for a body of work and for an actor who has managed to start creating a relationship with the audience.

"I like the fact that the industry awards its peers but this is great because it's voted for by the paying public. The ultimate award is to get bums on seats and for people to like your movie."

McAvoy, who worked with Naomie Harris on the TV adaptation of Zadie Smith's White Teeth, said both she and Emily Blunt stood out for their versatility. "They are sexy and beautiful and feminine, but also very strong."

McAvoy described Cillian Murphy as probably the most experienced of the nominees. "I think he's wonderful. He's really great, scary, weird, but also really truthful," he said.

"He not only does things like playing the lead in The Wind that Shakes the Barley - he was exceptional - but he can do big box-office stuff. For me, he was one of the most brilliant things in Batman Returns."

Although a worldwide audience has discovered Eva Green through her role opposite Daniel Craig as Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale, McAvoy pointed out that playing a Bond girl was tough. "I think she's done something a little bit intelligent with it and she was the best thing in The Dreamers."

Ben Whishaw - who was plucked from obscurity to star in Trevor Nunn's Hamlet - had been catapulted to the attention of the film-going public, McAvoy said, by his superb performance in Perfume. "Things like Layer Cake didn't allow him to shine but his performance in Perfume is the thing you watch it for. He's brilliant."

The Orange Rising Star Award was created in honour of the late Mary Selway, a highly respected casting director who worked on more than 90 films, including Withnail and I, Gosford Park and Notting Hill. She died in 2004.

David Parfitt, chairman of the Bafta film committee, said: "As the only audience award, it certainly raises the profile of young actors and actresses within our industry. Promoting and supporting the next generation of talent is essential and this is why it's important to have awards in place such as the Orange Rising Star."

Members of the public can vote via the Orange website ( bafta) or via text message (text ORSA, space, then the first name of the choice to 81800).

The winner will be announced at the Baftas on Sunday 11 February.

The five emerging talents

Emily Blunt

Blunt, 23, wowed the critics in the British movie My Summer of Love. She has since appeared, to acclaim, in The Devil Wears Prada. She is in the yet-to-be-released horror Wind Chill and is filming The Jane Austen Book Club.

Eva Green

Paris-born Green, 26, made her debut in The Dreamers and her Hollywood debut in Kingdom of Heaven. She reached worldwide audiences in Casino Royale. She is now filming His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass.

Naomie Harris

Harris, 30, got her break in 28 Days Later in 2002, following up with After the Sunset, Miami Vice and a scene-stealing appearance in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. She also starred in White Teeth on TV.

Cillian Murphy

Murphy, 30, first gained attention in 28 Days Later. He won a Golden Globe nomination for Breakfast on Pluto, appeared in Batman Begins then starred in The Wind that Shakes the Barley, which won the Palme d'Or at Cannes.

Ben Whishaw

Whishaw, 26, hit the headlines when he was cast as Hamlet by Trevor Nunn, winning an Olivier Award nomination. After roles in Enduring Love and Layer Cake, he starred in Perfume. He has just finished I'm Not Here.