After a year where not a single woman made the shortlist for the British film and television academy’s prize to honour A-list stars in waiting, the tables have turned.
Four of the five hottest talents chosen to compete for Bafta’s EE Rising Star Award this year are women, although judges said it was a “happy accident” rather than a conscious effort to redress the balance.
Juno Temple, the daughter of filmmaker Julien, made the list after building up an impressive body of work at the age of just 23, and receiving rave reviews for last year’s Killer Joe.
She expressed her delight that the prize had “gone female” adding: “It’s good to redress the balance, to keep things even. When you look at the girls who have been nominated, some of their work is mind-blowing.”
It marks a series of good roles for young actresses, Ms Temple believes. “We are very lucky to have such diverse character roles coming our way.”
The nominees include the 31-year old Andrea Riseborough, whose films include Made in Dagenham and Shadow Dancer. Her performance as Wallis Simpson in the Madonna directed W.E. was hailed as the only positive note in movie that was widely seen as a disaster last year.
She said: “To even be counted amongst this, and the last seven years’ rising star nominees feels utterly phenomenal.”
Also in the running is Elizabeth Olsen, the younger sister of child stars Mary-Kate and Ashley. Her standout role came in Martha Marcy May Marlene, and she is to star in Spike Lee’s forthcoming remake of Oldboy.
24-year old Swede Alicia Vikander secured the nomination after landing her first English language role as Kitty in Joe Wright’s adaptation of Anna Karenina last year. Critics have also praised her performance in A Royal Affair.
Mark Kermode, the film critic who was part of the jury, said: “The number of female nominees was one of those things that happens. There wasn’t any sense of doing it as a balance, although it’s nice it’s worked out like that. It’s a happy accident with the emphasis on the happy.”
The one man to make the list is a rare first timer to make the running for the award. Suraj Sharma, who became an actor by mistake after accompanying his brother to the audition for Life of Pi, would go on to receive stellar reviews for his portrayal of the title character adrift with a tiger.
Mr Kermode added: “There are newcomers against established players. They are at different stages in their career, but they are all on a par in that they’re on the cusp of stardom.”
The Rising Star Award, now in its eighth year, has picked out talents including Tom Hardy, Bane in last year’s blockbuster The Dark Knight Rises and Twilight star Kristen Stewart. Last year it was won by Adam Deacon, whose career is yet to fully take off following the award.
The voting process has changed from last year when the public voted for the final five from a list of eight, leading to the all-male nominees.
This year the final five were chosen by a panel of judges. These included film critic Chris Hewitt, casting director Nina Gold, actor Benedict Cumberbatch and director Kevin Macdonald. They picked the final five with a blind vote.
Pippa Harris, deputy chair of Bafta’s film committee, said: “It was difficult last year as the process was different. We didn’t choose the shortlist the public did, and happened to choose the five men. The fact we have four women this year is the strength of female acting talent and it wasn’t a deliberate thing to redress the balance.”
She added: “Time and again this year, the women were the ones that kept bubbling up that people wanted to fight for.”
The rising stars are chosen from actors aged between 18 and 31. “It is not an award for true beginners, child stars,” Ms Harris said. “In very rare cases we put people on the list who have only done one film – and Suraj is one of them – but it’s where they carried that film. In his case there is no doubt he did that.”
Mr Kermode added: “This is a bloody good list. Find me one person on that list that you don’t think they is really, really good.”