Cannes do attitude for the stars of tomorrow

The iconic film festival has a habit of unearthing exciting talent, as Nick Clark found out

While the box office stars pose on the red carpet at the 65th Cannes Film Festival, industry experts are eagerly scouting films showing on the Croisette for the stars of tomorrow.

Last year saw the debut of The Artist, which became a global sensation. This year, much of the early buzz focused on the actor Matthias Schoenaerts. The festival, which has a week to go, had not even begun when one periodical dubbed the Belgian actor "The new Jean Dujardin".

Schoenaerts was hailed by his co-star Marion Cotillard at last week's press conference for Rust & Bone, which is in competition for the Palme d'Or as a "a tremendous actor who could play all sorts of parts".

The 34-year old Schoenaerts speaks English with only a hint of an accent and his career in Belgium stretches back more than a decade. He said he was in talks with US producers and joked he was about to star in Rambo 34.

Lee Tamahori, the New Zealand film director who made Once Were Warriors and the James Bond film Die Another Day, said of Schoenaerts: "You just want to watch him. You can tell he's become a lot more internal about his acting. When you see actors cross that Rubicon and start to do less, that's when they get noticed."

He emphasised the importance of Cannes in bringing talents such as Schoenaerts to a wider audience.

"Guys like him would not get in front of Hollywood producers without going through here first or another high profile festival like Venice."

"There's no doubt that obscure actors from Turkey, Afghanistan, New Zealand... wherever, can emerge in a place like Cannes in a one-off blistering film that rivets everyone," he said. "It doesn't mean a mainstream audience will go and see that film but everyone who's in the film business will see that movie and will hire that actor."

Jessica Chastain understands better than most the potential importance of Cannes for an upcoming actor.

The American started acting onscreen eight years ago but her career has skyrocketed since last year's festival, when Tree of Life, the Terence Malick movie, which also starred Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, won the Palme d'Or. Chastain, who was back on the Croisette on Saturday to promote prohibition movie Lawless, said last week: "Cannes is very special to me. It was my introduction into the business in a way. The Tree of Life premiere was the beginning of this big 12 months. To be back is great."

And you are never too young, it seems, to benefit from the Cannes stardust. Eloise Laurence, 11, has been hailed for her performance in British film Broken, by debut director Rufus Norris, which was shown in Critics Week this year. There is also a buzz around several emerging directors at the festival including Pablo Larrain, who has brought his film No, starring Gael Barcia Bernal, to the festival. Others include Nabil Ayouch, who has directed God's Horses, and Benh Zeitlin who is bringing Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner Beasts of the Southern Wild. One actor who has generated a lot of buzz at the festival but will not be treading the red carpet this year is Aniello Arena, who stars in Reality, Matteo Garrone's follow up to Grand Jury Prize winning Gomorrah. Arena is serving a life sentence in prison, but has worked with the Fortezza prison theatre company for a decade and was allowed out to shoot Reality.

"I wanted him to appear in Gomorrah," the director said about the bloody film that deals with the Camorra, the infamous organised crime gang in Naples. "But the judge wouldn't allow it."