O’Connell has said he is “honoured to be considered...among such a talented field”, while Mbatha-Raw is “delighted to be recognised for a growing body of work”.
The prestigious prize is not reserved for newcomers, but can also be given to actors who have already begun making a name for themselves.
Will Poulter won last year’s award, with James McAvoy, Eva Green, Shia LaBeouf, Juno Temple, Tom Hardy and recently-arrested Kidulthood star Adam Deacon among past recipients.
The winner will be chosen by a public vote and announced at the Bafta Film Awards ceremony on 8 February.
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