As awards season thrums to a deafening crescendo, we round up the up-and-coming actors to put on your radar.
1. Florence Pugh
Hailed as the next Kate Winslet, Florence Pugh burst onto the scene last year in the electrifying Sundance crowd-pleaser Lady Macbeth. Her astonishing work – which sees her descend from sympathetic to sociopathic over the course of 89 nail-biting minutes – has been lauded by critics, and resulted in a British Independent Film award and a Rising Star Bafta nomination. These accolades are rendered even more impressive when considering that Pugh was only 19 at the time. A cursory glance over her IMDb page reveals that the actress is well on her way to becoming a household name, and is tied to an incredible breadth of projects. Filmography highlights to look out for in 2018 include: the BBC’s King Lear with Anthony Hopkins; Stephen Merchant’s wrestling dramedy series Fighting with My Family; and Netflix’s Outlaw King co-starring Chris Pine and Aaron Taylor-Johnson. As if that wasn’t enough, Pugh is also a talented singer-songwriter, performing soulful covers on her YouTubechannel. Some people have all the luck.
2. Timothée Chalamet
Before the release of Call Me by Your Name nobody had heard of the French-American Timothée Chalamet. Fast-forward three months and the 22-year-old has scored an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, becoming the youngest to be recognised in the category since 1944. To prepare for the role of a lifetime in Luca Guadagnino’s homosexual romance, Chalamet jetted off to Europe a month before the shoot to brush up his (already fluent) French, pick up Italian and learn guitar and piano. His performance as Elio, a bookish teenager coming to terms with his flourishing sexuality, is spellbinding. It will take you hours to piece yourself back together emotionally after the movie’s shattering denouement: a static camera honed in on Chalamet processing his overpowering feelings of loss.
The actor’s commitment to the character has paid off. He has dominated awards season, collecting accolades from the Gothams and critics groups in New York, LA, Boston, Chicago, Indiana and Florida (among others). Chalamet has also earned double nominations at the Baftas: for rising star and best actor, representing the only non-Brit in the latter category. And that’s only the start. Call Me by Your Name is just one of the three films the actor was promoting at the Toronto International Film Festival last autumn. He zings with deadpan humour as Saoirse Ronan’s “hella tight” boyfriend in Lady Bird and shines opposite Christian Bale in the gripping western Hostiles. This year he’s teaming up with Woody Allen for A Rainy Day in New York (and will be donating his salary to charity). It’s a good thing that what Chalamet struggles most with in life is sitting still because he is rushed off his feet right now.
3. Tiffany Haddish
A stand-up comedian, Tiffany Haddish had been on the circuit for 10 years before getting her big break in Girls Trip, 2017’s highest-grossing comedy and the first movie with an all-black cast, producers, director and writers to earn more than $100 million at the box office. Throughout the film, Haddish upstages the more established Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Regina Hall with her outrageous behaviour and side-splitting one-liners. She zip-wires between two buildings, spraying urine at unsuspecting pedestrians below; she trips on absinthe; and she advises on blowjob technique armed with only a grapefruit and a banana. So it comes as a surprise that the breakout star was initially denied the chance to read for the film’s casting agents. As she admitted in her hilarious 18-minute acceptance speech for her New York Film Critics Circle award: “I tried to get an audition, and my agent is like, ‘Oh, they only want to see names.’ And I said, ‘You tell them I’ve had a name since 1979, and it’s Tiffany motherfucking Haddish.’” Since Girls Trip, the comic has continued to soar, making history by becoming the first black female stand-up comedian to host Saturday Night Live as well as signing on to three more films and publishing a New York Times-bestselling book. Oh and Meryl Streep, if you’re reading this, Haddish wants you to play her mother in Girls Trip 2. Now there’s a movie we want to see.
4. Vicky Krieps
Much like Haddish, it took the Luxembourg native a good 10 years to be recognised by Hollywood. It all started with an email. Having made a name for herself in European movies such as The Chambermaid, Vicky Krieps was sent a monologue for a new script. The actress skimmed through the message, recorded her audition tape and sent it back to her agent. Krieps was so unaffected by the news that the film-maker would like to meet with her that her representation asked: “Vicky, I’m sorry, but do you know who we’re talking about?” The film-maker in question was the legendary Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood, Boogie Nights), whom Krieps mistook for a student director. In his movie, Phantom Thread, the actress plays the muse to Daniel Day-Lewis’ designer in the intoxicating world of 1950s couture fashion in London (and also dubs the film’s French and German versions). At first, Krieps was intimidated to be sharing the screen with the three-time Academy Award winner: “I didn’t Google Daniel’s name before filming. I didn’t want to see his movies. I tried to forget everything about acting myself.” But she keeps up with the veteran star in Phantom Thread and has gained admirers for her rounded performance, in addition to international exposure.
5. Bria Vinaite
Sean Baker clearly loves his phone. A year after shooting his breakout feature Tangerine entirely on an iPhone 5S, the director fell into a social-media black hole, scrolling through Instagram accounts for hours one evening. And then he saw her: the free-spirited fashion entrepreneur Bria Vinaite. With her sky-blue locks, steel lip stud and tattoos snaking all over her body, she twerked and she posed, laughed and smoked weed. Baker was mesmerised. He immediately direct-messaged her, inviting her to a casting call for his upcoming indie The Florida Project, and subsequently offered her the part of Halley, a raucous, down-on-her-luck teenage mother living hand-to-mouth in the candy-coloured Magic Castle motel. Despite being a first-timer, Vinaite delivers an electric performance in the film, stealing scenes from Willem Dafoe as she smears a soiled sanitary towel on a plate-glass window between them and hustles for junk food to feed her troublemaking six-year-old. Her star-making turn in The Florida Project has landed her a role in The Beach Bum – alongside Zac Efron, Isla Fisher and Matthew McConaughey – that is due for release later this year.
6. Barry Keoghan
It has taken years of bit parts and low-budget television for Barry Keoghan to forge a path into the entertainment industry. He grew up in Ireland’s gritty Dublin 1 neighbourhood and, following his mother’s heroine overdose when he was only five, traipsed through a series of foster homes before being raised by his grandmother. Keoghan credits his difficult upbringing for his current success, saying he draws on his own life experience to nuance his characters. The 25-year-old solidified his one-to-watch status in 2017 with two landmark (and wildly different) roles: as a boatman rescuing stranded soldiers in the war epic Dunkirk and a suspicious teenager in the disturbing horror flick The Killing of a Sacred Deer. The coming months will see the rising star appear in the crime drama American Animals, and Black 47 with Hugo Weaving and Jim Broadbent. Given that his ultimate goal is to “win three Oscars in three different categories”, Barry Keoghan certainly has his work cut out for him.
7. Beanie Feldstein
After playing a hormone-addled sorority sister in 2016’s Bad Neighbours 2, Beanie Feldstein came into her own last year thanks to her career-defining role as Saoirse Ronan’s unassuming sidekick in Lady Bird. The winner of the best-picture comedy Golden Globe, the film boasts a near-perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes and has won hearts worldwide with its relatable portrayal of high-schoolers teetering on the cusp of adulthood. With razor-sharp accuracy, the writer-director Greta Gerwig presents the complexity of female friendships through her characterisation of Lady Bird (Ronan) and Julie (Feldstein). They fight; they fall out; they split off into different social circles; and yet they still love each other. In one of the film’s most touching sequences, the protagonist abandons her date to take Julie to prom. The actresses’ chemistry lights up the streamer-spangled room and surely helped the Lady Bird team secure an ensemble-cast nomination at the SAGs. The coming-of-age film also catapulted Feldstein towards her dream of performing on the stage, which she has fostered since requesting that her third-birthday party be Funny Girl-themed. Her singing in Lady Bird’s theatre troupe was so impressive that it paved the way for her part in the Broadway musical Hello, Dolly! opposite Bette Midler.
8. Danielle Macdonald
Watching Patti Cake$, the critical hit of an underdog rapper’s fight for a record deal, you would think that its star Danielle Macdonald was a seasoned hip-hop performer from New Jersey. You would be wrong. Macdonald was initially reticent to join the film because she didn’t know how to rap and, as an Australian, she was unconvinced that she could faithfully deliver the regional accent while spitting rhymes in Patti Cake$’s original songs. Many hours of practising later – and in-depth studying of Eminem, Kanye West, Missy Elliot and Nicki Minaj – Macdonald was able to embody her musical persona with all the attendant brash and bravura. After capturing audiences’ attention at Cannes, the actress has had a blink-and-you-miss-it appearance in Lady Bird and is set to star in six movies this year, among them Dumplin’, a comedy about a plus-size girl who enters a beauty pageant to spite her mother (Jennifer Aniston). Patti may be “stuck in dirty Jersey” but Macdonald is headed straight for the big time.
9. Hong Chau
At this year’s Golden Globes, the host Seth Meyers reprised his ‘Jokes Seth Can’t Tell’ skit from his late-night show. Teeing up a punch line for the Downsizing star Hong Chau, he began, “According to a recent article, only five per cent of speaking roles in Hollywood are played by Asian actors —”
“— but those numbers might be off,” Chau interrupted, “because a white person did the math.”
This jibe at the lack of opportunities for ethnic minorities in the film industry rings true for Chau. After starring in 2014’s Inherent Vice, the actress struggled to find work and was not invited to auditions for a full year. When Chau heard that the director Alexander Payne was developing a social satire with a sci-fi twist, she was eager to get involved. She shot to the top of the shortlist and clinched the role, giving a standout performance in Downsizing, a movie that sees Matt Damon shrink himself to a pocket-size five inches to live in a miniature eco-friendly community. Despite courting controversy for her so-called ‘problematic’ accent, Chau – a Thai-born daughter of Vietnamese refugees – defends her depiction of her character, saying she drew on her Asian upbringing to flesh out the amputee Ngoc Lan Tran’s backstory. “I just want Asian characters that are well-written,” she tells IndieWire. “I love characters that are written with a lot of specificity.” These polemics clearly haven’t bothered the Hollywood Foreign Press, Screen Actors Guild or Critics Choice organisations, who have all showered her with nominations. As a result of her work in Downsizing (and her recurring role in the smash-hit limited series Big Little Lies), Hong Chau now has Hollywood at her feet.
10. Brooklynn Prince
In 2016 it was nine-year-old Jacob Tremblay (Room); in 2017 it was eight-year-old Sunny Pawar (Lion); and this year our much-needed dose of red-carpet cuteness comes courtesy of seven-year-old Brooklynn Prince, the tearaway child testing the adults’ wrangled nerves in The Florida Project. Rather than being thrust into the business by pushy stage-parents, Prince kick-started her own Hollywood career, commissioning headshots and sending them out to agencies as an infant. It is her naive perspective that anchors Baker’s film, culminating in a climax that has been aligned with François Truffaut’s New Wave masterpiece The 400 Blows. Prince – who has ambitions of becoming “the first kid director” – relished the opportunity to misbehave onscreen and was inordinately excited that she got to swear in the movie, telling the Guardian, “When I heard I was gonna say those bad words, I was like, ‘YeeeHAW!’” She has scooped up a string of breakthrough-acting prizes throughout awards season, including a gong at the distinguished Critics Choice Awards, and has three new movies on the horizon. Another Abigail Breslin in the making, perhaps?