Next big things

Brit talents ready for international curtain calls

A roundup of the latest British talents expected to make waves beyond British shores.


Chiwetel Ejiofor, who made his debut in “Amistad,” one of Steven Spielberg’s least successful movies, didn’t make his breakthrough as a leading man until this year’s “Dirty Pretty Things,” directed by Stephen Frears. Ejiofor is about to break down racial barriers onstage by playing a degenerate English aristo in Noel Coward’s “The Vortex” at the Donmar Warehouse. Britain has never had a black movie star — it’s time.

From dashing elf in “The Lord of the Rings” to aspiring boxer in Working Title’s upcoming low-budget mockumentary “The Calcium Kid,” Orlando Bloom is rising fast. Next up, he’s co-starring in Disney’s blockbuster “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

Despite no training as an actor, Paddy Considine made an extraordinary debut as a mesmeric oddball in “A Room for Romeo Brass,” a part he secured simply because he was an old school friend of director Shane Meadows. Since then he has proved his range in “Last Resort,” “24 Hour Party People” and “In America.” With talent and screen presence to burn, he’s been called a British Robert De Niro.

“Bend It Like Beckham’s” Keira Knightley has Hollywood written in her stars. After taking Julie Christie’s old role in the ITV remake of “Doctor Zhivago,” she will be Johnny Depp’s love interest in “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

The last big star to come out of mainstream Brit TV was Catherine Zeta-Jones — former “Eastenders” diva Martine McCutcheon is bidding to follow in her footsteps. She surprised many by winning rave reviews as Eliza Doolittle at the National Theater, and she’s got the plum part of Hugh Grant’s amour in Richard Curtis’ “Love Actually.” If she cracks that, she could be huge.


Anthony Horowitz is Ian Fleming for teenage boys — his Alex Rider novels about a reluctant teen secret agent are bestsellers, and he’s now adapting them for the bigscreen. He wrote Brian Gilbert’s chiller “The Gathering,” which Dimension is releasing.

As if co-creating “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” wasn’t enough, Steve Knight has drawn rave notices for his first movie script, “Dirty Pretty Things,” a gritty thriller set in London’s immigrant underclass. He’s returning to much the same territory for his next screenplay, “Eastern Promises,” but just to show his range, he’s writing a Hollywood Western about Sitting Bull.

Steven Moffat has been toiling in TV for years, but his BBC2 series “Coupling” (now being remade in America for NBC) put him on the A list. His first movie script, “Me Again,” about a guy who cannot remember whether he’s an assassin, was strong enough to attract Bruce Willis to the lead role.

Veteran of TV comedy-dramas (“Preston Front”) and stage musicals (the upcoming “Our House” based on the songs of Madness), Tim Firth is crossing over into movies. Mel Smith is directing his comedy “Blackball” for Icon, and Firth has a two-pic deal with Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner at Working Title.

The challenge facing Nicholas Wright is writing the script for the National Theater’s version of “His Dark Materials,” the jaw-dropping trilogy of metaphysical kids novels by Philip Pullman. Pullman’s backlist is being snapped up by Hollywood, and Pullman may himself harbor screenwriting and directing ambitions.


BBC Films has a conveyor belt of doc directors making the transition into movies — the three most likely to go places are Pawel Pawlikowski, Dominic Savage and Francesca Joseph, all of whom trade in a raw, improvised realism.

Pawlikowski made the crossing with “Last Resort,” but missed his step up to the big league when he ankled the Sylvia Plath biopic over creative differences.

After a couple of powerful telepics, Savage exploded with the searingly moving “Out of Control,” which won the best Brit film prize at this year’s Edinburgh fest.

Joseph’s “Tomorrow La Scala!” screened this year in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard sidebar. Hopes of a theatrical release were dashed by the refusal of Stephen Sondheim to grant permission for the use of his music, but Joseph is now inundated with Hollywood scripts.

Great things are expected of Scottish helmer David Mackenzie, whose “Young Adam,” starring Ewan McGregor and produced by Jeremy Thomas, will be ready early next year. His low-budget debut, “The Last Great Wilderness,” generated buzz at the Edinburgh fest for his strong control of visuals and cast, boding well for his future as a mainstream commercial filmmaker.

Miguel Sapochnik and Vaughan Arnell are the two hottest names coming out of musicvids and commercials. Sapochnik hit Hollywood to pitch his ideas, and Miramax commissioned him to develop “Human,” a movie about clones revolting against their human masters, based on his short “The Dreamer.” He also was signed up by New Line to direct the Gotham serial killer movie “Solace.” Arnell is developing the futuristic London thriller “Roofworld” for Fine Line.

Best-reviewed Brit film of the year was “The Lawless Heart,” the sophomore effort of co-writer-directors Tom Hunsinger and Neil Hunter. It even did some modest arthouse business. Hunsinger is an American actor and drama teacher; Hunter comes out of shorts. They create their scripts by workshopping ideas with actors. Next is “Sparkle,” a comedy about identity, being developed with BBC Films.

Emily Young had to withstand the death of her star, Katrin Cartlidge, just a week before they were due to start shooting Young’s debut movie, “Helen of Peckham.” She proved her mettle by getting the film rolling with just three weeks of delay. Young studied at film school in Poland, giving her an imagistic style that is more European than British. Her short, “Second Hand,” won the Cinefondation prize at Cannes, so look for “Helen” in next year’s fest lineup.

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