A new generation of thesps ready for its closeup

Marie Bonnevie
Only 30, it seems that Swede Maria Bonnevie has been around Scandi cinema for decades. Fluent in Norwegian and Swedish, she effortlessly moves among the Nordic countries, constantly working. This winter, she will be seen in three new Swedish films (Kjell-Ake Andersson’s “Mamma, Pappa, Barn,” Richard Hobert’s “Three Suns” and Kjell Sundvall’s “The Threat”), and is shooting Danish director Simon Staho’s “Day and Night” with an all-star Swedish cast. Bonnevie, whose first big role was in Bille August’s “Jerusalem,” is awaiting her international breakthrough. She got great reviews in the English-lingo Norwegian pic “I Am Dina,” but the film flopped at the B.O. Maybe Danish film “Reconstruction,” a hit and Camera d’Or winner at Cannes this year, will open overseas doors for Bonnevie.

Ana Geislerova
Multilingual Czech thesp Ana Geislerova has nurtured a strong onscreen persona, part Mia Farrow-style ethereal waif, part Isabelle Huppert-like calculated carnality, at the rate of two pics per year since 1991. Sly perf in Sasa Gedeon’s “Return of the Idiot” earned her a Czech Lion supporting actress award in 1999. She’s poised for wider exposure via outstanding turn in German helmer Jan Schuette’s English-lingo “SuperTex” and commanding lead work in Czech wartime relationship saga “Zelary,” for producer-director Ondrej Trojan, the Czech Republic’s official contender for the foreign language Oscar. Next up is “Something Like Happiness” from “Wild Bees” director Bohdan Slama and Joseph Cahill’s American-Czech “Night Fisherman,” which she’s co-producing.

Sergi Lopez
The body of a well-fed country lad, a short back-and-sides haircut, a barn-door-size grin: 37-year-old Sergi Lopez has turned his strapping boyishness to good use playing childlike men adrift — sometimes violently — in adulthood, warranting European Film Academy and French Cesar actor nods for “With a Friend Like Harry.” How far can he go? Speaking four languages gracefully, he has kudos, if little B.O. clout: Only “Harry” (in the U.S. a robust $3.8 million) and “Dirty Pretty Things” ($11.85 million worldwide as of early November) have made much moolah. Often underused after “Harry” in largely bread-and-butter French comedies, he brings extra layers to parts that could have been mere caricatures in other hands. His scumbag turn in “Things” suggests a wider repertoire. Next up in 2004 is an Alain Corneau pic.

Heike Makatsch
“She’s got a really quirky look but she’s beautiful and there’s something decadent about her,” helmer Saul Metzstein says of Heike Makatsch, the angular 32-year-old German thesp with pouting, sulky features. London-based but Dusseldorf-born, this latter-day Dietrich has been a star in her homeland for a few years now. She made her debut in Detlev Buck’s “Jailbirds,” for which she won a Bavarian film kudo for young actress in 1995. Since then, the former TV presenter has worked with such helmers as Peter Webber and Dorris Dorrie in Germany while carving out an international reputation with roles in Metzstein’s “Late Night Shopping” and Paul Anderson’s “Resident Evil.” In her most eye-catching and international role to date, she is Alan Rickman’s spiky and seductive secretary in Richard Curtis’ “Love Actually.”

Mads Mikkelsen
In Denmark, 37-year-old local boy Mads Mikkelsen is as big as they come. Playing a lead in reality-based TV crime drama “Rejseholdet” (which also won an Intl. Emmy for foreign crime series) catapulted him to the kind of stardom that has made Danish women vote him “the sexiest man on Earth” (Brad Pitt came in second). At the beginning of his movie career, he played drug addicts and criminals in films like “Pusher” and “Flickering Lights,” but after Susanne Bier’s “Open Hearts,” Mikkelsen has morphed into a romantic lead. His latest Danish film is the black comedy “The Green Butchers,” but he also spent this fall in Ireland shooting his first English-speaking film, Antoine Fuqua’s “King Arthur.”

Cillian Murphy
Brit horror pic “28 Days Later” (2002) made London-based Cillian Murphy a star in the U.K. His breakout film, “Disco Pigs” (2001), was cooked up as legit piece initially; his stark, otherworldly and graceful Celtic features are familiar on the U.K. stage — keeping him busy as a host of his early Irish films such as “At Death’s Door,” “Eviction” and “Sunburn” (all 1999) barely saw the light of day. “I wanna play a cowboy, something American that’s not Irish,” he says, enthused by vistas of the oater. He has two big hitters finished, historical drama “Girl With a Pearl Earring” and comedy “Intermission,” with Colin Farrell, proving he’s Ireland’s hottest export since, well, Farrell.

Vincent Perez
Vincent Perez — whose pearly whites could rival Julia Roberts’ in a grin-off — has proved he can wield a sword. Having figured in “Cyrano De Bergerac,” “Queen Margot” and Philippe de Broca’s rousing “Le bossu” (On Guard!), Perez will be seen wielding more shiny metal in de Broca’s upcoming “Beau masque.” The buoyant, gung-ho Perez was the only redeeming feature of the leaden “Fanfan La Tulipe” remake that opened Cannes this year.

A vet of several English-lingo pics (“The Crow: City of Angels,” “Swept From the Sea,” “I Dreamed of Africa”) Perez — as at home in contempo comedies as period dramas — made his helming debut in 2002 with romantic drama “Once Upon an Angel.” On Oct. 1, French auds embraced him as Sophie Marceau’s odious hubby in “I’m Staying!”

Stefania Rocca
Versatile, beautiful and willing to take risky parts, Stefania Rocca, 32, is much in demand in Italy and abroad. Her command of English has brought her gigs with Kenneth Branagh (“Love’s Labour’s Lost”) Tom Tykwer (“Heaven”) Anthony Minghella (“The Talented Mr. Ripley”) and Mike Figgis (“Hotel”).

In Italy, one of her key theatrical roles has been Irma La Douce in a musical based on Billy Wilder’s film. From Joan of Arc to the young prostitute Katiuscia Maslova in “Resurrection”to the sexy cyberbabe in Gabriele Salvatore’s “Nirvana” to Mary of Bethany in Roger Young’s miniseries “Jesus,” her roles have been nothing if not eclectic.

This year Rocca has three films: “Life as It Comes,” by Neapolitan helmer Stefano Incerti; Renzo Martinelli’s classy actioner “Piazza of the Five Moons”; and Dario Argento’s new horror pic “The Card Dealer.”

Ludivine Sagnier
After her sultry turn in Francois Ozon’s “Swimming Pool” this year, angelic-featured Ludivine Sagnier, born in 1979, may be one of the youngest names in this list of actors but already she’s easily the best known to international audiences.

She debuted at 10 in Alain Resnais’ “I Want to Go Home” and Sagnier has worked steadily ever since on both TV and in film with such helmers as Jean-Paul Rappeneau (“Cyrano De Bergerac”), Diane Kurys (“Children of the Century”), but most important Ozon, for whom she is a kind of muse-cum-surrogate sister.

“I always feel we are like kids playing in the nursery or sandbox going, ‘OK, once upon a time, you would be …,’ ” is how Sagnier describes their relationship. Playing a German bimbo in his “Water Drops on Burning Rocks” (2000), a tomboy in “8 Women” (2002) and a “slut” as she describes her character in “Swimming Pool,” brought her to the attention of Aussie helmer P.J. Hogan, who cast her as Tinkerbell in his upcoming version “Peter Pan.” Her ever-improving command of English should ensure more Hollywood offers in the future.

Paz Vega
Paz Vega’s brisk progress toward audience-magnet status began with appearances in popular Spanish sitcoms, which lodged her typically Andalusian features in the public consciousness. Julio Medem’s 2001 “Sex and Lucia,” featuring Vega as the sizzling, sexploit-hungry heroine, took her to another level and a new actress Goya. Her recent work has shown her range, with roles dramatic (as a victim of domestic violence in Javier Balaguer’s “Mine Alone”) and comic (“The Other Side of the Bed,” which did $14.5 million in Spain). Vega also won plaudits for her demanding central perf in Vicente Aranda’s 2003 “Carmen,” which has made $6.3 million. Now she follows Penelope Cruz to Hollywood, via James L. Brooks’ “Spanglish,” playing a housekeeper, and endeavoring to avoid Latino stereotyping.

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