Rachida Brakni – 2002 – France
With her expressive face and wide, questioning eyes, Brakni has screen charisma to burn. Thesp was utterly convincing as a prostitute who is both manipulator and manipulated in Coline Serreau’s urban drama “Chaos,” for which she won the 2002 Cesar Award for most promising actress.
Since then, Brakni has stood out playing an artist in “The Overeater” (2003) and a doctor in Algeria-set “Barakat!” (2006). Still, the feeling persists that the 30-year-old thesp has the kind of talent that could be put to even better use.
Ludivine Sagnier – 2001 – France
It is ample testament to Sagnier’s talents that Gaul’s leading auteurs come back to her time and again. Francois Ozon has directed her three times, most notably in “The Swimming Pool” (2003), and Claude Miller twice, most recently in “Le Secret” (2007). Nor is it only in France where the 28-year-old thesp is in demand. U.S. offers have also flooded in, most of which Sagnier has turned down (with the exception of Tink in P.J. Hogan’s “Peter Pan”), preferring to stay the European route. Sagnier’s perfs are both innocent and worldly, sexy and prim — in short the true sum of her parts.
Jeremie Renier – 2002 – Belgium
Renier has made a career out of tackling the kind of unsympathetic roles most good looking young actors run away from. This was starkly evident in the Dardennes brothers’ Palme d’Or winner “The Child” (2005), where the 26-year-old thesp played a ne’er-do-well who sells his newborn baby into adoption. Whizzing around on a red scooter, Renier brought back memories of his breakthrough role as a conflicted teenager in the Dardennes’ earlier pic “The Promise” (1996). More recently, Renier was the best thing about Belgian indie “Dikkenek” (2006).
Franka Potente – 1998 – Germany
A rare physicality, first evinced as the hyperactive Lola in Tom Tykwer’s “Run Lola Run” (1998), marked Potente out as a full-blooded heroine for the new millennium. Hollywood soon came calling, offering Potente the plum role of Marie in “The Bourne Identity” (2002), a part that seemed tailor-made for her, given her facility with languages (English, German and French) and a chameleonlike ability to change her appearance. Now 33, Potente still has it all to look forward to. Watch out for a starring role in Steven Soderbergh’s upcoming diptych about Che Guevara.
Daniel Craig – 2000 – U.K.
Since becoming the first blond Bond, Craig is hardly an actor in search of an introduction. But it would be a mistake to forget about the roles that initially pushed this 39-year old thesp into the public eye. Like Sean Connery before him, Craig is much more than just a hard man with an icy glint in his eye. First coming to prominence in BBC2’s “Our Friends in the North” (1996), Craig has essayed every type of role, from Francis Bacon’s lover in “Love Is the Devil” (1998) to a dreamy carpenter in “The Mother” (2003). More recently, he put his blunt-nosed charm to good effect in “Munich” (2005) and “Infamous” (2006).
Rachel Weisz – 1998 – U.K.
A throwback to the days when female thesps knew how to make love to the camera with a well-timed glance, Weisz’s brand of intelligent screen acting is more in demand than ever. Following a supporting actress Oscar for “The Constant Gardener” (2005), the 36-year-old thesp’s reputation now carries the kind of weight that wins the most sought-after roles. Having won the part of an alcoholic mother in Phillip Noyce’s upcoming “Dirt Music,” Weisz will soon begin work on Peter Jackson’s “The Lovely Bones.”