Rising stars, nonpros key to nommed films' success

A look at the acting nominations for this year’s European Film Awards tells its own intriguing story. The names of big-hitters including Kate Winslet (“The Reader”) and Charlotte Gainsbourg (“Antichrist”) hold no surprises, but then things start to get interesting.

Also up for actress are Katie Jarvis, a non-pro plucked from obscurity by director Andrea Arnold to star in “Fish Tank,” and Noomi Rapace, a little-known TV actress from Sweden who stars in “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” the first film to be adapted from Stieg Larsson’s bestselling trilogy of novels.

The actor category is also refreshingly free of familiar faces. Fighting it out are Steve Evets, a former bass player with British band the Fall, who stars as a postman in Ken Loach’s “Looking for Eric”; Dev Patel from “Slumdog Millionaire”; and Tahar Rahim from helmer Jacques Audiard’s “A Prophet,” who was discovered playing a small part on a French television series.

“The film world seems to always look to the same small pool of actors because names sell films, but actually there are so many interesting actors out there with less-recognizable faces,” Arnold says.

“People who have had no experience acting, like Katie Jarvis, have less fear in some ways,” she adds. “They don’t know what is expected of them so they can be very free and unselfconscious.”

Audiard asked his casting director Richard Rousseau to find an actor whom no one had ever seen before. “He didn’t want a big star, he was bored by that,” says Rousseau. “He was determined to find new blood and that’s what he got with Tahar.”

Simone Baer, director of casting for Michael Haneke’s “The White Ribbon” and the German segment of Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds,” has noticed established directors taking a more creative approach to casting.

“A huge advantage of the way Quentin Tarantino casts is that he wasn’t looking for celebrities. He wanted the best possible actors to play the roles he’d written, and in the case of (the character) Landa, that was Christoph Waltz,” who had been nurturing a steady career on TV for decades.

But Rousseau, who has cast over 70 French pics, warns that directors like Audiard are an exception to the rule. ” ‘A Prophet’ got made thanks to Audiard’s reputation. He didn’t need any stars to get the film made. In France these days it’s common to get paid for two or three weeks of casting, whereas the casting of ‘A Prophet’ lasted almost 15 weeks.”

TIP SHEET

What: European Film Awards

When: Dec. 12

Where: Ruhr Metropolis, Germany

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