The award, which is sponsored by EE, recognizes actors or actresses who “have demonstrated exceptional talent, and are destined to be bright stars in the future of cinema.” The other nominees are Shailene Woodley, Margot Robbie and Gugu Mbatha-Raw.
O’Connell first came to public attention in the U.K. TV series “Skins,” which he starred in from 2009. In 2013, he took the lead in British indie film “Starred Up,” playing Eric, a violent reprobate prematurely transferred to an adult prison. The role earned him a best actor nomination at last year’s British Independent Film Awards.
He also received critical acclaim for his punchy portrayal of Private Gary Hook in “’71,” for which he was nominated for a British Independent Film Award last year. The thriller, based on the civil strife in Belfast, was in competition at the Berlin Film Festival before being screened in Toronto.
Most recently, O’Connell took the lead role in Angelina Jolie’s “Unbroken,” a chronicle of the life of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who was taken prisoner by Japanese forces during World War II.
O’Connell has also appeared in “Private Peaceful” (2012) and “300: Rise of an Empire” (2014).
He has recently been awarded Breakthrough Performance by the National Board of Review for “Starred Up” and “Unbroken,” and has been nominated by the London Critics’ Circle as best British actor.
Later this year, he appears in “Tulip Fever,” alongside Christoph Waltz and Holliday Grainger.
Teller made his feature film debut opposite Nicole Kidman in “Rabbit Hole,” which is adapted from the Pulitzer Prize winning play, and has established himself in the past year with roles in “Whiplash” and “Divergent.” “Whiplash” received the Grand Jury Prize and audience award at the Sundance Film Festival, and Teller’s intense performance as a struggling drumming student landed him a best actor nomination for the Gotham Awards.
Teller will play Mr. Fantastic in “The Fantastic Four” alongside Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara and Jamie Bell, which will be released later this year.
Teller’s previous film credits include “Footloose,” “Project X,” “21 & Over,” “The Spectacular Now” and “That Awkward Moment,” in which he starred alongside Zac Efron.
Woodley found breakthrough success for her performance opposite George Clooney in the BAFTA and Academy Award-nominated film “The Descendants.”
She established herself as a rising Hollywood actress when she was cast as Tris, the leading heroine in action adventure film “Divergent.”
Woodley has received critical acclaim for her portrayal of a young cancer patient in the witty yet heartbreaking love story “The Fault in our Stars.”
Woodley’s TV credits include “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” “Felicity: An American Girl Adventure,” and recurring roles on “Crossing Jordan,” “The O.C.” and “Jack & Bobby.”
She received a 2012 Independent Spirit Award for supporting actress, a National Board of Review Award for supporting actress, a Golden Globe nomination, and a Critics Choice Award nomination.
She will soon be starring in “Insurgent” and “Allegiant,” as the final two installments of the “Divergent” trilogy, and will this year begin filming the lead female role opposite Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Oliver Stone’s next movie “Snowden.”
Robbie was first recognized for her role as Donna Freedman in soap opera “Neighbors.” Her breakthrough role was in Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street,” in which she stars as the female lead opposite Leonardo DiCaprio. In February, she will star as an up-and-coming con artist opposite Will Smith in “Focus.” She was recently cast as DC Comics villain Harley Quinn in Warner Bros.’ “Suicide Squad.”
Mbatha-Raw’s first major film role was in 2011’s “Larry Crowne,” directed by Tom Hanks and co-starring Julia Roberts.
In 2013, she starred alongside Willem Dafoe and Anton Yelchin in Stephen Sommers’ “Odd Thomas.” In the same year, she played the title role of Dido Belle, Britain’s first mixed-race aristocrat, in the period drama film “Belle,” alongside Tom Wilkinson and Emily Watson. The role earned her the best actress award and a nomination for Most Promising Newcomer at last year’s British Independent Film Awards.
Mbatha-Raw took on a very different role for Gina Prince-Bythwood’s “Beyond the Lights” as Noni, a present day pop singer torn between love, success and finding her authentic self in an exploitative industry, steered by her ambitious mother, played by Minnie Driver.
Mbatha-Raw’s television credits include “Spooks,” “Doctor Who,” “Marple – Ordeal by Innocence,” “Bonekickers” and “Fallout.” She has also appeared on stage as Ophelia opposite Jude Law’s Hamlet.
The Rising Star Award is the only award at the British Academy Film Awards to be voted for by the public. The winner will be announced at the BAFTAs on Feb. 8.
The jury who selected the nominees comprised deputy chair of BAFTA’s Film Committee, Pippa Harris, actress Alice Eve, director Dexter Fletcher, film critic James King, casting director Nina Gold, producer Parminder Vir, producer Debra Hayward, director Susanna White and producer Marc Samuelson.