TEN Notable Foreign Actors to Watch

I love lists. Don’t you? I consider myself sort of a list-a-holic, well as far as movies are concerned of course.

As with any list, it’s a matter of opinion/preference, and it’s impossible to please everyone, as is often the case with my other top ten lists. This one in particular is not meant to be a prediction of ‘the next big thing,’ whatever the heck that means, but more of an indication that these non-American actors have been generating some buzz for current or upcoming flix, or accolades for their performance in the past year. The criteria is that they’re virtually unknown to the average moviegoing public (even if they have seen their movies), but are definitely on the radar of cinephiles and movie bloggers alike. I’m also excluding those who’ve won or been nominated for major Hollywood awards such as Golden Globes or Oscar as that means they have ‘graduated’ from this list (i.e. Marion Cottilard, who won Best Actress Oscar for La vie en rose last year).

Anyhoo, I’m sure there are far more than 10 people that belong on this list, so I’m keeping the age range between 20-40 years old and that they’ve at least been on my radar. So, without further ado, here they are:

FlixChatter's Top Ten Foreign Actors to Watch
FlixChatter’s Top Ten Foreign Actors to Watch
  1. Tom Hardy (Bronson, Rocknrolla)
    This 32-year-old actor first came to my attention in Rocknrolla and got rave reviews for playing Charles Bronson in Bronson. He’s got good comic skills but can pull off a drama/thriller convincingly. That versatility will surely keep him from being typecast in a given role. We’ll see him next in Chris Nolan’s Inception and the new Mad Max action adventure Fury Road, two projects that’d surely put his name on the Hollywood map.
  2. Sam Worthington (Terminator Salvation, Avatar, Clash of the Titans)
    I’m beginning to sound like a broken record when it comes to this Aussie thespian. My friend Mike asked me a few months ago who’s the next big thing when it comes to actors, and my answer remains the same today. This rugged actor’s got an undeniable charisma and intelligent strength in the vein of Russell Crowe and Gerard Butler. He’s the reason I haven’t ruled out seeing Terminator Salvation on DVD (eclipsing even the great Christian Bale!) and a big factor why I can’t wait to see Avatar. Hollywood’s definitely fallen in love with him, as evidenced in the barrage of roles poured upon him. No surprise there. Surely I’m not the only one who’d rather pay 10 bucks to see this guy than Brad Pitt any day! He’s quite a fascinating guy off-screen too, just check out the bad-ass Esquire interview.
  3. Carey Mulligan (An Education)
    I hardly noticed her as Kitty Bennett in 2005’s Pride & Prejudice, but the movie blogs and sites have been abuzz with praises for her performance in An Education. She’s won all kinds of breakthrough awards — including Berlinale‘s Shooting Star Award —and she could very well be a shoo-in for next year’s Oscar. Her next projects are a good mix of more mainstream stuff (Wall Street sequel), as well as smaller artsy one (Never Let Me Go with Keira Knightley). With talent like this, we’ll be seeing more of miss Mulligan.
  4. Tobey Kebbell (Rocknrolla, Prince of Persia)
    I just realized that three actors on this list have been in Rocknrolla! Pure coincidence really, but it goes to show how Guy Ritchie’s pretty good at spotting real talents (as he pretty much ‘discovered’ Jason Statham). Like his co-star Mark Strong, Kebbell is quite a versatile character actor with serious screen presence. He’ll appear in the Bruckheimer’s Prince of Persia movie, and was recently cast as John Wilkes Booth in Robert Redford’s The Conspirator.
  5. Chiwetel Ejiofor (Inside Man, American Gangster, Children of Men)
    I always calls him the guy with the impossible name to pronounce but I sure notice him every time he comes on screen. I particularly liked him in Children of Men, such passion in his performance, but you can say that in almost any role he’s in (well, except perhaps Love, Actually). The handsome London-born actor could very well be the next Denzel, oh and if the Broccolis are ready to make a Black James Bond, he would be an excellent contender.
  6. Michael Fassbender (300, Hunger, Inglorious Basterds)
    300 sure made Gerry Butler a star, but the flick’s got quite a few other talented actors as well. Vincent Regan, Dominic West, David Wenham … but it’s Fassbender who got the best lines as Stelios with his ‘Then we’d fight in the shade’ and ‘Beautiful death’ quips. This German-born actor who grew up in Ireland has been catching all sorts of buzz for his notable turn in Fish Tank, Inglorious Basterds and Hunger. In the last one, he dropped down to 130 pounds (he’s 6-feet tall!) to play Irish republican hunger striker Bobby Sands. I always admire actors who willingly suffer for their art like that. I’m intrigued by his upcoming Roman-themed actioner with 300 alum Dominic West called Centurion. I guess I have a penchant for men in leather skirts =)
  7. Abbie Cornish (Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Bright Star)
    She’s perhaps known in the gossip columns as the actress that broke up Reese Witherspoon/Ryan Phillipe’s marriage. Be that as it may, the Aussie actress is definitely buzz-worthy for her acting. She stole scenes in Elizabeth, and that’s saying a lot given that Cate Blanchett is the lead actress! She also drew rave reviews for her performance in Candy with Heath Ledger, as well as in the recently released  Bright Star — an aptly named film indeed as her co-star Ben Whishaw is another talent whose star will shine brightly for years to come.
  8. Sharlto Copley (District 9)
    If you have any qualms why he’s on this list, just check out District 9. I’ve been touting this South-African actor ever since that sci-fi flick came out this past Summer. The fact that he’s got virtually zero acting experience made his haunting performance even more fascinating. It remains to be seen if he could act sans his thick Afrikaans-English accent though. So far he’s only got The A-Team reboot listed for his next project, but I sure hope he’s got more dramatic roles lined up soon.
  9. Gemma Arterton (Rocknrolla, Quantum of Solace, Prince of Persia)
    Like his Clash of the Titans co-star Sam Worthington, Arterton has been offered a plethora of high profile roles in the past couple of years. Her diverse resume include everything from literary adaptations (Wuthering Heights, Lost in Austen) to big-budgeted fantasy flicks like the two mentioned above. The prestigious RADA grad’s career is so enviably juicy right now it’s mindboggling the fact that her first acting role was only as far back as 2007!
  10. Ben Whishaw
    I have to admit I have not seen one film of his, but I’m going to make an exception because well, it’s my blog darn it =) I first saw him in the creepy Perfume trailer, then Brideshead Revisited, and most recently Bright Star. There’s a calm intensity & understated sexiness about him that’s quite magnetic. The fact that he’s not exactly movie-star handsome actually makes him more all the more interesting.

Honorable mentions:

Jim Sturgess (Across the Universe, 21, Fifty Dead Men Walking)

Rupert Friend (Cheri, The Young Victoria)

Idris Elba (Rocknrolla, Obssessed)

Rebecca Hall (The Prestige, Dorian Gray)

Ben Barnes (Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Dorian Gray)

Well, what do you think folks? Any new talent you noticed recently? Would love to hear from you.

17 thoughts on “TEN Notable Foreign Actors to Watch

  1. Agreed on Fassbender, Hall, and Ejiofor. Also like Ben Barnes and Idris Elba so far. Arterton, really? I thought her acting in QofS was really poor. It was like she couldn’t quite read what was on the teleprompter, or something.

    1. Y’know… of all the actors on my list, Gemma is the only one I was kind of having reservations about, interestingly enough. But she’s either very, very lucky that she got so many offers or that she’s actually quite good. I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt as I don’t think she’s as bad as you think. From what I’ve seen, she has pretty good comic timing (unlike some young actress who can only pull off dramatic roles), and versatility often works better for actors than simply being sexy (i.e. Megan Fox).

  2. I am ALLLLL about Mark Strong right now, having just watched Rocknrolla and Body of Lies in quick succession. Plus Stardust, of course. He’s totally awesome, my dear.

  3. Dana

    Abbie stealing scenes from Cate Blanchett? Are you serious?! Wow, totally disagree there, thought Cate was the only shining light in that drab film! I thought Abbie was wonderful in Candy however, so I won’t disagree with you there but she’s going to have to step up her game if she even wants to be in the same league of an actor as powerful as Cate the Great! Carey Mulligan was EXCELLENT in An Education, and I really see a potential great talent emerging from her. Hope to see more of her in the future!

    1. Ok, maybe ‘stealing scenes’ might be a bit of an overstatement, but her performance was quite noticeable which is quite something when you’re sharing a film with the great Cate (whom I adore dearly). Btw, thanks for making me realize I misspelled her name, I will fix it right away. As for miss Mulligan, yeah, all I’ve been hearing is how good she was in that movie. She’ll go far if she keeps it up.

  4. Marc

    Well, well, well, RocknRolla (despite people mocking me for loving it) has not only 3 your above mentioned 10 to watch, but it also featured your fav “Gerry”, so it can’t be all bad huh? 😛

    All these actors really have incredible depth, range and talent. Nice list Ruth. I hope Hardy doesn’t go belly up in the new Mad Max film. I imagined the simltaneous rise and fall of Sam Worthington in the latest Terminator…the gods must have saved his career from that fiasco (and by gods I mean James Cameron and ‘Titans’). Eh, it’s late, I got nothing…

    1. He..he.. I must admit, GB was the big draw that got me to see it but really enjoyed most of the characters in the movie, especially Mark Strong’s Archie. I thought it was a strong comeback for Ritchie and it made me laugh the whole time.

      I have high hopes for Hardy and Worthington that they don’t waste the high-profile opportunities given to them. But I’m ready to see some fresh new leading men and they seem to have the chops to deliver the goods.

      Are you excited about Titans? I thought the trailer’s definitely rockin’… can’t wait for Summer already.

  5. Great post, Ruth! Most of these actors are pretty big stars now so you’ve definitely got an eye for talent.

    Kebbell and Cornish are still under-the-radar, imo, but moderately well-known. Worthington has become a star but I don’t get why. I don’t think he’s talented or charismatic at all.

    Some real keepers in your “Honorable Mentions” too.

    1. Stay tuned for the ‘Where are they now’ post to follow up this one 🙂 Yeah, now that I’ve seen more of Worthington’s movies, I’d have swapped him w/ Idris Elba!

  6. Great list. Agree with almost all of those guys. Almost! In my list I’d probably have Andrew Garfield (though he’s weird and slightly American!), Chris Hemsworth and Vincent Cassel.

    Sharlto Copley needs to get back on the big screen! I might just have to watch District 9 again tonight. VICKERS!

  7. Pingback: Spotlight on three new favorite actors: Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston & Benedict Cumberbatch

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