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

It’s been a while since I highlight a particular actor here, and since we’re on the first week of the new year, why not highlight some new-ish actors who’ve made the mark the past year. Ok, the term ‘new’ is relative of course, as all of these actors have had stage, TV and even film experience in the past, but until fairly recently, we haven’t heard much about them. I pick these three because in the past year or so, I’ve seen at least three of their films, whether in lead or supporting roles, and I REALLY like what I see. I didn’t want to include anyone that I’ve already included on this list nor this one, which includes the likes of Michael Fassbender, Andrew Garfield, Tom Hardy, etc. Though I might do what Iba from I Luv Cinema suggested, that is doing a follow-up post of where are they now. What a splendid idea!

So anyway, here are my three new favorite actors that I hope will have a lasting cinematic career (All bio info from IMDb):

Jessica Chastain

Films seen: The Debt, Tree of Life, The Help

Why she’s awesome: The first time I saw Jessica was in The Debt and I liked her straight away. There is something so intriguing yet likable about her, and an effortlessness in her acting. She is beautiful but not drop dead gorgeous, or worse, plastic-looking like a lot of Hollywood starlets are. 2011 was truly her banner year with no less than SIX films under her belt, which is quite impressive considering a year ago even arden cinephiles had not even heard of her. When I saw her performance in The Help, I was floored at her versatility. What a complete departure from both her roles in The Debt and even Tree of Life. She had to gain weight for her role which proves that she’s dedicated to her craft, but it’s her performance that was truly outstanding.

The 30-year-old California native began performing in Shakespearean productions in the Bay area at age 13, and graduated from The Juilliard School of Drama in New York.

What’s next for Jessica: She has five films to be released this year and 2013, including the yet Untitled Terrence Malick project with Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams. Updated 5/6 – Jessica will also make her Broadway debut this Fall in the adaptation of The Heiress (per LA Times). I’m sure she’ll be splendid.

Tom Hiddleston

Films seen: Thor, Midnight in Paris, War Horse

Why he’s awesome: I guess I have a thing for bad boys, but I wasn’t immediately drawn to his character Loki when I first saw Thor. But one thing that caught my eye was the way he delivered his lines which seemed to have a theatrical style to it. Sure enough, director Kenneth Branagh apparently had worked with Hiddleston on stage before he cast him in this film. There are so many variety of British accents, but Tom’s is just so pleasing to the ear. Plus he’s got this big, spontaneous smile that lights up his face. He’s attractive without being too perfect-looking which gets tiresome after about two minutes.  The 30-year-old Londoner’s pedigree is quite impressive, too. He’s a grad of Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), and attended Eton College (popular with the British Royal Family) and studied for his Classics degree at Pembroke College, University of Cambridge.

Hiddleston proved his range in memorable supporting roles in Midnight in Paris and War Horse, playing sympathetic characters in both, perhaps a calculated strategy to balance out being the arch nemesis in this Summer’s The Avengers.

What’s next for Tom: The Avengers of course. Even amongst such an all-star-cast, Tom is the one I look forward to the most in that superhero flick! He’s also doing a BBC TV-movie adaptation of Henry IV  and V with Jeremy Irons, directed by Sir Richard Eyre.

Benedict Cumberbatch

Films seen: Amazing Grace, Atonement, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Why he’s awesome: I guess I’ve always liked Benedict since I first saw him as William Pitt in Amazing Grace (a great but underrated movie btw, do check it out). He’s got such a classic British look, even his name sounds very English to me. Benedict is one of those actors that blends seamlessly into his character that one often forgets he’s in the movie until after. I realized later on that he was in Atonement and was really impressed with his performance.
My friend Novia likes Benedict a lot, almost as much as she likes Cillian Murphy (I think), because of his role in BBC’s Sherlock, she even puts him in one of the five actors she’d watch in anything. His latest role in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is what makes me include him in this shortlist. He’s definitely got the chops to act alongside of British veterans such as Gary Oldman and John Hurt, in fact, besides Oldman’s and Tom Hardy’s, his performance stood out the most for me in that film.

Just like Hiddleston, Benedict is London-bred and has a degree in drama from University of Manchester, followed by a study at London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.

What’s next for Benedict: The Hobbit… I’m thrilled to see Benedict amongst such a great ensemble cast.

On a related note, THR just announced the top five breakout stars of 2012 list. Look for another actors-spotlight post in the next few months highlighting a couple of ’em on that list once I see more of their work.

Any thoughts on any of these actors? Let’s hear it in the comments.