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.
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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.
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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.

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

  1. I became a big fan of Jessica Chastain after I saw her in The Help and The Debt. She’s definitely versatile, and I even read in an article about how she said that people rarely recognize her when she’s out in public.

    I was reading that Tom Hiddleston actually auditioned for the role of Thor–he even gained a lot of weight so he would look the part, but Branagh thought he looked more like Loki and would be more fitting for that part.

    I haven’t seen Benedict Cumberbatch in anything yet. I’m waiting to see Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (hasn’t been set in wide release around here yet!), so I’ll be sure to look out for him when I see it.

    1. Hi Kristin, glad you’re a fan of Chastain. I love her in both of those films, especially The Help, her character is so likable. She does have a chameleon look about her, which always helps any actor.

      Hiddleston gained weight as Loki?? But he’s so slim in that movie, can’t imagine what he looked like before he gained weight!

      Where are you at Kris, are you in the US?

      1. I think Hiddleston originally gained weight (think muscle mass) to play Thor, and then I’m not sure what happened after that. I kept thinking he was thin too (to have gained weight and look the way he does!). Then again, next to Chris Hemsworth, any guy looks a little wimpy in that movie 🙂

        I am! I live in a northern suburb of Chicago. I think I remember seeing somewhere on your site that you live in the Minneapolis area, right? I was actually just reading one of your latest posts and I totally relate to the frustration of movies not being widely released. I don’t want to drive an hour to go downtown, park my car in a $30 parking garage (or on the street and have to fill the meter every 2 hours), overpay even MORE for a ticket (since it’s downtown) just to see a movie I’ve been waiting for.

        1. Hello again Kris, ah so we’re close by 🙂 If you don’t mind me asking, what’s the name of your city? I’m quite familiar w/ Chicago as one of my best pals live in Glenview.

          Oh I feel your pain girl, parking in Chicago is KILLER! Not to mention the gas you have to spend being stuck in traffic to get there.

          1. No prob! Schaumburg. I actually know Glenview. It’s prob a little bit of a drive from Schaumburg, but not too bad.

            Yeah, Chicago’s a great city, but not really worth driving to for a movie.

            1. Oh I like Schaumburg, there’s that big mall that I often stop on the way back to MN 🙂 Yeah, Chicago is an expensive city too, but definitely one of the best big cities in the US. I love the Millennium Park and around that area, I was there when they were filming The Dark Knight, it was very exciting!

  2. Excellent post, and I love your new look! So artistic! I haven’t seen Chastain in anything yet, sadly, but I look forward to it. And you already know how I feel about Mr. Hiddleston. I differ from you in that I was IMMEDIATELY drawn to Loki, and couldn’t tear my eyes away for the rest of the movie. 🙂

    Cumberbatch I have no opinion about, other than that I think he’s funny-looking. 🙂 I like that you used some slightly lesser-known names for this post, though! I feel so boring being on the Fassbender train, but I can’t help myself! LOL

    1. That is so funny a couple of years ago Fassbender was on similar lists. I am surprised that he has gained so much traction, given his lack of conventional choices for movie roles. The most mainstream being Xmen 1st Class and 300.

    2. Hey thanks Sam, nice of you to notice. Ha..ha.. well you are a woman with good taste. In hindsight I’d rather go out w/ Hiddleston than the super buff Hemsworth any day, a guy THAT ripped scares me a bit, ahah.

      He..he.. funny looking?? I think he’s more unique, plus his name is soooo English, almost old English y’know. Well I’m a bit tired of hearing Fassy’s name to be honest, I’m happy for him but yet I kind of think he’s in danger of overexposure (if he isn’t already).

  3. Cheers Ruth. Thanks for link love 🙂
    I think this is a good feature.

    Still have not seen any film with Chastain in it (how is that possible you ask!)
    That is an interesting pedigree for Hiddleston init?

    Last, but certainly not least, Benedict Cumberbatch. I have heard a couple of interviews with him; he seems like a cool dude.

    I will be waiting for that follow-up Ruth 😉

    1. Thanks Iba, I plan on doing another one or two of similar posts as I notice more and more actors. I know I’m gonna do a feature on Luke Evans and Henry Cavill but to be fair, I haven’t seen more than 2 movies from them, so I’d have to wait a bit. The English are usually very entertaining in interviews. I know Hiddleston has that infectious smile that I find irresistible… no wonder he was popular at Comic-con!

  4. Well I think Chastain’s gorgeous 😀

    After seeing BC in ‘War Horse’ and ‘Tinker,’ I’m definitely looking forward to seeing him in the next ‘Trek’ film. Wasn’t aware he had such a following, though; I’d never even heard of him until a month or two ago!

    1. She is indeed, yet without being too ‘plastic’ y’know what I mean?

      He’s popular because of that Sherlock series I think, so I’m glad Hollywood cast him in something as high profile as Star Trek. Though w/ such talent I’d love to see him in a good romantic drama or mystery thriller.

  5. Jessica Chastain is everywhere these days but I have yet to see in anything outside of The Tree of Life lol. Now if only Netflix would send me The Help and The Debt… 😀

    Tom Hiddleston I haven’t seen nearly enough to really have an opinion of him. His performance as Loki was a bit overly… theatrical as you put it and while solid in Midnight in Paris, he wasn’t really asked to do anything.

    As for Cumberbatch, he sounds like a very intriguing actor. I want to check out a couple episodes of Sherlock to see if it’s spending time on.

    1. I think The Help has a long wait on Netflix right? Fortunately there’s a dvd rental box in my office.

      I love Hiddleston because of his theatrical style… even in such small roles he stood out to me. Now I’m just waiting for him to get more leading man roles like in Deep Blue Sea.

  6. Ted S.

    I’m not that familiar with these three performers, I only saw Jessica in Tree of Life and Tom in Thor, so I don’t have any opinion about them yet. As for Benedict, I’ve never heard of him until the other day when rumors came that he was going to be in the next Star Trek film. If sure they’ll get more roles in future since they all look and can act.

    1. I’m so thrilled to hear Benedict cast in Star Trek 2. Abrams seem to have a penchant for good casting, as he also cast my fave Karl Urban in the first Star Trek 🙂

  7. I love your list. and agree that they are some great choices for this year! My fave would be Jessica Chastain. I really liked her the most in The Help. I had a hard time remembering it was her. She just completely embodied that character so well to me!

    1. Yeah Chastain really was quite a revelation in The Help. I love that she even gained weight for the role, shows that she’s as dedicated as she is talented.

  8. Love Chastain as well, but I have only seen her in The Tree of Life! Hopefully the Help will be available soon…

    I also cannot wait to see Sherlock, I expect to start it tonight or tomorrow!

    Nice work Ruth!

    1. I think most people have only seen her in Tree of Life and The Help for now, but for sure we’ll be seeing a lot of her in the coming years.

      Thanks Matt!

  9. Whaaaaatttt?? I can’t believe you like him too 🙂 I am SO happy reading this, Ruth!!! Yaaayyy… more love to the British with unusual name 😉

    I have so much love for him,especially after I saw him in Hawking. I really want to see him in big screen….but luck is still not on my side 😦 . There’s no sign of Tinker Soldier yet.

    Well…Ruth…I admit I like Benedict more than Keanu now (poor Keanu, he has been pushed by two young talented actors),but Benedict still has long way to come near to Cillian 😉
    he still needs to prove that he can act as anything like my dearest Cillian. However, I doubt his face can be a pretty woman like Kitten lol

    1. Ahah, well it’s not exactly a crush I have for Benedict, Nov… I’m just impressed w/ his performances. Ah, so he’s still has a lot to go to get to Cillian level eh? Yeah Hiddleston isn’t exactly on Gerry or Gregory level yet, but I do like what I’ve seen so far and looking forward to seeing more of his work. Ahah, I actually prefer guys who WON’T look pretty as a girl. I mean that’s cool if you like Cillian as a pretty woman and that shows how versatile he is, but I just prefer much more manly, rugged looking men 🙂

      1. I am just trying to point out that Benedict has limitation….he would make ugly woman 😉
        I am also impressed with his performances….and when I like (really like) someone’s performances and he looks quite cute, I tend to sort of have crush on him….like Benedict here.

        I need to see your 2 other choices. I haven’t yet seen them and I can’t comment on them yet. I wonder if I ever see your GP…B&W is really difficult to find here

        1. Ahah, limitation, you are too funny Nov. I don’t like Benedict so much for his looks actually, more for his screen presence and performance. Now w/ Gregory it’s ALL of it, looks, performance, everything.

          You can’t find ANY GP film? Not even Roman Holiday?? Not all of his films are B&W, Guns of Navarone is in color.

          1. Btw…what happen to GB? 😉
            For me…Everything is in Cillian.

            Well Ruth…It’s Indonesia, a country where only the newest DVD is easy to find. Can you believe that I couldn’t even find 28 days later, I want the original but all I got is downloaded file 😦

            1. Oh I still like GB, it’s just that he’s currently taking a backseat to GP, ahah. Trust me Nov, if you’ve seen at least one of Gregory’s films, maybe try Roman Holiday first, you’ll understand my fascination with him.

              I’d love to send you 28 Days Later dvd but the region is different there, plus it’d be impossible to mail anything there without getting lost. I sent my brother a package around Christmas and I don’t even know if it gets there yet 😦

    2. Jane gordon

      I am so with you on this. Benedict is gorgeous and completely unconventional in his looks and style but has yet to prove that he is has the depth and range to be compared to our dear Celtic, pocket sized, acting genius. He needs to be braver in his choices and more willing to experiment in my opinion, although the Creature in Frankenstein was a compelling start.

      1. Hi Jane, welcome to FC! So I take it you’re referring to Cillian as the ‘Celtic, pocket size, acting genius’?? LOL on the pocket size comment, he is not tall but not THAT short is he? I think Benedict’s career is sort of just opening up now, hopefully w/ more opportunities he’d challenge himself more.

  10. I love your little (or should I say BIG?) crush on Mr Hiddleston. I can see why though, he is easy on the eye!!

    I am so chuffed for Benedict. He is very deserving of the roles he is getting, I just love Sherlock!!

    1. He..he.. just a slight crush matey, BIG crush would be with Gregory… as you probably know by now 🙂 Tom is easy on the eye, but not in the ‘drop-dead-gorgeous’ kind of way, there’s just something about him I find appealing.

      I know you love Sherlock matey, one day I’d have to catch up on that show, but after I get to Downtown Abbey.

  11. I loved Jessica Chastain in The Tree of Life, she had something very special which just light up screen in every scene she was in. I remember Tom Hiddleston in Midnight in Paris because he made a rather thin role feel more substantial. He gave the impression of being naturally sincere, which is not all that common these days. My friend was telling me today that we should watch the new BBC Sherlock Holmes series and that it ‘made the Robert Downey Jr. film look ridiculous’.

    1. “…he made a rather thin role feel more substantial” I LOVE that description Ronan, that is exactly what I think of Hiddleston, which makes him memorable even in the smallest roles. You are right about him being sincere in his portrayal, I think it’s the fact that he’s able to embody the roles really well.

  12. I liked Hiddleston in Thor, but with the exception of Cumberbatch in atonement(What role did he play?) i haven’t seen them in anything. Hopefully when some of there stuff goes to dvd i might be able to see them

    1. Cumberbatch played Paul, the friend that came along w/ Keira’s family friend and who sexually assaulted the girl that McAvoy’s character ended up being accused of doing. He’s not on screen for very long though, he’s far more memorable to me in Amazing Grace.

  13. I LOVE Jessica Chastain. She is so gorgeous and talented. I also love Tom Hiddleston. Can’t wait to see him in War Horse, The Deep Blue Sea and of course, The Avengers! I haven’t seen Cumberbatch in anything other than Atonement, but I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do!

  14. Good choices for your spotlight, Ruth. I’m still unfamiliar with Chastain as I haven’t seen The Help, The Debt or Tree of Life. I’ve heard very good things about her so when I get around to seeing them I’m sure I won’t be disappointed.

    Hiddleston and Cumberbatch are both brilliant – I’m loving Cumberbatch in the second series of Sherlock that is currently showing in the UK and I can’t wait to see, or rather hear, him in The Hobbit.

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