TEN Notable Foreign Actors to Watch – Where Are They Now?

I first published this list back in November 2009, and I’ve been wanting to do an update in a while, thanks to the suggestion from Iba @ ILuvCinema.

As I said back then, this kind of list is a matter of opinion/preference, and it’s impossible to please everyone. 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 flicks, or accolades for their performances as of 2009.

FlixChatter's Top Ten Foreign Actors to Watch
FlixChatter’s Top Ten Foreign Actors to Watch

The criteria was that at the time, these actors were virtually unknown to the average movie-going public (even if they had seen their movies), but are definitely on the radar of cinephiles and movie bloggers alike. To help narrow things down, I kept the age range between 20-40 years old (as of the time I made the list).

Well, so how are they doing now, almost three years later? Take a look below on how each of the talent’s career has taken them:

Tom Hardy, 34

Thanks to Christopher Nolan’s final Batman movie, Tom Hardy’s name has perhaps become a household name by now. Since I made the list, I’ve seen him in three additional films: Inception, Warrior, The Dark Knight Rises. As I said before, I quite like his comic skills in Rocknrolla, but since his roles have showcased his dramatic chops and a penchant for the theatrics for his role of Bane. No, I haven’t seen him in This Means War yet, though I have not ruled that out yet.

What’s Next? He’s currently starring in the prohibition-era thriller Lawless. I look forward to seeing him in the new Mad Max action adventure Fury Road with Charlize Theron.

Sam Worthington, 36

Now this is quite unfortunate. Though I was initially keen on the Kiwi actor after Terminator Salvation and Avatar, now I’m actually not as fond of him. Blame the awful Clash of the Titans for that, I guess, and also some dismal reviews for Man On Ledge, which didn’t sound too promising from the start. But no doubt Worthington’s career continues to be on the rise. I mean, heck, he’s now got another franchise besides Avatar as the sequel to ‘Clash‘ was released this past Summer.

What’s Next? He’s signed on for several movies out next year, but the one I’m most curious about is Thunder Run that’s reportedly on pre-production. The Iraq-war thriller about the surprise assault on Baghdad also stars Gerry Butler and Matthew McConaughey.

Carey Mulligan, 27

After seeing her fabulous performance in An Education, she wowed me again in Never Let Me Go. I haven’t seen Drive and Shame, but those two movie caught a lot of buzz with critics and moviegoers alike. Seems like the talented Londoner (one of my faves born in the UK capital) is perfectly suited for both indies and more mainstream fares like Wall Street: Money Never Sleep.

What’s Next? Too bad The Great Gatsby‘s been pushed back to next year from this Christmas. I think she’d make a compelling Daisy Buchanan in the tale of tragic romance amidst the lavish world of Jay Gatsby. On a personal front, Carey has also now been married Marcus Mumford, the lead singer of Mumford & Sons band last April.

Tobey Kebbell, 30

As I said before, it’s pure coincidence that three actors on this list have been in Rocknrolla! I guess Guy Ritchie’s pretty good at spotting real talents. I’ve since only seen Kebbell in one other film, War Horse, but his scene was easily one of the most memorable. Unlike Hardy though, Kebbell’s career hasn’t really quite taken off. Perhaps because his two films following Rocknrolla (The Conspirator and Prince of Persia) weren’t really well-received nor become box office hits.

What’s Next? His upcoming film The East with Alexander Skarsgård and Brit Marling sounds interesting, but I doubt it’ll be his big break as it’s a low-budget movie. Kebbell is still young though, so there’s still time for his career to hit it off.

Chiwetel Ejiofor, 39

Since I just saw a movie with him in the lead role in Endgame, I’m so glad I put him on my list! He had a memorable role in Children of Men and also American Gangster. Even in brief screen time as Keira Knightley’s groom in Love, Actually, it’s hard not to notice the handsome London-born actor (born of Nigerian parents). I wish he had been as prolific as fellow British/African Idris Elba, as both are charismatic and talented actors. As displayed in Endgame, I am convinced Ejiofor can carry a movie as a leading man. He’s obviously very easy on the eyes, but also got that intellectual, sophisticated vibe that’d make him suitable for a variety of roles.

What’s Next? He’s starring with Thandie Newton in a film set around Nigeria’s independence, Half of a Yellow Sun. And hopefully starring in the Steve McQueen’s historical drama Twelve Years A Slave would also boost his career even more.

Michael Fassbender, 35

Well I think this Irish-German actor’s career has been on a meteoric rise in the past three years, wouldn’t you say? He nabbed nominations left and right for his performance in Shame, though he was egregiously snubbed by the Academy Award. Since 300, I’ve loved his performance in Centurion, Inglourious Basterds, X-Men: First Class and Prometheus. I think it’s safe to say Fassbender has ‘arrived’ in Hollywood, and I’m glad to see him getting more prominent roles.

What’s Next? Fassbender will be collaborating with London-born director Steve McQueen for the third time in Twelve Years A Slave that I’ve mentioned above. He’s also co-starring with Brad Pitt in the Ridley Scott’s drug-trafficking thriller The Counselor set for next year.

Abbie Cornish, 28

I have to admit I haven’t seen Cornish in anything new since Bright Star, apart from watching her in A Good Year with Russell Crowe. She’s obviously VERY talented, and she could perhaps have the career of fellow Aussie actresses like Naomi Watts or Mia Waskikowska, but yet she’s not as well-known. She’s quite in demand though, she’s starring in five new films in the next couple of years.

What’s Next? She’s been cast in the much-beleaguered RoboCop reboot alongside Joel Kinnaman (The Killing) and Gary Oldman. This seems to be the most high profile she’s involved in as the others seem to be small-budget fares.

Sharlto Copley, 38

I LOVE his performance in District 9, that’s why he’s on this list. But it seems to be a slow-burn rise for the South African actor, as he hasn’t starred in anything since the A-Team reboot a few years ago. Not sure why that is but perhaps he’s busy working on the District 9 follow-up Elysium with Neill Blomkamp, even though it seems that it’s Matt Damon who’s got the starring role in that movie.

What’s Next? He’s listed on IMDb as having five upcoming projects, including the Sleeping Beauty spin-off Maleficent with Angelina Jolie and the Korean cult favorite Oldboy remake with Spike Lee. Not sure how big his role is in those two films. I do hope he gets another starring role in a sci-fi movie, he certainly has the chops to carry a film.

Gemma Arterton, 26

Now, out of the ten actors I put on the list, Gemma is the only one I wish I hadn’t. I guess I’m just too fond of her. I probably would rather put fellow Brit Hayley Atwell in her place. It’s interesting that she was Sam Worthington’s co-star in Clash of the Titans, whom I initially liked but now I’ve grown cold on. Like Worthington, Arterton is also in quite a high demand, she even played a Bond girl in Quantum of Solace and balancing smaller-budget fares (Tamara Drewe) and blockbusters (Prince of Persia).

What’s Next? You might’ve seen her in the recently-released trailer of Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (if not, you can see it here), just one of the four projects she’s got in 2013. None of them I’m really interested in however, that Hansel and Gretel one looks like crap.

Ben Whishaw, 31

The UK actor has since been on my radar since his leading role as John Keats in Bright Star and a small role in The International. I’ve been meaning to rent the ensemble-cast Bob Dylan biopic I’m Not There in which he portrayed Arthur Rimbaud, but haven’t got around to it. Needless to say, I haven’t seen him in anything since but I’m hoping to see him in two films before year’s end: Cloud Atlas and Bond 23 Skyfall as the new, young and hip Q!

What’s Next? There’s nothing else listed for him in IMDb after Skyfall, but he’s also starring in a BBC four-part miniseries The Hollow Crown (you can read all about it here on Dezzy’s blog) Hopefully this massively talented actor gets a leading role sometime soon!

Honorable mentions:

  • Jim Sturgess (Across the Universe, 21, Fifty Dead Men Walking)
  • Rupert Friend (Cheri, The Young Victoria)
  • Idris Elba (Rocknrolla, The Losers, Prometheus)
  • Rebecca Hall (The Prestige, Dorian Gray)
  • Ben Barnes (Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Dorian Gray)

Again, I made this original list three years ago. Now, with hindsight, I would’ve probably swapped a couple from the main list, such as Idris Elba and Rebecca Hall. Especially for Idris, I’m psyched that his career continues to rise now, he deserved it!!

Well, that’s it for the updates folks. Thoughts on any of these actors and/or their projects?

78 thoughts on “TEN Notable Foreign Actors to Watch – Where Are They Now?

    1. I haven’t seen anything by David Oakes, but again, this list was originally made 3 yrs ago, I wasn’t aware of Luke at the time. As for Henry, I’ve mentioned him several times already on this blog, but yeah, he certainly would’ve made this list.

      1. that’s because unlike moi 🙂 Flixy, you don’t watch enough epic series, Oakes played in THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH, THE BORGIAS and will play in BBCs epic series THE WHITE QUEEN which I spotlighted last week. I remember you liked him a lot earlier this year when I had a spotlight on him since his fans hijacked a poll on hottest TV actor and proclaimed him the winner 🙂 Not that I complained …. 🙂

          1. OMG OMG OMG Flixy I just had to share this with you since I know you love him too: Tom Hiddlestud just Tweeted to me saying “The lord in heaven bless thee!” after her read a spotlight I did on him last year 🙂 He also retweeted the link and brought me thousands of visitors in a matter of seconds. Such a glorious guy! 🙂

              1. WOW WOW WOW!! I LOVE how eloquently he put it… as if he were still in character as Henry IV! 😀 Awesome Dezzy, but you deserved it. You put a lot of time and effort into your posts!

                1. thanks, ladies, Tomzie Hiddlestud is overly amazing and kind, reminds me of our kind Luke Evans 🙂 I’m receiving visits from his fans and tweets throughout the day, slowly reaching 5,000 visits today 🙂
                  I think you read that old spotlight on him, Flixy, you remember a quote of his I’ve put in it, which was deeply touching. Such a marvelous fella.

                  1. Oh yes indeed I remember that. It’s a glorious post Dezzy, so no doubt he was flattered. Still that is so cool that he took the time and retweet the post, not many actors would do that. Yes, marvelous indeed. I like him even more now! 😀

  1. Sara

    I’m pretty stoked to hear that Michael is working with Steve again. After “The Hunger” and “Shame,” I’ll be anxiously waiting to see their next collaboration. For the record, you should totally see “Drive” as soon as you can.

    1. Yeah, those two seem to be working very well together. As for Drive, I’ll see it at some point, but I’m not as enthused about it as most people for some reason.

  2. Great list. Some has gone on to be genuine stars. I know you said it wasn’t intended as a prediction but you could be a talent scout.

    Still not familiar with Kebbell and Wishaw’s work . I saw Abbie Cornish in Sucker Punch and although see did a decent job, I completely hated the movie.

    1. Ahah, I wish I could be a talent scout, now that’d be an awesome job wouldn’t it? Casting agent has always been my dream job 🙂

      I still haven’t seen Sucker Punch but the subject matter really doesn’t interest me at all.

  3. Ted S.

    You should check out Chiwetel Ejiofor in Redbelt Ruth, I thought it’s a great little seen film. And Ejiofor’s performance was pretty great too.

    Fassbender should be a big star after The Counselor hit theaters, of course I’m assuming the film will be great. Ridley Scott and Cormac McCarthy, that combo alone makes me very excited for the film.

    I believe Copley will be the main villain in Oldboy remake, a pretty despicable role if they follow the original film. I think he’s also playing the villain in Elysium. I like him as actor but I don’t see him as the lead in big tentpole type of films. He’s more a supporting actor.

      1. Ted S.

        Yeah same here, I’m not sure how Lee will make Oldboy for the American audience. Interesting article about the remake there, thanks for the link.

    1. Redbelt? I haven’t even heard of that. Ok, I’ll look into it. I think Fassbender is already an A-lister based on all the buzz and offers he’s been getting. I mean he’s working for A-list directors now. Yeah, The Counselor sounds intriguing, if only it didn’t have Brad Pitt, hah.

      Not interested in Oldboy so I’ll wait for Sharlto’s next role 🙂

      1. Ted S.

        Yeah Redbelt didn’t get any buzz when it came out in 2008, probably because it didn’t have any big named stars in it, well Tim Allen has a small role in the film but he’s not an A-lister anymore.

        If rumors are true, I think Pitt will play the villain in The Counselor, if so then I’m looking forward to it even more. I know you’re not a fan of him but he played one mean villain his earlier film, Kalifornia.

        I can’t recommend Oldboy to you, it’s dark, violent, ugly and quite disturbing.

        1. I liked Redbelt a lot. David Mamet is like the thinking man’s M. Night except you might get like 3 or 4 twists instead of one big one. I remember seeing House Of Games for the first time. It reeled me in hook, line and sinker. The only thing is you have to get used to “Mamet speak”. Playwrights are a peculiar bunch but the make great, dense scripts. Foote, Pinter, Shepard, Mamet, Sorkin, LaBute.

  4. Hardy, Mulligan, Worthington and Fassbender’s careers have certainly taken off nicely. Ejiofor’s been doing good character work for years. Copley I need to see more of although I loved him in District 9. Both Arterton and Cornish were impressive in the one movie I saw them in. Whishaw I don’t remember in anything. I haven’t seen Kebbel in anything yet. Nice follow up.

    Here’s some recommendations for ya Ruth. Check out Chiwetel Ejiofor’s breakout movie called Dirty Pretty Things co-starring Audrey Tautou. Abbie Cornish also brokeout in an Australian indie movie called Somersault co-starring Sam Worthington. Love the music done by a band called Decoder Ring also from down under. Lastly check out Gemma Arterton in this taut, gripping thriller The Disappearance of Alice Creed. Sadly I didn’t make it through RocknRolla or Quantum Of Solace to watch her other performances. IMHO Guy Ritchie lost his magic after he married Madonna and Quantum Of Solace was such a letdown after the superb Casino Royale.

    1. Oh right, Gemma was in Rocknrolla as well, forgot about that. It’s a tiny role anyway. I’ll see if Dirty, Pretty Things is something I want to watch. Thanks Dave!

  5. keith7198

    Poor “Clash of the Titans”. I’m one of the few that actually liked that movie. In fact I liked it a lot better than Avatar. The sequel…not so much. Hardy and Fassbender were certainly great picks!

      1. Oh you’re not alone. I’m alone on this one. But as someone who grew up on the old monster pictures (the original Clash, Jason and the Argonauts, the Sinbad pictures), I really viewed this as an homage of sorts to those movies. Plus I just love Mads Mikkelson!

        1. Y’know, I actually watched the original ‘Clash’ by Harryhausen and I actually liked that one more even w/ the clunky robot owl, ahah. I like Mads but he was wasted in the remake. I thought Sam was sleepwalking the whole time too! It does have that memorable line ‘Release the Kraken!!!’ 😀

  6. Great predictions Ruth…obviously some have done better than others but I can’t argue with your selection. Carey Mulligan is probably the stand out for me..a terrific, versatile actress.

  7. when I read the title I thought of non english speaking foreign…and I was wrong 😉

    I dont like remake but will see Old Boy if Sharlto is really in it. Looking forward to see Ben Wishaw again, he was in perfume, right?

    …ehm…no Cillian, Ruth?

    1. Yeah, I should’ve changed the title to ‘non Americans.’ Yes, Ben was in Perfume. Ahah, I knew you’d call me out on Cillian, well I figure 3 years ago he’s already more well-known than most of these actors, I mean he was in Batman Begins! But you already know he’s one of my faves, too 😀

  8. Love some of them, but all of them have horrid movie choices 😦 I’m anxious to see Fass My Benders in ASSASSINS CREED too which he is also producing. First time to see him in a blockbuster role. I’ve seen his famous dangling 🙂 scenes from SHAME lately…. and the life wasn’t the same after that 🙂

    Thanks for the linky dinky, Flixy. I’ve actually watched Benzie Whishaw in RICHARD II from THE HOLLOW CROWN this weekend, and he was utterly flawless in the role of the crazy king, although the whole first part of the series was rather boring, but that’s because that is one of Shakespeare’s least interesting plays. I’m watching Hiddlestud in HENRY IV next weekend 🙂

    1. Ahah, famous dangling!! I’m sure that’s a memorable scene for a lot of folks Dezzy. I’ll wait and see about Assassin’s Creed. I was quite surprised he was going to produce it.

      Well you are the King of Costume Dramas, Dez, what with your extensive coverage on that genre 😀 Glad to hear Ben was great in it, I hope to catch up on that and Henry IV at some point.

    1. I forgot if you have seen SHAME or not, Andina. Both of those actors are in it. I don’t know if I want to see Limitless, not a big fan of Bradley Cooper.

  9. Wow…even though you didn’t intend on making predictions…nice batting average 🙂 I hadn’t heard of either Fassbender or Hardy in 2009. Now they are definitely stars. I hope they will continue to make quirky choices along with the big Hollywood movies

    1. He..he.. thank you! It’s amazing how the two actors’ career have grown isn’t it? I do hope they continue to do indie roles as well as the blockbuster stuff.

  10. That’s a great batch of actors you highlighted back then, Ruth! Looks like you nailed quite a few of them. Fassbender and Mulligan may be favorite actor and actress, respectively, that are working today.

    1. Ditto. Such a talented and diverse group who have made interesting (and some ill-informed) choices since they came to your attention. I often find myself drawn to non-North American actors… I wonder why that is… perhaps because they tend to appear in much stronger material early on in their careers? Fassbender and Mulligan are definitely my favourites on your list here. Carey Mulligan in An Education was a revelation – truly outstanding – I will never forgive the Academy for awarding the Oscar to Sandra Bullock that year. A travesty of justice! I can’t wait for her as Daisy in The Great Gatsby. Great post!

      1. Hi Janet, welcome to FC! I’ve always been drawn to non-American actors too, especially the Brits/Aussies. Yes, I LOVE Carey in An Education, can’t remember if she was nominated but she should. I am also dismayed that The Great Gatsby got pushed back.

    2. Those two certainly have ‘made it’ in Hollywood, Eric. Interesting that the people I put in the Honorable Mentions back then (i.e. Idris Elba) have had a successful career also.

  11. Nice follow-up to your list of top ten foreign born actors to watch. Three years can make such a difference in someone’s career and yet some are still waiting to make a break.

    1. Hi there, welcome to FC! Indeed, three years doesn’t seem like a long time but if an actor caught the buzz in just one movie, that could make a huge difference.

  12. Great list, Ruth. I think Hardy, Mulligan, Ejiofor, Fassbender, and possibly Whishaw can only rise further in their careers.

    Carey and Marcus? Had no idea. Hope Mumford and Sons get nominated for Brave, so they can go to the Oscar ceremony together.

    1. Thanks Josh! Yeah I didn’t know about Carey and Marcus either until last night. Interesting isn’t it? Did you know that Carey was Shia LaBeouf’s girlfriend for some time, too?

  13. Hey Ruth!

    I took a look at this yesterday hoping to respond today – but as you know my down is down [crying].

    Thanks for the LL too!

    And I think that this was such a great catch up! I think that your ‘hit rate’ is pretty darn high if I do say so myself.

    From your list, I would probably take the couple of the HonMen’s you mentioned – Elba and Hall and swap for Cornish and Kebbell.

    I also thought that Sturgess would reach some heights – he seems to keep finding work but has yet to breakthrough.

    1. Hi Iba, thanks again for the suggestion, that’s a good one! 🙂 Yeah, I’d probably swap Kebbell for Elba and Arterton for Rebecca Hall. I do think Sturgess’ shining hour is yet to come but he’s talented so it’s just a matter of time.

  14. Nice list there Ruth. As for Kebbel check him out in Shane Meadows’ Dead Man’s Shoes. It’s a marvellous performance and quite possibly the one that got him recognised in the first place and if you want to see Eijofor in a leading role, have a look at David Mamet’s Redbelt. It’s a towering central performance.

        1. Ok Mark… Dead Man’s Shoes is going to the front of my list. BTW did you see that Meadows did a follow up series called This Is England ’86 for the British tele? It catches up with the gang 4 years later. It’s just ok. It lacked the same punch of the original but check it out if your a fan of Meadows.

          1. I did see “This is England ’86” Dave. I know what you mean about it lacking the same punch bit I still really liked it. More catered for a tv audience. Are you aware that he done it again with “This is England ’88”?

    1. Oh I’ve been hearing about that movie Mark, so yeah I’ll put that on my list as well as Redbelt. Wow, I hadn’t even heard of that one by Mamet but seems quite popular 😀

      1. As a warning, Dead Man’s Shoes gets a little dark but give it a go and Redbelt is very underrated movie. One that slipped under the radar. I won’t leave a shameless plug on your thread but you can find a review of it in my index if you’re interested.

  15. ilovethatfilm

    Guess Worthington can kick back and just wait for the big pay cheques that come with Avatars 2, 3 and 4. These are great picks. Hardy and Fassbender couldn’t be any bigger now could they? Can’t wait for Copley in Elysium!

    1. I think the more I see him the more I grew to dislike him. He was good in Avatar though and yeah, big pay checks for him with all the roles he’s been getting! Yay for Copley, though I hope he gets a decent amount of screentime in Elysium.

  16. Hell yes, Idris mention! 🙂

    I actually like Gemma Arterton, really excited to see what she does in Byzantium. Abbie Cornish used to be promising but now she is kinda aimlessly wandering around in movies…I think Fassy will have the best career out of them, he is choosing his movies very wisely and he doesn’t appear to be afraid…ever:)

    1. Hi Sati! I kicked myself that I didn’t pick Elba on the main list! But as I said, hindsight is always 20/20 right? 😀 Yeah, I do hope Cornish gets back to top form again, she is talented. Yep, I think Fassy is quite a courageous actor so he should do fine in Hollywood, especially with his gorgeous look!

  17. Don’t forget Chiwetel Ejiofor was in Serenity!

    What a fun list here. Awesome news for Dezzy and Tom H. That’s pretty sweet!

    Did you see the trailer for Gemma Arterton’s “A Song for Marion” this week?

    there are several others who could always end up on a list such as this, that’s the beauty of it. I’m glad you mixed it up with some big names along with some not-so big names!

    1. Oh he was?? I actually have the Serenity dvd, but haven’t gone through ALL of the episodes. Do you know which episodes he’s in?

      I haven’t seen the Song For Marion trailer. Is that up on your site? I’ll check it out.

          1. The movie’s much better after you’ve seen the series although it holds up pretty well on its own. Firefly is actually my favorite TV series along with The Wire and Arrested Development. I could probably quote it forwards and backwards. Shiny.

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