By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com May 29, 2012 at 3:31PM
Director Ben Wheatley might have gotten the majority of the headlines when his third film "Sightseers" debuted last week, but the "Kill List" helmer was actually a relatively late addition to a project that'd been in the works for quite a while. Instead, it was writers and stars Steve Oram and Alice Lowe, both familiar faces on the U.K. comedy circuit, who originated the project. 35-year-old Lowe is the best known of the pair. She started in comedy as a member of the prestigious Footlights at Cambridge University, and after graduating, collaborated with director Paul King ("The Mighty Boosh," "Paddington Bear") and David Mitchell and Robert Webb ("Peep Show") on various experimental comedy shows, before hooking up with Matthew Holness and future "Submarine" director Richard Ayoade for the horror spoof "Garth Marenghi's Fright Knight," which in 2001 won the top comedy award at the Edinburgh Fringe. "Garth Marenghi" soon made it to TV, becoming a cult hit, and she's been omnipresent ever since, appearing in "The Mighty Boosh," "Little Britain" and "Horrible Histories," among others, while in 2009, she was one of the supporting cast in Steve Coogan's live Alan Partridge tour, alongside her future co-star Steve Oram. His deeply weird mix of stand-up, sketch and... well, pretty much anything, has made him the best-kept secret of British comedy for years now, although he's mostly shunned TV work in favor of his own short films (watch them here). The two started developing their "Sightseers" characters, and the film was set up at Big Talk and Flim4, who were behind "Hot Fuzz" and "Attack The Block," with Edgar Wright (a fan of the original short, who helped bring the project to those production houses) as executive producer, and Wheatley was brought on board to helm (giving Oram and Lowe tiny cameos in "Kill List" in the meantime). When it played out of competition in the Director's Fortnight last week, it earned immediate rave reviews, particularly for the finely-honed comic turns at its center, so we should be seeing a lot more from the duo, both in front of and behind the camera, before too long.
The list of famous Belgians, especially those involved in the film industry, is a short one: Jean-Claude Van Damme, and... Audrey Hepburn (who was born Edda van Heemstra Hepburn-Ruston in Brussels). But we may be about to have another major star from the nation, in the shape of Matthias Schoenhaerts, who stars opposite Marion Cotillard in "Rust & Bone," the latest film from "A Prophet" director Jacques Audiard. The 35-year-old Belgian first appeared on screen in 1992's "Daens," a film about a Catholic priest, which won an Oscar nomination back in 1994. Once he left drama schools, he worked steadily in supporting roles -- most notably as a resistance member in Paul Verhoeven's "Black Book" in 2006, but got a major boost two years later by starring in Erik Van Looy's "Loft," a thriller about five friends who share a flat to take their mistresses, but who are torn apart when they find the body of a murdered woman there. The film proved to be the most successful Flemish-language film of all time, and launched Schoenhaerts into local stardom. That acclaim spread even wider when he toplined the superb thriller "Bullhead," giving a stunning, bulked-up performance as a cattle farmer drawn into the organized crime world. The film was an instant hit when it premiered at Berlin last year, and went on to win an unlikely, but deserved, Oscar nomination. And any doubt that he was the real deal was dismissed when "Rust & Bone" unspooled on the Croisette: Schoenaerts drew just as much praise as co-star Cotillard, with comparisons to Tom Hardy frequently drawn -- both actors share an undoubtedly masculine look, combined with a certain sensitivity. And Schoenaerts also seems to be actively looking to break into English-language films too: he's reprising his role in Van Looy's U.S.-set remake of "Loft," alongside Karl Urban, James Marsden, Wentworth Miller and Eric Stonestreet, and is now shooting Guillaume Canet's "Blood Ties," which is co-written by James Gray, and stars Cotillard, Clive Owen, Billy Crudup, Mila Kunis and Zoe Saldana.
Being replaced as the star of a blockbuster can be something an actor's career can struggle to ever truly recover from -- just look at Eric Stoltz ("Back to the Future"), Dougray Scott ("X-Men") or Stuart Townsend ("Lord of the Rings"). But in some cases, it can also be a blessing, and that's what it seems to have been for Tom Sturridge, who dodged a bullet, and went away to do more interesting work instead. The 26-year-old actor was cast as the lead in Doug Liman's "Jumper" back in 2006, but two months into filming, the director decided that both he and co-star Teresa Palmer looked too young, and they were replaced by Hayden Christensen and Rachel Bilson. The film turned out to be something of a misfire, but Sturridge resurfaced this year among the cast of "On The Road," as Ginsberg surrogate Carlo Marx, and picked up some of the best reviews for the film in the process. Sturridge, the son of actress Phoebe Nicholls ("The Elephant Man") and director Charles Sturridge ("Brideshead Revisited"), started out as a child actor in some of his father's pictures, like the Ted Danson miniseries "Gulliver's Travels" and "Fairytale: A True Story," but resurfaced in his late teens in period pictures like "Vanity Fair" and "Being Julia." He then co-starred with Eddie Redmayne and Toni Collette in the well-acted, but silly thriller "Like Minds," and, after a couple of post-"Jumper" fallow years, bagged the lead in Richard Curtis' "The Boat That Rocked," opposite Chris O'Dowd, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Nick Frost. Soon after, he zig-zagged with the lead role in the much-acclaimed Simon Stephens play "Punk Rock," and it's that move that seems to have revitalized him, which he followed with polar-opposite roles in indies "Waiting for Forever" and "Junkhearts." He was one of the lesser-known names in "On the Road," but picked up excellent notices for the part. Next up is the Emma Thompson-penned "Effie," opposite Dakota Fanning, but he's got something far more important first -- he and girlfriend Sienna Miller are having a baby.