By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com March 30, 2012 at 4:48PM
Among the unlikeliest pop-culture phenomenons of the last few years is the enormous American success of the British period drama "Downton Abbey," which has gripped both the U.S. and the U.K since it premiered late in 2010. Its cast are already becoming frequent sights on screen: Michelle Dockery will appear in "Anna Karenina," and Dan Stevens is headlining the drama "Summer In February." But it's looking increasingly like the biggest breakout star of all of them will be Jessica Brown-Findlay, who plays the youngest Crawley daughter, Lady Sybil, in the series. The actress shone from the first as the most progressive, contemporary character on the show, and aside from further TV roles on "Misfits" and alongside one of our male picks, Daniel Kaluuya, on "Black Mirror," the show also landed her the lead role, alongside Felicity Jones, in the British film "Albatross." While that movie was relatively unexceptional, she's excellent in it as a teen who begins a relationship with her best friend's father, and it's only served to bring her even more attention. Next up is more TV work, as the lead in epic Ridley Scott-produced miniseries "Labyrinth," along with Smiths-themed indie "Shoplifters Of The World," which will mark her U.S. debut, while she's also attached to the Scottish romantic comedy "Not Another Happy Ending," with "Doctor Who" star Karen Gillan. But the film that's going to launch her into the stratosphere is "A Winter's Tale," the directorial debut of screenwriter Akiva Goldsman. Both Russell Crowe and Will Smith will be appearing, but it's Brown-Findlay who has the lead, as a dying young woman who falls for a thief. It should be just the first of many leads to come.
When your mother is one of the most important filmmakers of the last twenty-odd years, it's got to be pretty tempting to go into the family business in some way. But while 17-year-old New Zealand actress Alice Englert got her start in "The Water Diary," a short film helmed by her mother, the great Jane Campion, she's otherwise doing extremely well entirely on her own steam. Englert (who has also done some modeling) has a role in Roland Joffe's upcoming/long-delayed epic romance "Singularity," with Josh Hartnett and Neve Campbell, and from that won the lead in "In Fear," a top-secret psychological horror from writer/director Jeremy Lovering (BBC dramas"Miss Austen Regrets," "Money") and Big Talk Productions, the company behind "Hot Fuzz" and "Attack the Block." From that, she segued to join Elle Fanning in "Bomb," the latest from director Sally Potter, a 1960s-set coming-of-age tale also starring Alessandro Nivola and Annette Bening. And when that wraps, she's not hanging about, as the actress just landed the lead alongside fellow rising star Jack O'Connell in "Beautiful Creatures," Alcon Entertainment's hope at becoming the next "Twilight" or 'Hunger Games.' With a cast including Viola Davis, Emma Thompson and Jeremy Irons in supporting roles, and Oscar-nominee Richard LaGravenese at the helm, it seems to have a better pedigree than most of the competition, and if anything puts her on the A-list, it'll be this, when it opens next February.
When we were in our senior year of high school, we were mostly concerned with getting the opposite sex to talk to us and bartenders to give us drinks. But Julia Garner has bigger things on her mind, clearly. The ethereally beautiful 18-year-old first came to the attention of many as Sarah, one of the women in Patrick's commune in "Martha Marcy May Marlene." But it was in Berlin when we really suspected that she was going to be a star: Garner stars in "Electrick Children," as Rachel, a 15-year-old Mormon girl who falls pregnant with what she believes is an immaculate conception from a cover version of Blondie's "Hanging on the Telephone." Our review from the Berlinale said that "the camera doesn't so much love as fall at the feet of in worship. If she's not the next big thing, she's probably the next next big thing," and subsequent reviews from SXSW have echoed that. She told us in an interview that she's aiming to have a career like Philip Seymour Hoffman, and she certainly seems to be following his diversity: she's got small roles in "The Perks Of Being A Wallflower" and David Chase's "Not Fade Away," and is then starring in quirky indie comedy "HairBrained" with Brendan Fraser, in Leah Meyerhoff's intriguing-sounding "Unicorns," and in the horror sequel "The Last Exorcism 2," which is shooting right now. She's steadily building a strong resumé which will only lead to bigger and better things.