15 International Breakout Talents of 2018

1:00 AM 12/27/2018

by Patrick Brzeski, Alex Ritman, and Scott Roxborough

The Hollywood Reporter's pick of the foreign actors and filmmakers who – whether they wanted to or not – caught the world's attention over the past year.

From global Marvel blockbusters to black-and-white cinematic masterpieces and cult sci-fi dramas, 2018 lit some rocket fuel beneath the careers of a number of emerging names in front of and behind the camera. 

The Hollywood Reporter looks back at the international talent that broke out in spectacular fashion during the year. 

  • Yalitza Aparicio

    The 24-year-old Yalitza Aparicio fell into acting. Before her sister convinced her to audition for the lead — as the domestic servant Cleo — in Alfonso Cuaron's Roma, Aparicio had aspirations to become a teacher. She still might do so, although the rave reviews that have accompanied her debut — and talk of a possible Oscar nomination — would suggest Mexico's school system should be looking around for a substitute. 

  • Sakura Andô

    Sakura Ando is no newcomer to the Japanese entertainment industry, having appeared in nearly 50 local films and TV series over the past decade. But filmgoers far from Japan's shores are finally becoming acquainted with her considerable talent thanks to her exquisite turn in Shoplifters, Japanese master Hirokazu Kore-eda's Palme d'Or-winning drama. The 32-year-old actress stars as the de facto matriarch of a rag-tag group of petty criminals eking out a living — and brief moments of familial bliss — on the margins of Japanese society. There isn't a false note to be found anywhere in Kore-eda's ensemble, but Ando's sensitive take on a hardened young woman who briefly rediscovers love via a little girl in need is the stuff of purest heartbreak.

  • Olivia Colman

    To the average Brit, the idea of Colman — who has been in the business since 2000 —being considered a breakout is a little ludicrous. The actress earned a legion of fans as Sophie on the cult comedy Peep Show, which ran 2003-2015, was considered one of the best things about both The Night Manager and Broadchurch and landed a mantelpiece of awards as an abused wife in the intensely gritty feature Tyrannosaur. But thanks to The Favourite, the 44-year-old has broken through to a whole different level. Colman’s turn as the eccentric, lobster-racing Queen Anne in Yorgos Lanthimos’ dark comedy has so far given her a Golden Globe nomination, placed her among the frontrunners for the best actress Oscar and has ensured that, should she not win a BAFTA on home soil, there’ll likely be an uprising. Keeping things regal, Colman’s star (and awards haul) is only set to expand further in 2019 when she begins her two-season reign as Queen Elizabeth on Netflix’s The Crown. 



  • Jodie Comer

    Two years ago, Phoebe Waller-Bridge sat atop many breakout lists thanks to her outrageous comic creation Fleabag. This time, it’s the lead in her acclaimed (and somewhat different) next project, Killing Eve. Liverpool-born Comer gave the world a distinctly fresh and female take on the hired assassin with Villanelle, a psychopathic, beautiful, deadly, unaffected, childish and downright badass antihero who derives as much pleasure from off-ing her targets as she does from tipping ice cream over precocious kids. The 25-year-old has since landed a Critics Choice nomination alongside her co-star Sandra Oh and been cast alongside Ryan Reynolds in action-comedy Free Guy, while season two of Killing Eve — considered one of the best new TV arrivals of 2018 — is thankfully on the way. 



  • Henry Golding

    No rom-com works without a crush-worthy leading man, and the stakes were particularly high for the male star of Crazy Rich Asians, given Hollywood's dismal track record of Asian representation in marquee movies. Enter English-Malaysian actor Henry Golding. Vaulting from relative obscurity, the former model and travel show host was arguably the most lovable thing about this eminently lovable movie, helping Crazy Rich Asians earn $238 million worldwide against a budget of just $30 million. He'll always be remembered as the deliciously charming scion Nick Young, but many more big things are undoubtedly in the offing for the 31-year-old actor. 

  • Jong-seo Jun

    When aspiring South Korean actress Jun Jong-seo decided to audition for the lead female role in Burning — the first feature in eight years from Lee Chang-dong, arguably her country's greatest auteur — her expectations were understandably low. Not only would it be her first part in a feature film, it was her very first audition (she had signed with a talent agency just three days prior). But Lee was transfixed by Jun's layered persona — a surface innocence masking mercurial depths — and she immediately landed the part. Burning premiered in competition at Cannes, won the festival's critics prize, and is now widely expected to become South Korea's first-ever Oscar nominee in the foreign-language category. Burning's male leads Steven Yuen and Yoo Ah-in also have won international acclaim for their complex performances, but Jun's vivid turn as the adventurous truth-seeker Hae-mi is the axis around which Lee's richly enigmatic film turns — Burning's many glowing mysteries would snuff out without her. 

  • Joanna Kulig

    An established TV and film star in Poland — she recently appeared in local box office hit Clergy — Kulig's turn as the doomed romantic Zula in Pawel Pawlikowski's black-and-white drama Cold War has brought her to the attention of casting agents worldwide. The role, which sees her transform from naïve young singer to hard-edged cynic (Kulig told THR she channeled Lauren Bacall for her performance) won her best actress at this year's European Film Awards. U.S. audiences will get a closer look at this Polish performer next year, in her first English-language turn in spy series Hanna from Amazon Prime.

  • Sonoya Mizuno

    Japanese-born British actress Sonoya Mizuno was already a familiar visage to anyone who saw Alex Garland's Ex Machina (2014) , thanks to her impeccably blank performance as Oscar Isaac's android companion Kyoko (remember that synchronized dance scene?). This year she got to play an unforgettable human, co-starring in Cary Joji Fukunaga's Netflix psycho-drama Maniac. Appearing opposite Emma Stone, Jonah Hill and Justin Theroux, Mizuno brought wry humor to the part of Dr. Azumi Fujita, one of the scientists in charge of the mind-bending pharmaceutical trial at the heart of the show. Like everything in Maniac's visually inventive retro-futuristic world, it's the details that made Mizuno's performance captivating, from the languidly hunched shoulders beneath her lab coat to the seen-it-all sangfroid of how she holds her cigarette.

  • Gustav Moller

    Danish director Gustav Moller proved the adage that “less is more” with his dazzling feature film debut The Guilty,  a claustrophobic thriller set almost entirely in the single room of a police alarm dispatch. Moller's sparse, but twisty, screenplay — co-written with Emil Nygaard Albertsen — kept genre fans guessing, while Moller's use of camera angles and sound design, and the performance he coaxed out of star Jakob Cedergren, shows this is a first-timer in full control.

  • Ol Parker

    Already a noted scriptwriter thanks to the two The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel films, Parker — who had notched up a couple of director credits on low-budget indies Imagine Me & You and Now Is Good — this year jumped into the studio big-budget big league with Universal’s all-star ABBA-soaked sequel Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. The film —which was also written by Parker and starred returnees Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Amanda Seyfried and newcomers Lily James and Cher (CHER!) — hit a box office high note, amassing a global haul of more than $390 million and launching countless sing-alongs around the world. 





  • Victor Polster

    It's been the source of some controversy that Lukas Dhont cast Victor Polster —a cis-gendered male —to play the transgender girl Lara in the Belgium drama Girl. But few can argue with Polster's gripping performance. Polster picked up the Un Certain Regard best actor honor in Cannes for his debut role, alongside a European Film Award nomination, and leapt straight from being an unknown to being the next big thing.

  • Zain Al Rafeea

    Playing Zain, the 12-year-old boy in Nadine Labaki's Capernaum who sues his parents for neglect, first-time actor Zain Al Rafeea emerges, fully formed, as something of a miracle. His performance is shockingly powerful and mature —not to mention heartbreaking. Zain, scrappy and smart, swaggers through the adult world, smoking and swearing, taking on everything life can throw at him. But behind the tough exterior, Al Rafeea's deep brown eyes reveal a damaged soul.

  • Jodie Whittaker

    Much like Olivia Colman, Whittaker was already a known force in the U.K. thanks to Broadchurch (on which she co-stars with Colman), the Black Mirror episode "The Entire History of You" and indie sci-fi feature Attack the Block, to name just a few. But her unveiling as the very first female Doctor Who has made her a time-and-space traveling household name around the world, not to mention a game-changing face now at the forefront of TV’s diversity push. Whittaker’s debut episode as the Time Lord became the biggest series launch for the cult show in the U.K. since it returned in its modern form, and she has since confirmed – to THR – that she’s set to return for at least one more stint in the Tardis. 

  • Letitia Wright

    To say that 2018 was Wright’s year would be something of an understatement. Out of almost nowhere (well, several roles on British TV), the Guyana-born Londoner burst spectacularly onto the world stage as the sparky tech genius Shuri in Marvel’s groundbreaking Black Panther, stealing every scene in which she appeared, quickly followed by her lead as the vengeance-seeking Nish in the twisted Black Mirror episode "Black Museum," for which she landed an Emmy nomination. The 25-year-old has since become one of the most in-demand names in Hollywood (landing her own THR cover in November for our Next Gen issue), recently being cast alongside John Boyega (a friend and fellow alumni of the London Identity School of Acting) in sci-fi romance Hold Back the Stars.

  • Chloé Zhao

    Chinese director Chloe Zhao's second feature, contemporary Western The Rider, cemented her status as a visionary young talent to watch. Starring all untrained actors, the film follows a young cowboy who is forced to search for a new identity after a near-fatal head injury forces him to stay off horseback. Produced, written and directed by Zhao, The Rider premiered in the Directors' Fortnight section at the the Cannes Film Festival where it won the Art Cinema Award. Hollywood has more than taken notice. Amazon Studios recently greenlit her upcoming untitled Bass Reeves biopic, a historical Western about the first black U.S. Deputy Marshal, while Marvel Studios tapped her to direct a film based on the Eternals.