British Independent Film Awards: The Most Promising Newcomer Nominees

2:30 AM 11/30/2018

by Alex Ritman

The Hollywood Reporter profiles the five rising names whose first feature lead roles have marked them out as potentially major future stars.

The BIFA Awards
The BIFA Awards
Credit: BIFAs

The British Independent Film Awards (or BIFAs, if you're in a hurry) has a fairly solid track record when it comes to picking out the films likely to be sweeping up awards season statuettes, something which should bode well for Yorgos Lanthimos' Oscar-tipped The Favourite, which leads the pack of nominations this year. 

But the awards have proved even better at picking out the emerging talent set to become major international stars, with previous nominees in its "most promising newcomer" category having included the likes of John Boyega, Dev Patel, Jodie Whittaker, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Cara Delevingne. In 2017, Lady Macbeth star Naomi Ackie won the honor, just months before she was cast in Star Wars Episode 9, while nominee Lily Newmark has spent the past year appearing in films such as Juliet, Naked alongside Ethan Hawke and the major upcoming TV series Les Miserables (and had a minor role in Solo: A Star Wars Story). 

Ahead of Sunday's 2018 BIFAs ceremony, The Hollywood Reporter profiles the nominees vying for this year's most promising newcomer award; a diverse, five-strong list of rising stars whose debut film lead has marked them out for potential global greatness.  

  • Jessie Buckley

    Nominated for 'Beast'

    Jessie Buckley
    Jessie Buckley
    Jeff Spicer/Getty Images

    Already a hugely-admired name thanks to several West End and Broadway performances, plus TV roles in high-profile dramas such as War & Peace and Taboo, Jessie Buckley saw her first film lead in the eerie Beast cause a major stir when it bowed in Toronto in 2017.

    Over a year on, and it's landed her both most promising newcomer and best actress nominations at the BIFAs.

    The "newcomer" badge is already looking a little old, however, with Buckley's star turn as a Scottish country singer in Toronto 2018 hit Wild Rose earning her further adulation and major upcoming projects including the likes of Judy, alongside Renee Zellweger, Ironbark, alongside Benedict Cumberbatch, Misbehaviour, alongside Keira Knightley and The Voyage of Doctor Doolittle, alongside half of Hollywood.

    “God, I have been really bloody lucky to work with just the most brilliant, beautiful people and have made incredible friends – I pinch myself all the time thinking how lucky I am to be a part of this all,” she tells THR. “I’m basically covered in bruises from the pinches!”

  • Michaela Coel

    Nominated for 'Been So Long'

    Michaela Coel
    Michaela Coel
    Credit: Suki Dhanda

    Given that this year saw her give the hugely-prestigious keynote MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh TV Festival (an honor usually reserved for billionaire executives, such as Rupert Murdoch and Shane Smith), Michaela Coel is already a far cry from being a newcomer.

    But in Netflix’s modern-day musical romance Been So Long, the multi-hyphenate, who has already earned a BAFTA for her TV show Chewing Gum and has starred in two Black Mirror episodes (including the Emmy-winner U.S.S. Callister), landed her first feature lead, playing a dedicated single mum who meets a handsome yet troubled stranger one night in London.

    “I did about three words in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and had one scene giving birth in Monsters: Dark Continent, so this was completely different,” says Coel, who cites the Scottish thriller Calibre as one film that really stood out for her this year. “And for Been So Long to be recognized by BIFA is very, very pleasant.”

  • Liv Hill

    Nominated for 'Jellyfish'

    Liv Hill in 'Jellyfish'
    Liv Hill in 'Jellyfish'
    Courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival

    For her debut TV role in the acclaimed BBC mini-series Three Girls (made when she was just 17), Liv Hill landed a BAFTA nomination. For her big screen debut, in the Tribeca-bowing coming-of-age, kitchen sink drama Jellyfish, she’s now landed a BIFA nod.

    “I was drawn to acting because I have always loved playing people that differ to me,” says the actress, who stars as a 15-year-old forced to care for her two younger twin siblings and manic-depressive mother in a performance that has already earned her an award in Edinburgh and special mention in Dinard.

    Hill – who lists Lynne Ramsay, Paul Thomas Anderson and Damien Chazelle as just some of the names she’d like to work with – recently starred alongside Ruth Wilson and Domnhall Gleeson in Lenny Abrahamson’s The Little Stranger, and has recently been cast in Hulu’s upcoming Catherine The Great drama The Great with Elle Fanning and Nicolas Hoult. 

  • Marcus Rutherford

    Nominated for 'Obey'

    Marcus Rutherford in 'Obey'
    Marcus Rutherford in 'Obey'
    Credit: Beyond Fiction

    Marcus Rutherford received high praise for his confident feature debut in Obey, playing a troubled 19-year-old who returns home after several years in care to look after his alcoholic mother in a film set during the 2011 London riots.

    “Being asked questions at Obey Q&As in places such as New York and Dinard by everyday people who came to support the film still blows me away,” says the actor, who cites the projects that fellow Brits George MacKay (Pride) and Will Poulter (Detroit) have worked on as those he’s been particularly drawn to.

    Says Rutherford: “The fact the film has managed to reach such audiences and resonated with them in different ways highlights how powerful film can be even if made on a notably small budget.”

  • Molly Wright

    Nominated for 'Apostasy'

    Molly Wright in 'Apostasy'
    Molly Wright in 'Apostasy'
    Credit: Frank & Lively

    Molly Wright's debut film role, playing a devout Jehovah’s Witness in Daniel Kokotajlo’s critically-acclaimed first feature, has earned her nominations in both the most promising newcomer and best supporting actress categories at the BIFAs, a double nod she says she still can’t believe.

    “I cried so hard when I found out I was long-listed for most promising newcomer, so to be nominated for that, and best supporting actress was just insane,” she tells THR.

    The Blackpool-born rising name – also seen in the hit BBC/SundanceTV series The A Word – started out by joining an extras agency to earn money while studying in college, but now has far more ambitious goals regarding the projects and actors on her future hit list.

    “I saw Call Me By Your Name last year and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since,” she says. “Timothee Chalamet is unreal, as are Florence Pugh in Lady Macbeth and Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird.