British Independent Film Awards: The Most Promising Newcomer Nominees

5:00 AM 12/7/2017

by Alex Ritman

THR takes a closer look at the five young actors and actresses who are up for the BIFA award that has a habit of picking out future stars.

BIFA Awards, Jennifer Saunders - H - 2017
Credit: Nikki Wills Photography

The British Independent Film Awards – the BIFAs to its friends – have for years been something of oracle when it comes to finding British talent destined for greatness.

In their "most promising newcomer" category, future acting stars have been given their first real taste of awards acclaim before being lured towards the bright lights of major studios and networks. Previous nominees have included the likes of John Boyega (long before Star Wars), Will Poulter, Dev Patel, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Jodie Whittaker, Cara Delevingne, Bel Powley, Andrea Riseborough, Craig Roberts and Joanne Froggatt.

2016's winner was I, Daniel Blake's Hayley Squires, who has since been seen in Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams and is set to star in Peter Strickland's In Fabric and Yousaf Ali Khan's Giantland.

This year is likely to be no different. Ahead of the awards ceremony on Sunday, The Hollywood Reporter profiles the five young actors and actresses you're likely to be hearing a lot more of in the near future.

  • Lily Newmark

    Having made her television debut before she'd even graduated from drama college (with a recurring role on NBC's Emerald City), Newmark's first film role, in the Venice-bowing all-female fairy tale Pin Cushion, saw her earn a BIFA most promising newcomer nomination.

    "For me, acting is about experiencing life in someone's else's shoes," she says. And there are numerous other shoes lining up. Newmark has finished shooting historical drama Born a King, about the childhood of Saudi Arabia's King Faisal in the 1920s alongside Ed Skrein and Hermione Corfield, the Judd Apatow-produced Juliet, Naked, starring Ethan Hawke, Rose Byrne and Chris O’Dowd, and is currently filming the lead role in British indie Reprobate.

    Of the names she'd most love to work with, she lists, "after much deliberation," Broad City's Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, plus Lars Von Trier, Jane Campion, and Yorgos Lanthimos. Newmark will next be seen in the the U.S. indie horror film Welcome to Mercy, directed by Tommy Bertelsen.

  • Harry Gilby

    At just 16 years old, Gilby has already had five years' worth of training at the prestigious Television Workshop in Nottingham, where the likes of Jack O'Connell, Joe Dempsey, and Samantha Morton learned their craft.

    Having appeared in the Olivier Award-nominated stage adaptation of The Full Monty and episodes of ITV's Jericho, his big-screen breakthrough (and BIFA most promising newcomer) came with Rebekah Fortune's acclaimed debut feature Just Charlie, playing the lead as a young soccer star secretly struggling with gender dysphoria.

    Gilby says he'd love to work with two directors of the moment: Damien Chazelle and Yorgos Lanthimos. "Whiplash and Killing of a Sacred Deer are two of my favorite films, as they both have very unique directing styles which appeals to me." His next role is likely to be a major turning point: playing the young J.R.R. Tolkien in Fox Searchlight's biopic of the Lord of the Rings writer, Tolkien (Nicholas Hoult stars as the older J.R.R.).



  • Naomi Ackie

    Not only has her acclaimed turn as mute maid Anna in Lady Macbeth seen Naomi Ackie pick up a BIFA most promising newcomer nomination, but it's also earned her a best supporting actress nod as well.

    Previous starring roles for the British actress include the BAFTA-winning drama Damilola, Our Loved Boy, Harlan Coben's mystery series The Five and Doctor Who. She says she'd love to work with Barry Jenkins. "He's moving the industry forward by telling good stories really well. Moonlight was a beautiful game changer – I can't wait to see his next project."

    In the meantime, Ackie will have to contend with appearing in one of the hottest Brit pics heading to Sundance in January: Idris Elba's directorial debut Yardie.

  • Harry Michell

    A former president of the famous Cambridge Footlights amateur theater club, Michell saw his debut feature Chubby Funny (which he directed, wrote and starred in) make it to the long lists for BIFA's debut screenwriter and debut director awards.

    While it may not have made the final selection, he did come away with a nomination for most promising newcomer, following on from other nods, including the 2015 "Funny Sh*t!" award at the 2015 London Short Film Festival (for his first short film, Guinea Pig).

    Michell cites fellow BIFA nominees Naomi Ackie and Cosmo Jarvis from Lady Macbeth as actors he'd love to work with. "But if that's too glib, then Shia LaBeouf," he says. "I think he's a proper genius." As well as being seen on E4's Drifters and next year in ITV's Plebs, Michell is also working on his second feature, Ilkley, a comedy following two hapless evangelicals tasked with killing the world's most famous secularist at a literary festival.

  • Cosmo Jarvis

    Having made his first big-screen appearance back in 2012 in Naughty Room (which he also wrote, directed and shot), Jarvis has had an explosive past 12 months, starring in British indie hit Lady Macbeth (for which he earned a BIFA most promising newcomer nomination) and adding his name to a host of hot projects.

    He'll star in Adewale Akinnyoye's-Agbaje's Farming, Hunter Killer, alongside Gerard Butler and Gary Oldman, and Alex Garland's next film, Annihilation, alongside Natalie Portman.

    But if he could name just one director he'd love to work with, it's Paul Thomas Anderson. "I really love his creations, his work hits me in the head and heard like nothing else," he says. "But, saying that, I also love Terry Gilliam, Bela Tarr, Agnes Hranitzky, Mel Gibson, Milos Forman, Clint Eastwood, Duncan Jones, Ricky Gervais, Lars Von Trier... ahh there are loads."