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As 2016 comes to a close, The Hollywood Reporter looks back at the international talents that broke big this year. From the European art-house circuit to Asian anime to appearing in the world's mega franchises, these are our picks to be the global stars of tomorrow.
Millie Bobby Brown
If there had to be just one breakout name from 2016, few would argue against this young English actress from the year’s most breakout-y show. Stranger Things was a word-of-mouth phenomenon for Netflix; a series laced in 80s throwbacks that became the summer’s unexpected water cooler moment. And it was the 12-year-old playing Eleven, a super-powered CIA experiment gone rogue, who had most tongues wagging. Cue chat show appearances, on stage performances of Uptown Funk with her co-stars at the Emmys, and a bidding war among eager agencies (under the guidance of her father, who had reportedly asked for $100,000 upfront, she eventually signed with WME). Millie Bobby Brown is set to return for Stranger Things season 2, but it’s clear bigger things are to come.
It was third time lucky for German director Maren Ade. After two well-received features —The Forest for the Trees in 2003 and 2009's Everyone Else— Ade went big for her third feature: Toni Erdmann. A dramedy about a father trying to re-connect with his grown, workaholic and unhappy daughter, it was the best-reviewed film out of Cannes. The Hollywood Reporter called “the first laugh-out-loud, 162-minute German comedy of embarrassment… as moving as it is implausibly funny.” Snubbed by the Cannes jury (which went for Ken Loach's also excellent I, Daniel Blake), Toni Erdmann won over audiences, earning an impressive $5 million at the German box office and a further $2.5 million in France. Toni Erdmann swept the board at the European Film Awards, winning five trophies, including best film. It's a front-runner for the Oscars, where it is Germany's official contender. There are talks of an English-language remake and Ade is being courted by the agencies to bring her unique combination of cringe and comedy to a wider audience.
Already a huge name in her native France, director/screenwriter Celine Sciamma reached a much broader audience this year thanks to the animated hit My Life as a Zucchini, for which she wrote the screenplay. Since her first films, Tomboy in 2011 and 2014's Girlhood, Sciamma has proven she is a master of depicting childhood, in all its contradictions. “Her (films) have one thing in common: they are vividly realized, finger-on-the-pulse looks at the growing pains of youngsters,” says The Hollywood Reporter. My Life as a Zucchini, about a shy boy who ends up other orphaned misfits after the accidental death of his alcoholic mother, is tougher than your average Disney tale but Sciamma's script, with its gawky humor and delicate observations, gives it a universal appeal. The film picked up a best animated film nomination —rare for a foreign-language title —and Switzerland has put it forward as its contender for the 2017 best foreign-language Oscar.
While the term ‘breakthrough’ may not exactly sit well for an actress already established in the U.K. for roles in the likes of Wolf Hall and Little Dorrit, Foy’s regal turn as Queen Elizabeth in Netflix’s megabucks series The Crown has helped give her international kudos, and now a Golden Globe nomination to boot. The SVOD giant may be famously coy over viewing figures, but the show – and its lead – has been almost universally praised. A second season is soon set to go into production, and given its subject matter (the longest reigning current monarch in the world), Foy looks set to stay on screens for several years to come. And away from the throne, she will also soon be seen alongside Andrew Garfield in Andy Serkis’ directorial debut, Breathe.
After a formidable year, in which he had turns in Timur Bekmambetov's Ben Hur and Terry George's period drama The Promise starring Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac, Dutch actor Marwan Kenzari looks ready for the big leagues. 2017 will see him feature alongside Tom Cruise in Alex Kurtzman's The Mummy reboot; together with Anthony Hopkins, Ben Kingsley and Nicholas Hoult in actioner Collide as well as with a panoply of stars (Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, Daisy Ridley, Penelope Cruz) in Kenneth Branagh's Murder on the Orient Express. In 2017, expect Kenzari to follow Matthias Schoenarts as the next big thing out of the lowlands.
Wen Jiang is the oldest name on this list and, for mainland audiences and foreign-language fans, the 53 year-old Chinese actor is a familiar face. His performance alongside Gong Li in Zhang Yimou's debut film Red Sorghum (1986) won him acclaim across the art house world. His home-territory appeal, and his acting chops, have attracted the attention of U.S. studios, eager to cash in on the Chinese market. Wen will get his franchise debut in Rouge One: A Star Wars Story, playing freelance assassin Baze Malbus. Marvel reportedly also has its eye on Wen, the new go-to Chinese star for the global blockbuster.
It seems everyone but vegetarians want a piece of Julia Ducournau, the 32-year-old French director who made her debut this year with Raw, a smart and bloody horror film about a young woman's awakening to the pleasures of the flesh — in all senses of the term. The drama follows a young vegetarian studying at a Gallic veterinarian collage who is forced to eat meat in a hazing ritual, a move that awakens in her an insatiable taste for flesh of the human variety. “The assured storytelling and direction, including some of the goriest makeup effects this side of Rob Zombie, turn Raw into the kind of crossover film that takes the horror genre into another domain,” said The Hollywood Reporter when Raw debuted in Cannes Critics' Week. International interest in Ducournau turned to a frenzy following Midnight Madness screenings at the Toronto film festival, when several audience members passed out and had to be treated by paramedics. The medical emergency was free publicity for the film and a calling card for Ducournau, set to be the next big thing in horror.
A hit in Sundance that was snapped up by Netflix before the festival even began, a multi-award winner at the British Independent Film Awards, and the U.K.’s entrant in the Oscars foreign language race; it’s fair to say Babak Anvari’s debut feature has gone down rather well. A Farsi-language psychological horror set in a Tehran apartment during the Iran-Iraq war, Under the Shadow not only became one of the best reviewed films of the year in the U.K., but earmarked Iran-born London-dweller Anvari as one of the freshest talents around. An English-language remake is already in development, while Anvari is moving forward with his next feature.
To steal a line from Hunt for the Wilderpeople, already New Zealand’s most successful film of all time, shit just got real for its 14-year-old star this year. Director Taika Waititi cast the teen as his lead without an audition after seeing him in Australian family drama Paper Planes, and Dennison would go on to steal the show from the under the nose of veteran Sam Neill, playing a hilariously grumpy Tupac-loving delinquent who ventures into the bush to escape the clutches of child services.
Ken Loach’s return from a rather short-lived retirement has proved to be a canny decision, not least for doubling the director’s Palme d’Or collection and likely soon giving him his biggest box office hit to date, but introducing this young actress to the world. Playing alongside another relative newcomer, Dave Johns, the 28-year-old’s turn as a single mother struggling to survive the U.K.’s unjust benefits system was heavily praised, and provided one of I, Daniel Blake’s most powerful and moving moments as she breaks down in food bank. Squires recently picked up the best newcomer at the British Independent Film Awards.
When the relatively low-budget British period drama Lady Macbeth became a surprise critical smash in Toronto, sparking a bidding war among U.S. distributors (eventually going to Roadside Attractions), it was its young titular star, already a one-to-watch in the U.K. thanks to her big screen debut in 2014’s The Falling, who was instantly catapulted into the headlights of casting directors. At just 20, Pugh already has two features in the works, the Brit horror Hush alongside Divergent star Ben Lloyd-Hughes and Lionsgate’s Liam Neeson actioner The Commuter.
A former graphic designer, Makoto Shinkai is being called the successor to the great Hayao Miyazaki, aka the Walt Disney of Japan, thanks to his anime smash Your Name. The dreamy tale about missed connections, which follows two star-crossed teenage lovers who swap bodies during a natural disaster, has grossed $200 million in Japan, making it the second most successful Japanese film of all time, behind only Miyazaki's Oscar-winner Spirited Away in 2001. Given the movie's success in China, a market that was closed to Miyazaki's films but where Your Name has already earned close to $80 million, the film could become Japan's highest-worldwide grosser. And Shinkai could follow in Miyazaki's Oscar footsteps. Your Name is already a hot contender for the animated category, after the L.A. Film Critics association named it best animated film.
Charlotte Le Bon
The French-Canadian model-turned-actress Charlotte Le Bon first attracted attention in France as “weather girl Miss Meteo” on Le Grand Journal, a French The Daily Show. After a couple of supporting roles —alongside Helen Mirren in Lasse Hallstrom's The Hundred-Foot Journey and opposite Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Robert Zemeckis' The Walk—in 2016 Le Bon proved she was ready to carry a movie. She headlined Jalil Lespert's well-received French-language thriller Iris, alongside Romain Duris; and, together with Tom Hughes and Oona Chaplin, starred in Mateo Gil's sci-fi drama Realive, both of which roll out internationally next year. With roles in Sean Ellis' WWII thriller Anthropoid and Christian Bale/Oscar Isaac starrer The Promise, get used to seeing a lot more of Le Bon.
Named one of the four most bankable Chinese actresses of her generation (the so-called New Four Dan), Angelababy has found success as a singer, model and actress both in Hong Kong (where she was born) and on mainland China. Her U.S. studio debut came this year in Independence Day: Resurgence, Roland Emmerich's sequel to his 1996 blockbuster. With her own studio behind her —set up together with Huayi Brothers in 2012, Angelbaby is a force to be reckoned with. And her stage name? A combination of her English name Angela and childhood nickname Baby.
Dark, bawdy and British, Fleabag went from a one-woman Edinburgh play, to the BBC, Amazon and one of the fall’s biggest “have you seen this?” sleeper hits. At the center of the praise sits its creator and lead, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who gives her sexually rapacious, fourth-wall breaking, train-wreck of a title character the capacity to make viewers laugh, cry and grimace all at once. A second season will undoubtedly get the nod, while actress and playwright Waller-Bridge has emerged as one of the most exciting – and rude – new voices around.
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