- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
The winners’ lists at both the Oscars and Emmys this year were — as has become something of an annual tradition — rather Brit-heavy.
Anthony Hopkins, Daniel Kaluuya and Emerald Fennell were among the half-dozen Academy wins from across the Atlantic, while the small screen side saw an even greater British domination thanks to Emmy wins for Michaela Coel, Kate Winslet, Olivia Colman, Josh O’Connor and Ewan McGregor.
While many of these names will undoubtedly make return trips to awards ceremonies in years to come, 2021 has seen the emergence of a number of fresher faces in front of and behind the camera that should help keep LHR-LAX flights busy well into the future.
For its list of the biggest British breakouts of the year, The Hollywood Reporter has cherry-picked a small selection of these fast-rising British names that have made an impact in 2021, a list that includes the writer-director who brought Jay-Z and Beyoncé to the BFI London Film Festival party, the 11-year-old who could become the youngest Oscar nominee in almost a century and — incredible as it may seem for someone who has seemingly had leading man status for years — Bridgerton’s very own Duke of Hastings.
Prano Bailey-Bond, writer-director
Sundance has a solid track record when it comes to shining a light on the future stars behind the camera. Among the highlights this year was the psychological horror movie Censor, the directorial debut of Welsh filmmaker Prano Bailey-Bond and a film set in the notorious low-budget and uncensored British genre movie world of the 1980s. Magnolia released the film via its Magnet label in the summer, around the same time that Bailey-Bond was already lining up her second feature, the feminist horror Things We Lost in the Fire with Call Me By Your Name banner RT Features. Censor would later amass nine BIFA nominations, including for debut director and debut screenwriter for Bailey-Bond, who has recently been added to the 2021 crop of participants in BAFTA’s Breakthrough program.
Joe Barton, writer
The British industry may — somewhat correctly — spit its tea out over the notion that Joe Barton enjoyed his breakout year in 2021. The screenwriter had already made a significant name for himself thanks to films such as My Days of Mercy and The Ritual and TV shows including Humans and Troy: Fall of a City, not forgetting the much-loved Giri/Haji, which he created and served as showrunner. But it was 2021 in which he suddenly seemed to transform into one of Hollywood’s most in-demand writers and become headline news, with a flurry of major announcements at the start of the year seeing him tapped to lead the writing team for HBO Max’s upcoming The Batman spin-off set in the Gotham Police Department and pen JJ Abrams’ Cloverfield sequel for Paramount. A seemingly ridiculously busy January on the news front also found time to have Barton’s eight-part action-thriller Extinction — starring I May Destroy You breakout Paapa Essiedu — greenlit by Sky, just a month after Netflix announced his adaptation of YA book series Half Bad, which he’s exec producing with Andy Serkis. While these are all now in the works, 2021 also saw the release of Encounter, the Riz Ahmed-starring sci-fi thriller that Barton co-wrote with director Michael Pearce.
Jude Hill, actor
Despite the A-list ensemble in Kenneth Branagh’s semi-autobiographical ode to his home city, it’s Belfast‘s young lead actor — just 10 at the time of production — who has deservedly captured the lion’s share of the applause. In a story that will likely be repeated regularly as his star grows, the Northern Irish lad was plucked from 300 hopefuls over Zoom by Branagh and his casting director Lucy Bevan to play the filmmaker’s younger self in his first screen role, one that carries the entire weight of the film and see him go toe-to-toe with the likes of Judi Dench and Jamie Dornan. Already a British Independent Film Award nominee, Hill — who has since shot his first TV role, the BritBox drama Magpie Murders — is now hotly tipped to get an Oscar nod, making him the youngest actor to be nominated in almost 100 years (after Jackie Cooper, who was 9 years old in 1931 when he was nominated for Skippy). Hill has also just been signed by UTA.
Emilia Jones, actress
Already a busy actress with a lead role in Netflix’s fantasy horror Locke and Key and an impressive resume of British TV and film despite being just 19 years old, it was the Sundance breakout CODA that thrust Emilia Jones into the big league and this year’s Oscars race (and onto The Hollywood Reporter’s own actress roundtable). Sian Heder’s thoroughly charming and critically acclaimed coming-of-age comedy drama — which was swiped by Apple TV+ out of Sundance — saw Jones in the lead as the only hearing member of a deaf family, a part for which she spent nine months learning sign language and vocal training. Alongside her ongoing duties with Locke and Key (now onto season three), Jones has landed a lead role alongside Succession’s Nicholas Braun in thriller Cat Person, based on the hit New Yorker short story.
Aleem Khan, writer-director
This year’s British Independent Film Awards was awash in first-time filmmakers, but it was writer-director Aleem Khan and his acclaimed debut feature After Love that emerged the clear victor on the night. The deeply moving film — about a widowed Muslim convert who uncovers a secret life led by her late husband — won six awards, including the top honor of best British independent film, as well as best director, best debut director and best screenplay for Khan.
Nida Manzoor, writer-director
One of the most unexpectedly delightful TV hits of the year, We Are Lady Parts joined the growing assortment of lo-fi British shows to burst onto the international stage. Created by Nida Manzoor and based partially on her own experiences in London, the music-soaked comedy follows an all-female, all-Muslim punk band (with a soundtrack scored by Manzoor and her siblings). Ten years ago it might have remained a hit solely on U.K. network Channel 4 — which originally commissioned it as a comedy short in 2019 — but thanks to NBCUniversal’s Peacock, the series was soon landing on critics best of lists in the U.S. Manzoor later won the Rose d’Or Emerging Talent award, and in November a second season was booked.
Regé-Jean Page, actor
It’s hard to believe there was a time when the world wasn’t swooning at the Duke of Hasting’s trademark smolder but — incredibly — the first season of Bridgerton only landed on Netflix on December 25, 2020. To say 2021 has been Rege-Jean Page’s year would be an understatement. The hullabaloo about Shonda Rhimes’ lavishly raunchy period drama — which earned Page an Emmy nomination — would, in just a few months after it hit screens, see the Londoner be recognized in Time magazine and score roles in fantasy adventure Dungeons & Dragons, the Russo brothers’ action thriller The Gray Man and Paramount’s upcoming spy reboot The Saint (playing the lead, Simon Templar). And who can forget the chaos sparked when it was revealed he wouldn’t be returning to Bridgerton for season two? Naturally, as is customary for all British actors of a certain age who are suddenly thrust into the limelight, Page is now among the bookies’ favorites to take over from Daniel Craig as James Bond.
Jeymes Samuel, writer-director-composer
When Netflix’ Western The Harder They Fall was chosen as the opening night film of the BFI London Film Festival, it seemed to be an unusual choice at the time. Sure, it boasted one hell of an ensemble cast, including Idris Elba, Jonathan Majors, Regina King, LaKeith Stanfield and many others, but its first-time director (and co-writer and composer) Jeymes Samuel — best known by his music moniker The Bullitts — wasn’t the sort of immediately recognizable auteur the festival usually goes with for a curtain raiser. Opinions quickly changed after the screening, however. The Harder They Fall proved to be an absolute gun-slinging banger, with Samuel’s boundless energy and enthusiasm the exact tonic the festival needed as it emerged out of the pandemic. It also helped that he had brought his long-term collaborator (and exec producer) Jay-Z — with Beyoncé as a plus one — across to London for the screening and after party.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day