Each and every year Hollywood is faced with a new crop of talented actors and actresses looking to be plucked from obscurity via a hit movie or indie gem that could spell their big break. It's a tale as old as time...or as old as the big screen anyway. But you don't have to be an acting ingenue to take Hollywood by storm. Since the Californian dream machine started churning there has been a steady stream of British actors attempting to transform their UK success into a lasting impression on this side of the pond. That international level of success is a daunting task for even the best of actors and few manage to make the leap. But over the past year it's become clear to those paying attention (i.e. Anglophiles and casting agents) that there happen to be several very talented actors on the brink of doing just that.
Check out our list of the 5 UK successes who will soon be familiar enough to North American audiences that IMDB searches will become a thing of the past.
#5 Richard Armitage
The Leicester-born, LAMDA-trained actor is pretty much an unknown property to audiences outside of Britain, but after starring in numerous well-received UK television productions as a deliciously evil baddie ("Robin Hood"), conflicted spy ("Spooks") or brooding hero to rival even Colin Firth's Darcy ("North & South"), it's clear he's got talent and range to spare. With a co-starring role in last year's Captain America: The First Avenger and his sizable role as Thorin Oakenshield in Peter Jackson's two part Hobbit adaptation (alongside our #3 pick, Martin Freeman) on the horizon, recognition on this side of the pond is likely to change in a hurry.
#4 Eddie Redmayne
The London-born actor and model is certainly no stranger to critical accolades. After all, the 30-year-old Redmayne already has an Olivier Award, Tony Award and Critics Circle Award under his belt. Mainstream big and small screen success has been a tad more elusive but that looks to be changing in a big way. Thanks to a stand-out performance alongside Michelle Williams in My Week With Marilyn, a memorable turn in the "Pillars of the Earth" mini-series and a co-starring role as Marius in Tom Hooper's highly anticipated big-screen adaptation of Les Misérables, it's only a matter of time until Redmayne becomes a household name.
#3 Martin Freeman
Though familiar to Anglophiles across our fine nation for his fantastic work in the original "Office", the BBC's "Sherlock" (which nabbed him a Best Supporting Actor BAFTA last year), The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Love, Actually, there is still a disappointingly large number of people who would see Martin's name and shake their head while saying "I think you mean Morgan Freeman." Well, that's all about to change come a little 'indie' film called The Hobbit.
Freeman is tackling the titular role in Peter Jackson's epic two-part adventure and it's a safe bet that once international audiences get a load of the talented thesp in his role of Bilbo Baggins come December 14, the Freeman name confusion will be a thing of the past.
#2 Tom Hiddleston
As the charismatic arch-villain Loki in Marvel's wildly successful Avengers, the 31-year-old London native managed the not-inconsiderable task of stealing scenes from a laundry list of A-list actors including Robert Downey Jr. and Samuel L. Jackson. It's just the latest in a line of recent big-screen triumphs for the RADA-trained actor. Since his major-film debut in 2010's Thor, he's gone on to wow critics with performances in Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, Spielberg's War Horse, and as the damaged Freddie Page in an adaptation of Rattigan's The Deep Blue Sea. But it's his second foray as the mischievous god that's pushed the talented thesp (who's also a dab-hand at impressions - his Owen Wilson is insane) to make the leap from critical darling to fan favourite (see the masses of Tumblrs and GIFs dedicated to the actor just for a start).
Up next for Hiddleston is a starring role in Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive.
#1 Benedict Cumberbatch
The 35-year-old British actor has been impressing critics and audiences in the UK for almost a decade with roles on both the stage and small screen. But recent days have seen Cumberbatch's star rise far beyond his native land - so much so that he's created what some are (rightly) calling a fully fledged situation here across the pond.
The chameleon-like thesp with the absurdly memorable name appeared in not one but two Oscar-nominated films last year, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and War Horse, while also finding himself cast as the purported big bad in J.J. Abram’s much-anticipated Star Trek sequel. But his brink-of-international-success is truly down to one thing: the BBC's "Sherlock." In his breakthrough role as a modern incarnation of the legendary detective, casting agents and audiences worldwide have been afforded the opportunity to see something exceedingly rare - the perfect marriage of talent and part.
Next up for Cumberbatch: Star Trek 2, 12 Years a Slave, and a third season of "Sherlock."
See the Olivier Award-winning Cumberbatch tread the boards in the National Theatre's production of Frankenstein on June 14, 16, 21 and 23 as encore screenings are broadcast to select theatres across Canada.
ETA: An eagle-eyed reader (CElaine) has rightly pointed out that I forgot to include Cumberbatch's upcoming roles opposite Armitage and Freeman in The Hobbit . He will be voicing both Smaug and the Necromancer in the epic two-part adaptation. Yet another reason to put those two films at the top of your must-see list!
What say you? Do you count yourself a part of the burgeoning fan-bases for any of these fab gents? Which of their roles caught your eye?
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