Evening Standard British Film Awards – This Year’s Rising Star Contenders

January 2016

From the new faces in front of the camera to the debut of an actor-turned-director, Charlotte O’Sullivan speaks to this year’s Rising Star contenders for our Film Awards

?Contenders: Tom Browne, Maisie Williams, Agyness Deyn and Jake Davies

Four individuals are in the running this year for the Rising Star category at the Evening Standard British Film Awards.

They are from a variety of backgrounds and range in age from 18 to 48 but what Agyness Deyn, Maisie Williams, Jake Davies and Tom Browne have in common (apart from talent) is that they’ve made creative choices that don’t seem motivated by financial gain. 

I should point out that the judges who put this shortlist together aren’t averse to money-spinners. It’s simply that the fresh faces who impressed us all opted to be part of projects that were a little bit different. 

Tom Browne

Director, Radiator

Debut work: director Tom Browne on theset of Radiator

The words “boffo box office” do not exactly apply to Tom Browne’s directing debut. But if and when you see Radiator, you’ll be flabbergasted by its loveliness. Camden-born Browne (who’s been working as an actor for years under the name Tom Fisher) wrote the indie drama with his friend, Daniel Cerqueira. 

A middle-aged only child, Daniel (Cerqueira) keeps being dragged to the squalid Lake District cottage where his parents, Maria (Gemma Jones) and Leonard (Richard Johnson), are, metaphorically, decomposing. The film, which is funny as well as sad, tracks Daniel’s doomed attempts to stop the rot. 

Browne is astonished that anyone likes Radiator. He says Maria and Leonard are loosely based on his own parents. “I keep thinking, ‘Who wants to see something about my parents?’” 

That the film got made at all he credits to the input of “four or five women”, one of them being Rachel Weisz. “She’s my wife’s best friend. My wife showed the script to Rachel, who really liked it. Once she was behind the project she gave it a credibility it wouldn’t otherwise have had. I mean, if it was just me and Daniel, two bitter, middle-aged men, that’s not a very attractive proposition, is it?”

At 48, Browne is the oldest of the rising stars but he explains that age has its uses. “The good thing about being old is that you’re more likely to have friends who’ve made money, so you can ask them for cash,” he says, cheekily. “I’ve mercilessly exploited everyone I know.”

Jake Davies

Actor, X+Y

Crucial role: Jake Davies as a maths genius in X+Y

Davies, 22, has a crucial part in James Graham’s maths drama X+Y, though he barely figures in the posters or DVD artwork. His character, Luke Shelton, is the film’s secret weapon. 

Luke is one of two autistic teens at a Taiwanese boot camp for brainiacs. A self-styled cynic, he’s as stiff as an unoiled tin man. At his most inept when trying to make other kids laugh (he performs a Monty Python-style sketch with a dead prawn), he 

self-harms when he fails a crucial exam. He explains to the film’s hero, Nathan, how horrendous it is to be “weird”, as opposed to “weird and gifted”. “You are gifted!” says Nathan. But Luke doesn’t see it that way and his haunted face makes you want to cry a river. 

Davies feels it’s a “massive compliment” that lots of viewers have assumed that he himself is on the spectrum. “Even my sister’s friend thought that. And I have actually met her, so I was a bit confused, because I’m quite different from Luke. At least I think I am.” 

His hero is Mike Leigh. “He came to a play I was in, [Tooting Arts Club’s production of] Barbarians, with his wife, Marion Bailey, and I met him. He probably wouldn’t recognise me or remember me. 

“And the thought of him asking me to be in a film ... well, I doubt that would ever, ever happen. But that’s what I’d like. I’ve heard he has this six-month rehearsal period, which is much longer than you usually get. That must be so amazing. 

“When I was on X+Y I kept asking Eddie [Marsan] about it, what it was like to be part of that communal feeling. I probably drove him mad.”

Agyness Deyn

Actress, Sunset Song

Stunned the world: Agyness Deyn in Sunset Song

Although she was excellent in 2014’s Electricity, the former model stunned the world with her turn in Sunset Song, Terence Davies’s acclaimed adaptation of the Lewis Grassic Gibbon novel. Deyn, 32, is both supple and subtle as the Scottish early-20th-century farm girl Chris Guthrie. On her wedding day Chris sings a piercing ballad, Flowers of the Forest, as if haunted by the knowledge that happiness is the exception rather than the rule. Deyn’s beautiful voice keeps us on a razor’s edge — if she ever gets bored with acting she should join a band. Deyn says she never will (get bored): “I don’t do it because it’s a job. It’s a soul urge.” 

She can’t praise Davies enough, describing him as a “true gentleman”. She found one day of the shoot particularly gobsmacking. “There’s this scene where villagers walk down a hill, belting out a song. There were 50 to 100 extras, some elderly, others three years old. Terence went around and thanked them all personally, saying things like, ‘You did so well’. Every single person! I couldn’t believe it.”

She says he’s also helped her to understand what it is to be a woman. “He’s made me see that women are strong.” Deyn’s voice wobbles:  

“I feel really touched, just thinking about it.” 

The director she’d like to work with next is Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar- Wai (her favourite film is In the Mood for Love). In the meantime, she’s happy just going for auditions. “I work my arse off to get parts but I don’t get upset if it doesn’t happen. That would be terrible, to mind too much.” Deyn says her mother often hangs out with her on set. “My mum and I are so close. She knows I have a good work ethic. I hope she’s proud of who I’ve become.”

Maisie Williams

Actress, The Falling

Untroubled by transatlantic fame: Maisie Williams alongside Florence Pugh in The Falling 

Williams, 18, is already a star thanks to Game of Thrones (in which she first appeared aged 12). She’s one of our rising stars because last year she took the lead in a slippery British psychodrama and proved herself adept at so much more than sword-swishing.

Williams dominates practically every frame of The Falling, which is mostly set in an all-girls school, in late-Sixties England. Bright, bolshie and sexually confused, her character, Lydia, drapes herself around lissome pals, tickles xylophones and, increasingly, makes life hell for her teachers and her single mum by becoming unsteady on her pins. She also sleeps with her brother. Lydia, to put it mildly, is a bucket of trouble yet we root for her with passion.

Williams expected to get attacked for that sex scene. “When a topic is disturbing,” she says, “you’re open for ridicule. But actually, lots of people in their fifties — older, wiser people — totally get why Lydia and her brother have sex, why it was so necessary. I totally got it — but I was worried that people would think it was strange.” 

It’s clear that she and The Falling’s director, Carol Morley — who is also up for an Evening Standard award for Best Screenplay — have a strong bond. “She’s wonderful,” says Williams. “She’s the first director, and genius, I’ve worked with who saw me in a different light. She’s not caught up on the Arya character. So many directors say, ‘You know that scene in Game of Thrones? Well, do it a bit like that’. With Carol it was the opposite.”

Williams seems untroubled by transatlantic fame. She and Jake Davies (also on the shortlist for the Rising Star Award) worked together on Channel 4’s Cyberbully. She burbles: “I’ve just watched X+Y. He was incredible. I can’t wait to see him at the awards do!” 

The Rising Star award for 2015 will be announced with the other winners on February 7. 

The Evening Standard British Film Awards are held in partnership with Television Centre, a new residential, studio and office development in White City. For information, visit televisioncentre.com. #ESFilmAwards

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Source: http://www.standard.co.uk/goingout/film/evening-standard-british-film-awards-this-year-s-rising-star-contenders-a3164946.html



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