This decade’s rising stars: the ones to watch


By Calvin Law, MA, Law

As the world of Film & TV enters a new decade, exciting things hover on the horizon for film fans. Of course, plenty of exciting surprises await us, but like how all great films have foreshadowings and clues, the past year gave us a fair few pointers to who the newest up-and-coming names in cinema could be.

It should come as no surprise to anyone who’s followed her work prior to 2019 that Florence Pugh’s been a star in the making for quite some time, with her striking performance in Lady Macbeth (2017) winning her the British Independent Film Award for Best Actress, but 2019 simply sealed the deal with her richly deserved Oscar nomination for Little Women (2019).

Pugh brings the often maligned Amy March to life with a winning blend of hilarity and emotional depth. Add onto that her superb turns in Midsommar (2019) and Fighting With My Family (2019), and co-starring in the upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Black Widow (2020), and it’s exciting times for the ever-growing Pugh fandom.

He’s been a solid mainstay in British independent cinema for sometime now - with a glowing tribute video by Mark Kermode himself to boot - but George MacKay made his leap into stardom with his leading work in 1917 (2019). The film itself was solidified itself as one of the frontrunners for Best Picture at the Oscars.

| Little Women is a ‘formidably groovy’ adaptation of epic proportions

1917 is a technical marvel held together by MacKay’s generous, understated work that is the beating heart of the film. While his work has been sorely underrated this awards season, raves from audiences and critics alike, as well a promising upcoming turn as Australian outlaw Ned Kelly, have brought him into the star stratosphere.

Speaking of 1917, screenwriter Krysty Wilson-Cairns collaborated with director Sam Mendes on the screenplay to the WWI epic and was nominated for the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for her feature film debut. Her next project? An Edgar Wright collaboration for his upcoming psychological horror film Last Night in Soho (2020) as well as a commission for an Amazon Studios miniseries on drug cartel boss Paul Le Roux. Talk about making a splash!

Another astonishing debut this year came from young Roman Griffin Davis in Jojo Rabbit (2019). The film may have proved divisive among audiences, but the excellence of his performance in carrying the comedic and dramatic beats of the film on his little shoulders cannot be denied. It’s exciting to see what awaits him next, and hopefully he and Jojo co-star Archie Yates will get the chance to do a rendition of their young Simon Pegg-Nick Frost routine again.

Whether she decides to return to the documentary format or pursue other routes, one thing’s for sure: Har’el is a talent to watch out for

With a knockout musical leading turn in Wild Rose (2019), a solid appearance in Judy (2019) opposite Renee Zellweger, and terrific supporting work in HBO’s Chernobyl (2019), Jessie Buckley looks primed to head into the 2020s as the next big thing, with a Charlie Kaufman collaboration for Netflix, I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020) and a starring role on the fourth season of Noah Hawley’s acclaimed Fargo (2014-) series leaving us all waiting with bated breath.

Lulu Wang’s family dramedy The Farewell (2019) burst onto the indie scene as one of the year’s big surprises, winning Awkwafina a richly deserved Golden Globe and solidifying Wang as one of the most highly sought directors in the industry. Apparently she’s pursuing sci-fi as her next venture and I for one can’t wait to see how that pans out.

Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Taylor Russell gave two of the most powerful performances of the past year in Waves (2019), delivering naturalistic depictions of anger, grief, resentment and the healing process and taking over the screen with their captivating screen presence. With Russell getting an Independent Spirit Award nomination and Harrison Jr. nabbing a role in Aaron Sorkin’s upcoming The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020), and here’s hoping both will continue to get work deserving of their calibre.

With her narrative film feature debut Honey Boy (2019), Israeli-American director Alma Har’el received raves for her heartfelt handling of Shia Labeouf’s autobiographical screenplay, winning critical acclaim all the way from Sundance to a Director’s Guild Award for a First Time Feature Film. Whether she decides to return to the documentary format with which she started her career or pursue other routes, one thing’s for sure: she’s a talent to watch out for.

Kaitlyn Dever broke out onto the scene with back-to-back leading turns in both television and film, with her critically acclaimed work in crime drama series Unbelievable (2019) and a hugely entertaining double-act with Beanie Feldstein in Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut Booksmart (2019). She’s proven herself to be equally adept with comedy, drama and everything in between and in turn has received a string of awards and should see her star continue to rise as the decade goes along.

He’s simply gone from strength to strength with each year, and Jonathan Majors seems primed for stardom with his superb scene-stealing turn in The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019) last year leading to both critical and awards plaudits. Next up is a role in Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods (2020) where hopefully he’ll get more juicy material to sink his teeth into.

| The Last Black Man in San Francisco is an honest ode to its titular city

Whatever the next decade holds, it looks as though there certainly will not be a shortage of fresh talent to keep us all entertained in the coming years.

Featured: IMDb

Who are you looking forward to seeing more from in the next decade?