At times the BAFTA nominations might seem like something of a dress rehearsal for the Oscars. Unique to these awards, however, is that five categories focus solely on British cinema. As well as honouring short films and animation, they recognise the best directorial debuts and reward the best British film. Lastly, there’s the Orange Rising Star Award, uniquely voted for by the public (you can do it at orange.co.uk/bafta), which has honoured up-and-coming actors for five years now. Transformers star Shia La Beouf is among the past winners; last year, the trophy went to Twilight heroine Kristen Stewart.
The youngest actor to appear in the category this year is Aaron Johnson. The twenty-year-old began his career at the age of six in the theatre in Shakespeare plays and Arthur Miller’s All My Sons. Now, Johnson is best known as the hero of the sleeper success Kick-Ass, the boy with no superpowers whose desire to impress others leads him to dress up as a superhero. Johnson, whose other credits include The Illusionist and Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, has also had the honour of playing a young John Lennon in the biopic Nowhere Boy. The film’s director, Sam Taylor-Wood, now lives with Johnson in London, and this summer gave birth to their daughter.
One of this year’s nominees is also the star of one of the most hotly-tipped films of the season. Andrew Garfield has only a handful of movie roles to his name, but his appearance in The Social Network, playing Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, has been enough to also see him nominated for Best Supporting Actor, and presumably lead him to get the main role in a forthcoming reboot of the Spiderman franchise. He’s garnered acclaim for the Red Riding TV trilogy, worked alongside Heath Ledger and Lily Cole in Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, and is about to appear in Never Let Me Go.
Another nominee for the award will also be featuring the new Spiderman film as Gwen Stacy. Emma Stone, the only American nominee this year, came to fame in 2007 in the smash hit Superbad, her first film role. She’s since been in a range of mainstream releases such as The House Bunny, Marmaduke and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, scoring a massive success in horror-comedy Zombieland in 2009. Her biggest role to date has been in Easy A, one of the biggest cult hits of last year. The high-school comedy follows Olive Penderghast, a teenager who, after lying about losing her virginity, finds herself offering unpopular friends the opportunity to pretend that they’ve slept with her. Stone received a Golden Globe nomination for her witty performance.
Tom Hardy, born in 1977, is far and away the eldest of the group. Hardy has had minor roles in movies since 2001, including Black Hawk Down, Layer Cake, Marie Antoinette and RocknRolla. It wasn’t until 2009 that he rose to prominence in two roles that couldn’t be more different from each other: the dashing Heathcliff in a TV miniseries of Wuthering Heights, and bareknuckle boxer Michael Gordon Petersen in Bronson. Now Hardy is most recognisable for his part in Christopher Nolan’s Inception, which has led him to be cast as Bane in Nolan’s next Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises.
Finally, the bookies’ current favourite to win the award is Gemma Arterton, the Quantum of Solace star who if she succeeds will join Casino Royale’s Eva Green as the second Bond Girl to be crowned as a BAFTA Rising Star. 2010 was a huge year for the St. Trinian’s and Tess of the D’Urbervilles heroine, with roles in: The Disappearance of Alice Creed, blockbusters Clash of the Titans and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, and Stephen Frears’ acclaimed adaptation of Posy Simmonds’ comic strip, Tamara Drewe. Arterton ended her year on the London stage in Ibssen’s The Master Builder, and is now set to star in Men in Black III.