Are these the Irish film stars of the future?
Four Irish actors and one producer made it onto Screen International’s 'future talent' list
James Harkness, Fionn O'Shea, Sophie Reid and Seána Kerslake, Screen International’s Stars of Tomorrow
Seána Kerslake. Fionn O’Shea. Paddy Gibson. Jessie Buckley. Farah Abushwesha. Keep your eyes open for these four young Irish film actors, and one producer, who are this week tipped for future greatness, or at least future goodness, in film.
Screen International’s influential annual talent-spot, Stars of Tomorrow, which prides itself on predicting success, has included five young Irish people in 2017’s list.
This is the largest cohort of Irish talent that has figured on the annual list.
So, how does an actor or film-maker make it into the prestigious compilation? Screen International’s Fionnuala Halligan curates the list and settles on the line-up after considering hundreds of candidates and consulting casting agents, talent agents, managers, producers and directors. Screen International has partnered BFI London Film Festival for the project, and the 2017 Stars are presented as part of its programme this week.
Seána Kerslake (A Date for Mad Mary), Fionn O’Shea (Handsome Devil), Paddy Gibson (The OA, What Richard Did), Jessie Buckley (Beast) and producer Farah Abushwesha (The Party, an IFB short and The Last Photograph) were among those who made it to the final shakeout.
The international film publication Screen International started its annual spotlight on young talent in 2004. Previous Stars of Tomorrow include Benedict Cumberbatch (2004), Oscar-winner Eddie Redmayne (2005), Suffragette star Carey Mulligan and Star Wars: The Force Awakens actor John Boyega (2011).
In 2014 Screen International expanded Stars of Tomorrow to specifically include up and coming Irish stars.
The annual talent showcase spotlights up-and-coming actors, writers, directors and producers from the UK and Ireland who are primed to make their mark in the industry over the next few years.
Fionn O’Shea’s first film was the short New Boy, which got an Oscar nomination in 2007. After a role in Richie Smyth’s The Siege Of Jadotville he landed the lead – a sweet, gawky boy forced to go to a rugby-mad boarding school – in the coming-of-age film Handsome Devil, after recording an audition on his iPhone,
Seána Kerslake’s breakout role was in Darren Thornton’s A Date For Mad Mary, as the sweary Mary, a force of nature desperately looking for a second chance in her hometown. This followed Kirsten Sheridan’s experimental and unscripted Dollhouse.
Kerslake has just shot Lee Cronin’s psychological thriller A Hole In The Ground, as a woman who doesn’t recognise her own son.
Paddy Gibson was in The Tudors and Neverland while still at school, before a parts in Lenny Abrahamson’s coming-of-age What Richard Did in 2012, and in Niall Heery’s comedy Gold and BBC’s war series The Passing Bells. Gibson’s big break was in Netflix’s otherworldly New York series The OA. This year he’s in the political drama Guerrilla, and historical drama The White Princess.
Jessie Buckley started in musical theatre, which led to roles in TV series War & Peace, Taboo, The Last Post, and The Woman In White. Her first feature lead role is in Michael Pearce’s Beast, as a woman living on Jersey, still being punished for a crime committed years earlier.
Buckley plays a woman who dreams of being a country singer in Nashville in Tom Harper’s Glasgow-set Country Music.
Libyan-Irish producer Farah Abushwesha, who left Libya and her parents when she was seven, to live in safety with her Irish grandmother, founded the Bafta Rocliffe New Writing Forum, a showcase for emerging talent.
“When I came out of drama school [The Poor School in London], I couldn’t find parts for women in their early 20s,” says Abushwesha. “That’s how Rocliffe evolved. Slowly I realised I was much more comfortable behind the camera, putting people and projects together.”
She was line producer on Tom Shkolnik’s The Comedian and The Rise (aka Wasteland), and co-producer on Pressure starring Danny Huston and Matthew Goode. Huston then asked her to produce his film The Last Photograph. “It was one of those moments when you see your career changing,” says Abushwesha.
Last year Abushwesha produced a short, The Party, which earned a Bafta nomination and is working on Stephanie Laing’s Irreplaceable You, starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Christopher Walken, Michiel Huisman and Steve Coogan.
Screen International’s chief critic Fionnula Halligan said of the Irish talent: “That we have an unprecedented number of young Irish actors this year is testament to both their talent and the bigger role that Irish film is currently playing on the international stage.
“Irish actors form almost one-third of our talent portfolio this year, and they are all ideally poised for further success on an international level.
“Although Seána Kerslake and Fionn O’Shea came to my attention for vibrant performances in brilliant Irish films (A Date for Mad Mary and Handsome Devil), it’s also fair to say that both Paddy Gibson and Jessie Buckley arrived in Stars of Tomorrow completely by stealth. They were so convincing in their characters that it was only at the process that I realised they were also Irish too.”
Many of the actors’ early work was in films funded by the Irish Film Board and shot in Ireland, indicating the sort of success that can grow from support of the industry here.
James Hickey, the Film Board’s chief executive, said: “Watching new generations of Irish actors, writers, directors and producers break through into the international industry is the result of the long-term, continued and sustained investment in talent and it so important for the future growth of the industry.”