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Talking with BAFTA’s 2014 Rising Star Shortlist, Including Lea Seydoux, George MacKay, Will Poulter and More

Talking with BAFTA's 2014 Rising Star Shortlist, Including Lea Seydoux, George MacKay, Will Poulter and More

Previous winners have included James McAvoy, Tom Hardy and Juno Temple; Chiwitel Ejiofor, Emma Stone and Tom Hiddleston have all been nominated; and the 2014 BAFTA Rising Star nominees, announced today at their Piccadilly HQ, are Dane DeHaan, George MacKay, Lupita Nyong’o, Will Poulter and Lea Seydoux. BAFTA created the Rising Star accolade in 2006 to honour Mary Selway, who discovered a heap of exciting young talent during her 25-year casting director career before she died in 2004, but also as part of a concerted mission to make themselves a more glam, sexier proposition on the annual awards-season treadmill.

McAvoy was BAFTA’s inaugural Rising Star, followed in succession by Eva Green, Shia LaBeouf, Noel Clarke, Kristen Stewart, Hardy, Adam Deacon and Temple. The nominees are selected by a jury which this year included BAFTA Deputy Chair Pippa Harris, actress Gemma Arterton and several UK entertainment journalists. The candidates, therefore, are generally well chosen, although Twitter cat-callers immediately demanded to know why Seydoux had been shortlisted over her “Blue Is The Warmest Colour” co-star Adele Exarchopoulos, who would arguably seem a snugger fit with the other four nominees.

Actors with substantial bodies of work behind them have always made the Rising Star shortlist when they’re having breakthrough years. But given that Seydoux landed the Cannes Film Festival’s version of a rising-star award, the ‘Female Revelation’, six years ago and has been nominated twice for Most Promising Actress at the French Cesars, is BAFTA arriving late to the party, we asked Seydoux after the ceremony? 

“I don’t know,” she demurred. “I’m very excited to be nominated, I think I would faint if I won. The fact that the public vote for it is very encouraging. And ‘Blue Is The Warmest Color’ has been very successful in the UK, no? Very few French films get recognized here.”

While Twitter carries on debating the exact definition of ‘rising star’, Seydoux’s inclusion doesn’t stand out in the way that Kristen Stewart’s name did in 2010. When she won the award, the third “Twilight” was already well into its theatrical run and she was already a bona-fide global superstar. To her credit, Stewart turned up to collect the prize, looking more sheepish than usual and seemingly going out of her way not to betray any underlying indifference to its significance- – or lack thereof — to her career. But it will undoubtedly mean a whole lot more to native-born talent.

“It’s a BAFTA, that’s not to be taken lightly by any means,” says Poulter, who was in attendance alongside Seydoux and MacKay. “Being nominated is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. What’s so inspiring is seeing [past nominees] having such an incredible moment: Tom Hiddleston, Eddie Redmayne, Chiwitel Ejiofor… These are all people who are doing fantastically now.”

All three agree that winning the award would deliver a handy boost to their careers, particularly beyond home borders, i.e. in Hollywood. Unlike fellow Brit Poulter, with “The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader” and “We’re The Millers”, and Seydoux, with “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”, MacKay is still a local phenomenon. “I haven’t been to LA in a couple of years so I’m hoping to do that at some stage. I think when you go out there, it’s best to go out on the back of something,” says the London-born actor, who’s had an extremely busy year with four features playing in UK cinemas, including “Sunshine On Leith” and Kevin Macdonald’s “How I Live Now”. “It’s more of a dogfight out there so having a bit of confidence with something like this can really help your cause.”

Since it’s voted for by moviegoing Brits, an established star like LaBeouf and Stewart will always be a cinch to walk off with the award, but this year is an open playing field. Blowing your own trumpet doesn’t hurt either. 2012 winner Adam Deacon openly campaigned for victory, among other things handing out flyers to shrieking Daniel Radcliffe fans at the premiere of “The Woman In Black” and eventually triumphing over Hiddleston, Chris Hemsworth and Eddie Redmayne. “Yeah, I heard about that,” winces Poulter. “I’m not going to be doing that. I’m happy to let the public make up their mind. I’m not going to try and twist their arm.”

“It would be wonderful to win but I don’t think I’ll be setting up my own campaign,” adds MacKay with a grin. “If I do, I’ll do it at the dead of night or something like that. Keep it quiet. But it’s not just the winners who you respect so just being involved is wonderful.”

When BAFTA’s film award nominations are announced in two days time, on 8 January, Seydoux could well find herself up for a second award, should voters choose to recognize her “Blue Is The Warmest Colour” turn in the Supporting Actress category. None of this will harm Seydoux on her current mission, which is to seek out and land English-language roles. “I know some actors in France don’t feel comfortable acting in English, but I really love it,” says the actress, who’s about to head to Ireland to shoot “Dogtooth” director Yorgos Lanthimos’ dystopian drama “The Lobster”. “There’s a distance that is, for me, helpful. And I like that here and in America, people are very enthusiastic about even things like today, whereas in France everything is like a crisis.”

As for the war of words that erupted between herself and writer-director Abdellatif Kechiche, Seydoux — who rules out her own chances of an Oscar nomination but is rooting for Exarchopoulos to land one — declares herself “tired of it all… I just want to talk about my work and the fact that the film is so strong. When I spoke, I was not complaining. Some people thought that I was complaining but I wasn’t. I just said what I felt and it became so big. Too big.”

This year’s BAFTA Rising Star will be announced at the EE British Academy Film Awards ceremony on 16 February.

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