Even though "Jack the Giant Slayer" is speculated to become the first big-budget flop of 2013, it doesn’t look like Nicholas Hoult will be deemed the Taylor Kitsch of this "unlucky" year. He's already got the moderately successful and decently reviewed "Warm Bodies" under his belt, and three high-profile leading roles, including "Mad Max" and "X-Men: Days of Future Past," coming up next year. Plus, he's British.
Why should that matter? Well, he's part of the latest wave of British acting imports that is steadily taking over Hollywood. It's not just last year's news story about the trifecta of classic American superheroes being played by Brits (Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man, Henry Cavill as Superman, and Christian Bale as Batman), but the long list of twenty-something actors crossing the pond. They're all young, handsome and ready to perfect American accents.
In addition to Hoult, Garfield and Cavill (we won't count veteran Bale, since he's 39) there's at least a dozen more Englishmen impressing Hollywood: Jamie Campbell Bower ("Twilight," "City of Bones"); Jeremy Irvine ("War Horse," "Great Expectations); Douglas Booth ("Romeo and Juliet," "Noah"); the "Harry Potter" wizards Daniel Radcliffe ("Kill Your Darlings," "The F Word"), Rupert Grint ("Into the White," "CBGB"), Tom Felton ("The Apparition," "Therese"); Sam Claflin ("The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," "Snow White and the Huntsman"); Max Irons ("The Host," "Vivaldi"); Jamie Bell ("Nymphomaniac," "Snowpiercer"); and those "Game of Thrones" warriors Kit Harington ("The Seventh Son," "Pompeii") and Richard Madden ("A Promise," "Long Nights Short Mornings"). Oh, and lest we forget, Robert Pattinson.
Certainly there has always been a history of storied English actors and filmmakers, from Laurence Olivier and Cary Grant to Kenneth Branagh and Ralph Fiennes and hundreds in between, but lately it seems particularly notable how many Brits are being cast in high-profile Hollywood productions. So what's driving this phenomenon? Surely, casting directors aren't all Anglophiles showing preferential treatment to British screen testers. The answer, in my opinion, is rather obvious: the U.K. does a superior job of training young actors.
While many of our young actors go to the Disney or Nickelodeon school of acting, many of the young British actors attend one of the country's prestigious drama schools, like the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Drama Centre. They can take A-levels (the equivalent of, say, an intense AP theater/drama class) instead of keeping fingers crossed that their county still has a budget for drama education. They seem to take the craft of acting seriously, because the arts are -– and always have been -- a national priority.
Of the crew I mentioned, nearly all of them went to drama school, while Radcliffe, Grint and Felton spent a decade acting opposite the U.K.'s greatest actors [link to my prestige factor story?]. So it's no surprise that by the time these actors have caught the eye of a casting director, they're ready to act instead of just look good (with the glaring exception of Alex P(r)ettyfer, who is only passable in films when he doesn't have to say very much.
This latest influx of British actors is especially impressive because of how versatile they are –- they have experience with action, fantasy, drama and comedy. They aren't afraid to take risks (like Radcliffe starring in "Equus" and then "How to Succeed in Business…" or Hoult playing a young gay student in "The Single Man") and can master "American" accents far more easily than our actors can nail English ones. They are, without reservation, ready for their close-ups. Whether their movies are all equally as good is definitely debatable, but there's something about these guys that is winning over filmmakers and audiences.
I have to believe that if American actors had been just as good as Garfield and Cavill, for example, they would've been chosen over their English counterparts. After all, the Webslinger and the Man of Steel are quintessential American superheroes (OK, Superman is an alien, but he grows up on a farm in Smallville!), and the filmmakers had to think these guys had it going on in a way that would make audiences not care (and not notice) they're British.
As a filmgoer, I, for one, welcome our new British overlords. I think our American boys could use the competition. Our young actresses might be kicking ass and taking names, but the guys could learn a thing or two from going up against these Brits.
(Featured image via Thinking Of Rob)