Newport Beach Film Festival 6th Annual UK Honours

2020 UK Honours

Variety, the Newport Beach Film Festival and Visit Newport Beach are have teamed up for the sixth consecutive year to toast British talent. Held days before the BAFTA Awards in London, the U.K. Honours fetes established and rising talent, while 10 Brits to Watch salutes creatives with exciting projects in the past year as well as in the months ahead.

Honoree and “1917” producer Pippa Harris, who founded Neal Street Productions with director Sam Mendes, accepted the Best U.K. Picture prize with actors George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman.

The veteran film and TV producer revealed she has known Mendes for 40 years, and reminded the room of the film’s role in celebrating peace.

“Sam’s grandfather taught (his family) of the horrors of trench warfare, and the camaraderie of the army and he talked about the arbitrary nature of conflict and the fact that he had survived and so many others had died,” she said.

“I know Sam would want to dedicate this to his grandfather Alfred, but also to those who fought in the last century to protect the freedoms we all hold dear. At this time when there is conflict and tension around the world, we should not take that peace for granted.”

During the ceremony, Variety honored its annual group of 10 Brits to Watch, which this year includes Honor Swinton Byrne (“The Souvenir”), Dean-Charles Chapman (“1917”), Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (“Angels in America”), Jodie Turner-Smith (“Queen & Slim”), Zawe Ashton (“Velvet Buzzsaw”), Sheila Atim (“Girl From the North Country”), Jessica Henwick (“Underwater”), Chance Perdomo (“The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”), Laura Solon (“Back to Life”) and rapper Stormzy.

Bel Powley at the Newport Beach Film Festival 6th Annual UK Honours105-min

Other Breakthrough Artists include Sophie Cookson (“Greed,” “Kingsman: The Secret Service”), Erin Doherty (“The Crown,” “Les Miserables”), Ncuti Gatwa (“Sex Education”), George MacKay (“1917,” “Captain Fantastic”), and Bel Powley (“The Morning Show,” “White Boy Rick”).

Artists of Distinction included Asa Butterfield (“Sex Education”), Chiwetel Ejiofor (“12 Years a Slave”), Alice Eve (“Bombshell”) and Mbatha-Raw (“The Morning Show,” Motherless Brooklyn.

Finally, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” star Richard E. Grant and “Lord of the Rings” actor Sir Ian Holm won the Icon award.


More on our 2020 ’10 Brits to Watch:’

Zawe Ashton

“Betrayal,” “Velvet Buzzsaw”

Actor, playwright and author Ashton is coming off a year that includes her Broadway debut, the publication of her memoir and a starring role in a Sundance hit. Considering she was planning on quitting acting at the end of 2017, it’s all the more impressive.

She had just penned her book, “Character Breakdown,” and notes, “in the writing of it, I realized just how long I’ve been doing this job and how costly what we do can be sometimes.” She quickly adds, “We’re not heart surgeons or scaling oceans or anything, but when you start acting as a child and you become an adult, you realize there really is some catch up work to do in terms of your psyche.”

But a message came through in early 2018 asking her to screen test with Jake Gyllenhaal for Dan Gilroy’s “Velvet Buzzsaw”; the experience on the Netflix film changed her. “This was exactly what I’d been looking for,” she says. “I felt like an artist again.”

Ashton followed that with a starring role in the revival of Harold Pinter’s “Betrayal” opposite Marvel stars Charlie Cox and Tom Hiddleston in London; the play then transferred to Broadway for a successful limited run in the fall. “It was a huge bucket-list moment,” Ashton raves. As if that weren’t enough, a play Ashton wrote, “For All the Women Who Thought They Were Mad,” made its debut both in London and New York.

With “Character Breakdown” coming out in paperback in February, Ashton is also at work writing a pilot and a feature. She also “aiming to direct something feature length.”

“We’ve always had these voices and these stories as women and as women of color,” she adds. “It just happens that there’s a landscape now where people are realizing not only is there an appetite for these stories, but they’re lucrative. It’s a very exciting time.”

Agency: CAA; The Artists Partnership

Influences: Pedro Almodóvar, Noah Baumbach, Marion Cotillard, Viola Davis, Luca Guadagnino, Yorgos Lanthimos, Terrence Malick, Gaspar Noé, family

Sheila Atim

“Harlots,” “The Underground Railroad”

Though a relative newcomer, Atim has already garnered accolades and awards normally reserved for those with decades more experience.

Among many acting awards, including a Laurence Olivier Award for supporting actress in a musical in 2018 for her performance in “The Girl From the North Country,” Atim’s turn opposite Mark Rylance’s Iago in “Othello” garnered rave reviews. She topped off a busy 2019 with a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE).

“It’s so lovely to have work recognized in that way; that’s not the primary reason why I do it,” says Atim, calling her love of acting a form of expression and communication. “But it’s always a nice cherry on the top to know that people are being affected by the work you’re doing in a positive way.”

Along with acting and modeling, Atim is also a singer, composer (the score for the play “Time is Love”) and playwright, with her play “Anguis,” debuting at last year’s Edinburgh Festival.

She only began acting after graduating from King’s College in London with a degree in biomedical science. While attending art college on the weekends, she was asked by a teacher to be in a play he’d written and the rest sorted itself out. “I was doing something very different; it makes so much more sense now that I’m here,” she says. “It just required the universe to give me a nudge in that direction.”

On screen, she has appeared in the series “Harlots” and “Bounty Hunters,” and will be seen in upcoming projects as varied as Barry Jenkins’ “The Underground Railroad” for Amazon, “The Irregulars” for Netflix, the Agatha Christie drama “The Pale Horse” and Halle Berry’s directorial debut “Bruised.”

“I don’t really have a specific plan,” she says. “My part so far has been saying ‘yes’ to the things that present themselves to me and that’s an ethos I’m trying to follow.”

Agency: Middleweek Newton Talent Management

Management: Fourward

Influences: Angela Bassett, Naomie Harris, Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys

— Paul Plunkett

Dean-Charles Chapman attends the Newport Beach Film Festival 6th Annual UK Honours

Dean-Charles Chapman

“1917,” “Game of Thrones”

Barely into his second decade and Essex-born Chapman has already conquered roles on stage, television and film. He spent much of his formative years in the cast, and then starring in, the West End’s theatrical adaptation of “Billy Elliot” before earning memorable television roles including the boy king Tommen Baratheon on HBO’s “Game of Thrones” and warrior Castor on AMC’s drama “Into the Badlands.”

Now, he toplines as one of the two young soldiers tasked with a difficult mission in director and co-writer Sam Mendes’ World War I epic “1917.”

“It’s a very human story,” Chapman says regarding what compelled him to sign on to star opposite George MacKay in the film. “You’re not just following soldiers, you are following two human beings.”

Like a lot of performers who start as children, Chapman got involved in local theater at a young age after his older sister caught the acting bug. She gave it up after two months, but he began to book TV commercials before graduating to more high-profile parts that would eventually also include appearing in this year’s “The King,” based on Shakespeare’s plays, and starring in the upcoming Irish drama “Here Are the Young Men,” based on the Rob Doyle novel.

“Every role I play, I think of it as a time in my life and I look back on it like that,” he says. “Every job I do, I always learn a big lesson about my job and me.”

Chapman says he doesn’t favor one medium of storytelling over another. Although, he admits to being “a bit obsessed with Westerns at the minute. Maybe I’ll be a cowboy one day. That would be nice.”

Agency: WME (U.S.), Troika (U.K.)

Influences: Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro

— Whitney Friedlander

Jessica Henwick

“Underwater,” “The Matrix 4”

Best known for television roles on the Marvel/Netflix series “Iron Fist,” HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” Sky Atlantic’s “Fortitude,” BBC’s “Silk,” “The Thick of It,” and “Spirit Warriors,” that latter of which marked her as the first actress of East Asian descent to play the lead role in a British television series, Henwick will appear in numerous high-profile releases in the near future. She’s currently on screens in the deep-sea thriller “Underwater” with Kristen Stewart.

It’s clear that Henwick is up for anything in any genre, as upcoming projects include the highly anticipated “The Matrix 4,” adventure-comedy “Monster Problems,” Sofia Coppola’s “On the Rocks” (an experience she refers to as “a dream come true”) and creature-feature smack-down “Godzilla Vs. Kong.” She also recently wrote and starred in the short films “In the Heart of the Forest” and “Baliko.”

She’s got other plans in addition to acting, having recently optioned two television series as writer-producer, including a British miniseries and a comedy with Vertigo Entertainment.

“I love juggling many creative hats at once, and I’m always burning the candle on both ends,” she says. But in those rare moments when she’s not working, Henwick loves a good, if rather long trip through the mountains. “I hiked on my own from France to Spain, which was just under 600 miles over the course of 40 days. I’m a big proponent of solo female travel and this was a tremendous personal experience.”

Agency: CAA (U.S.), Curtis Brown (U.K.)

Legal: Jackoway Austen Tyerman Wertheimer Mandelbaum Morris Bernstein Trattner & Klein

Influences: Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Wong Kar-wai, Brit Marling, Bong Joon Ho

— Nick Clement

Chance Perdomo

“Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”

Some may count Perdomo out of this list of British talent to watch on a technicality. The actor, who is best known in the U.S. for playing the fan-favorite necromancing warlock Ambrose Spellman on Netflix’s “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” was born in the United States before moving to the U.K. as a kid. He even spent some time in North Carolina, where he learned to perfect a Southern accent.

But Perdomo, who was raised in Southampton, trained at London’s National Youth Theatre and has a BAFTA TV nomination for starring in the BBC Three bio-drama “Killed by My Debt.” He scrapped plans for a law degree when he booked a part with two lines of dialogue on the kids’ show “Hetty Feather” after he realized filming would overlap with his exams.

Whether it’s roles such as “Debt,” which is based on the true story of a 20-year-old who committed suicide after accruing too much interest on his unpaid traffic fines, or “Sabrina,” in which playing a pansexual character allows him to research and explore positive portrayals of what that term means, Perdomo says “I naturally migrate to [roles with] authentic representation” and “not portraying clichés.”

“If there’s something going on that mirrors our political climate, I’ll probably be more drawn to playing a character that has a reflection [of that], or has a commentary or statement based on that as who they are,” he says. “I’m just drawn to the conflict and the emotional content of multi-faceted individuals.”

Agency: Scott Marshall Partners (U.K.)

Management: Authentic Talent and Literary

Legal: Jackoway Austen Tyerman Wertheimer Mandelbaum Morris Bernstein Trattner & Klein

Influences: Dwayne Johnson, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro

— Whitney Friedlander

Laura Solon

“Back to Life”

Solon co-created and co-wrote the critically acclaimed BBC Three comedy series “Back to Life,” from “Fleabag” producers Harry and Jack Williams. It was recently picked up for a second season for U.S. distribution by Showtime, thus ensuring wider exposure to the Brit hit. “Writing ‘Back to Life’ with the fantastic Daisy Haggard is something I’m very proud of,” says Solon, who has also developed projects with ABC, and has appeared on TV Land’s “Hot in Cleveland.” When she’s not busy writing, Solon “follows cricket, especially test cricket where the games can last five days! I love being with my 5-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son.”

She’s really excited about a couple of big projects, including “the second season of ‘Back to Life.’ I’m also starting work on an animated feature with Sony Pictures Animation [“Bad Mermaids”] that I wake up very happy about each day.” Making eclectic choices on creative material comes naturally to Solon, who says she’d like to tackle “a female-led action movie.” It’s no wonder that she’s attracted to all types of stories spread across various genres considering that she counts “Thelma and Louise,” “Ghostbusters,” “Lost in Translation,” “The Squid and The Whale,” and “Brief Encounter” as personal cinematic favorites.

She had a busy year in 2019, having developed “School for Good and Evil” for Netflix, while also receiving primary shared credit on the Netflix holiday feature “Let It Snow.” She’s also been packaging her original spec screenplay “Work It” for Universal/Amblin Partners. In 2018 she developed a number of projects for Universal Pictures, including “Pep” for director Jay Roach with Amy Poehler attached to star, as well as “Untitled Manny Project” for Josh Gad. Solon also co-wrote “Office Christmas Party.”

Agency: Gersh

Legal: Jackoway Austen Tyerman Wertheimer Mandelbaum Morris Bernstein Trattner & Klein

Influences: Judd Apatow, Nora Ephron, Noah Baumbach, Victoria Wood, Emma Thompson, Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro

— Nick Clement

Nathan Stewart-Jarrett at the Newport Beach Film Festival 6th Annual UK Honours11-minNathan Stewart-Jarrett

“Dracula,” “Candyman”

Approaching different roles inspires Stewart-Jarrett to invent different processes.

“Sometimes it might be [a piece of] music, sometimes it might be art,” he says. “You have to follow your instinct with each one. I just try to not think so much, try to get out of my own way.”

He’s also something of a sponge, absorbing the lessons and habits of other actors, such as Nathan Lane and Andrew Garfield, whom he appeared with on Broadway in the 2018 revival of “Angels in America.”

“I always watch; naturally I try to steal from every other actor I work with,” he says with a chuckle. “I’m constantly observing, trying to thieve it away from them.”

Having spent years on television, including on shows such as “Misfits” and “Utopia,” Stewart-Jarrett still finds something in theater he can’t get on screen. “I love feeling the audience,” he says. “I don’t think I’ve had that experience on the screen thus far.”

He’ll have plenty of chances in the days ahead, with projects in the works including the Jordan Peele-produced horror reboot “Candyman,” appearing with Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Colman Domingo.

Other upcoming projects include a “Dracula” series from “Sherlock” creators Stephen Moffat and Mark Gatiss and a role in the AMC anthology series “For Life” from Brett Goldstein and “Black Mirror” writer Will Bridges.

While Stewart-Jarrett loves filmmaking and considers even the worst day on a set to be a great day, he keeps an open mind to the future. “You re-check in [with yourself] every few years,” he says. “I ask myself, ‘Do I still like this?’ and then I say, ‘Yeah, I do,’ and then carry on.”

Agency: ICM (U.S.), Curtis Brown (U.K.)

Management: Silver Lining Entertainment

Legal: Jackoway Austen Tyerman Wertheimer Mandelbaum Morris Bernstein Trattner & Klein

Influences: Bob Hoskins, Julianne Moore, Olivia Colman

— Paul Plunkett


“Heavy Is the Head”

It’s not every year that you get to perform at Adele’s 30th-birthday party, but then, 2019 was rife with milestones for British grime rapper Stormzy (real name: Michael Ebenazer Kwadjo Omari Owuo Jr.). In addition to helping the “Hello” superstar ring in her 30s in May, the 26-year-old became the first black British solo artist to headline Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage in June, and in December, he released his second album, “Heavy Is the Head,” which produced a pair of No. 1 U.K. singles, “Vossi Bop” and “Own It,” a collaboration with Ed Sheeran and Burna Boy.

The latter will go down in history as the first U.K. No. 1 single of the 2020s and follows another chart-topping Sheeran collaboration, “Take Me Back to London,” a 2019 track that was also supposed to feature Jay-Z  —  until Stormzy most respectfully objected during a songwriting session.

He told British TV host Jonathan Ross: “I was like, ‘I know how it goes, Mr. Z. You are the most brilliant, busy man, and I probably never will get this opportunity ever again, but hand on my heart, I don’t think this is the right song for us. I don’t know why I’m saying this to you … but this is not the song.’ ”

Such moments to remember are becoming increasingly frequent for the 6-foot-5 rapper. Stormzy is arguably the biggest British rhymer to hit the scene since the heyday of Dizzee Rascal 10 years ago, but will he be the one to finally break British-accented rap in America? Despite their abandoned collaboration, Jay-Z seems to think so.

“Culture moves the world,” the hip-hop icon said in a video introducing Stormzy’s Glastonbury turn. “When you step on that stage, you’re going to see it because they are really ready for it.”

Agency: Paradigm (U.S.), Primary Talent Intl (U.K.)

Management: #Merky

Legal: Lee & Thompson

Influences: Skepta, Drake, Frank Ocean, Lauryn Hill, Raleigh Ritchie

— Jeremy Helligar

Honor Swinton Byrne

“The Souvenir”

Plenty of Hollywood scions find their way into the family business. Not all of them break through in a film sharing scenes with their Oscar-winning mother. Swinton Byrne, daughter of Tilda Swinton and playwright and artist John Byrne, has done just that by headlining her mother’s childhood friend Joanna Hogg’s Sundance darling “The Souvenir,” a piece of art that is also an emotional and semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story.

“Swinton Byrne beautifully plays a formless woman at varying stages of self-awareness, her backbone forming before our eyes as her heart splits into fragments,” Variety’s Guy Lodge wrote of the 22-year-old in his review of “The Souvenir.” He also describes her on-screen chemistry with co-star Tom Burke, who plays her character’s elder and troubled suitor, as “intensely interlocked.”

No one may be more surprised by this career choice than Swinton Byrne herself. Apart from a non-speaking role in 2009’s “I Am Love,” directed by Luca Guadagnino and starring her mother, her screen time has been limited. Born in London and raised in the Scottish Highlands, she told W magazine that her mother and Hogg approached her for the part, and that while she “was really sure that it was what I wanted to do” she also “really, really didn’t see it coming.”

Turns out mom did know best. Swinton Byrne will reprise her role in the upcoming “The Souvenir Part II.”

Agency: Hamilton Hodell (U.K.)

Influences: Bong Joon Ho, Jeff Goldblum, Tilda Swinton, Jodie Turner-Smith

— Whitney Friedlander

Jodie Turner-Smith

“Queen & Slim”

Turner-Smith left an indelible mark on the stylish indie crime thriller “Queen & Slim,” which was released last year to critical acclaim and sleeper box-office hit status. Turner-Smith approached the material with anticipation. “I’m very proud of ‘Queen & Slim,’” she says. “It was my first time starring in a movie, and that is an accomplishment I will never forget. I’m so proud of myself for taking that journey because while I remember being terrified the entire time, I never let it stop me. That’s growth.”

Born in Peterborough, England, to Jamaican parents, Turner-Smith got her start in the music- video world as a background and featured performer, and then landed work on such TV programs as TNT’s “The Last Ship” and HBO’s “True Blood.” She scored a major role on the Netflix science fiction series “Nightflyers” from George R.R. Martin and also was cast in the Cinemax series “Jett,” which premiered in June.

Splitting her time between Los Angeles and London, Turner-Smith most recently wrapped filming on the A24 release “After Yang,” which was directed by Korean artist-turned-filmmaker Kogonada (“Columbus”). Other upcoming projects include Paramount’s new big-budget Tom Clancy adaptation “Without Remorse” opposite Michael B. Jordan. The plum role could serve as a launching pad into a major new franchise.

Agency: UTA

Management: Untitled Entertainment

Legal: Ziffren Brittenham

Influences: Mati Diop, Melina Matsoukas, Alma Har’el, Ava DuVernay, Lulu Wang, Lorene Scafaria, Marielle Heller, Naomie Harris, Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys

— Nick Clement



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