Amazing British Talent Everywhere

'Great Performances' to Air National Theatre 50th Anniversary Celebration in February

Britain’s National Theatre celebrates its 50th anniversary this year – much like several other well-known British institutions, including the Rolling Stones and, of course, Doctor Who. For those that don’t know, the NT is one of the UK’s two most prominent publicly funded theatre companies, alongside the Royal Shakespeare Company. It presents a varied program, staging everything from Shakespeare and international classic dramas to new and modern works by contemporary playwrights.

Many of the British actors we all love have done stints at the NT, performing a wide variety of roles in various productions. And by many, we really mean pretty much everyone ever who works in British entertainment. Familiar faces like Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Derek Jacobi, Michael Gambon, Helen Mirren and many, many more are all alumni of the National Theatre and clearly remain very fond of it.

Earlier this Fall, the BBC held an all-star gala event in honor of the 50th birthday of this cultural institution and the stars turned out in force to celebrate. The program was basically a dream for anyone who loves theater or has been any sort of fan of British television or film over the past couple of decades and we all were basically green with envy that we had to miss out on seeing this once-in-a-lifetime line-up for ourselves. Well, we can all turn a little less green – because the special is going to be aired in America.

Read on for more.

Celebrate 50 Years of the National Theatre with Every British Actor Ever

Well, not quite. But that’s what it feels like.

Britain’s National Theatre celebrates its 50th anniversary this year – much like several other British greats, including the Rolling Stones and, of course, Doctor Who. For those that don’t know, the NT is one of the UK’s two most prominent publicly funded theatre companies, alongside the Royal Shakespeare Company. It presents a varied program, staging everything from Shakespeare and international classic dramas to new and modern works by contemporary playwrights.

Saturday night the BBC ran an all-star gala event in celebration of the British theatrical institution – which has featured many of the UK’s acting greats treading its boards over the years – crossing the half-century mark and it was basically a dream program for anyone who has ever been any sort of fan of British film, television or drama. The celebration featured snippets from some of the NT’s most celebrated plays and musicals from the past fifty years, performed by a wide array of British acting greats. Dame Judi Dench sang Send in the Clowns from Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music. Dame Maggie Smith (one of the six members of the original NT company in 1963) performed a scene from The Beaux Strategem. Dame Helen Mirren did a scene from Mourning Becomes Electra. James Corden reprised his role from One Man, Two Guvnors, Alan Bennett performed Richard Griffith’s famous role from The History Boys. Michael Gambon and Sir Derek Jacobi did a scene from Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land together. Joey, the amazing puppet from War Horse, put in an appearance. And that’s not even close to everyone who participated. All in all, you couldn’t ask for a more magical evening.

Watch a video montage of scenes from the gala’s rehearsals and play spot the famous face as you go.

Several Familiar British Faces Sign on for Showtime’s ‘Penny Dreadful’ Series

A veritable festival of fabulous British actors have signed on to take part Showtime’s upcoming series Penny Dreadful in some capacity or other. The premium cable network is likely hoping that this horror-heavy genre piece will appeal to the same fanbase that flocked to its flagship Dexter series for the past seven years – and given that it’s Showtime, you know the series quality qill be quite high. So, win-win all around, really.

Penny Dreadful is being positioned as a frightening psychological thriller that weaves together classic horror stories into a new kind of adult drama. The general premise is that several of literature’s most iconic and frightening figures – including Victor Frankenstein, Dorian Gray, classic figures from the Dracula novel and more – are all grappling with alienation and their own personal demons in Victorian London. Sounds kind of fascinating, huh?

Oh and did we mention this show’s going to be packed with British actors? Get details and watch the first teaser trailer below.

Watch: The First Trailer for '12 Years a Slave' Features Some Recognizable British Faces

Director Steve McQueen’s highly anticipated adaptation of 12 Years a Slave has been much-discussed since it went into production last year – and you can now get your first look at this gritty historical drama.

This film seems like a surefire awards season contender, with its high-end behind-the-scenes pedigree (McQueen made quite a splash with Shame a couple years ago and Brad Pitt is a producer) and star-studded cast that includes several recognizable British performers. The ensemble cast features Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alfre Woodard, Michael K. Williams, Quvenzhané Wallis and more, including Pitt himself as a Canadian abolitionist.

Watch the first trailer below.

First Look at Sherlock Star Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange

Production has officially begun on That WikiLeaks Movie with Sherlock’s Benedict Cumberbatch. Now known as The Fifth Estate – presumably to avoid having to pay the licensing fee to David Bowie to use previously rumored title The Man Who Sold the World - the film is set to dramatize the controversial life of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after the 2006 launch of the WikiLeaks website. (Personally I’m rather sad about the loss of the previous title, if only because it seems a much better fit.)

Written by The West Wing alum Josh Singer, the film is based on the books Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World’s Most Dangerous Website and Wikileaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy. Bill Condon, most recently of The Twilight Saga, is directing and has assembled an all-star cast that’s positively bursting with familiar faces and talent, including Daniel Bruhl, Laura Linney, Anthony Mackenzie, David Thewlis, Peter Capaldi, Dan Stevens and more. Translation: it’s got “awards bait” written all over it.

Still and all though, since this movie is basically the reason that production on Sherlock Series 3 got pushed back, it better be excellent, right? Weigh in for yourself below and get your first look at Cumberbatch as Assange – yes, complete with trademark white-blonde hair. It’s a bit of an adjustment to be sure (and a look that I doubt will set many teenage girls screaming a la his appearance in Star Trek), but oddly, creepily Cumberbatch really does looks like Assange. It’s merely unfortunate that Assange himself is, in fact, a bit creepy looking. See the larger version below.

Watch: Sir Anthony Hopkins and Dame Helen Mirren in the Trailer for Hitchcock

Who knew British director Sir Alfred Hitchcock would be such a big deal in 2012? BBC Two drama The Girl which chronicles the making of his classic film The Birds (and Hitchcock’s obsession with actress Tippi Hedren) is already set to premiere later this month on HBO, and now a feature film version of his struggle to get horror masterpiece Psycho filmed is due in theaters this November.

Hitchcock stars Oscar winner Sir Anthony Hopkins as the famous director, alongside the equally formidable Dame Helen Mirren as Hitchcock’s wife Alma Reville. Avengers star Scarlett Johansson plays the infamous Janet Leigh, destined to be knifed to death in the shower of the Bates Motel (a.k.a that scene from Psycho everyone knows even if they’ve never seen Psycho). Click through to watch the trailer for Hitchcock, and tell us how you think Hopkins stacks up against The Girl’s Toby Jones.