With the opening of the horror film Storage 24 across UAE cinemas, the Northern Irish actress Antonia Campbell-Hughes has become one to watch, especially after receiving a Shooting Star award this year. Each year, 10 up-and-coming European actors are earmarked as the stars of the future. The 30-year-old joins some illustrious alumni - a list that includes Carey Mulligan, Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz.
It's no surprise that Campbell-Hughes is receiving such accolades. She is already winning a reputation as the go-to girl for difficult roles. To play an insomniac in The Other Side of Sleep, she stayed in character 24 hours a day for three months, living in solitude, trying not to sleep.
"All my belongings were taken from me," she recalls. "I was given a man's tracksuit, a Tesco bag with a pot of Nivea and a toothbrush in it. I lived in a room above a pub on a mattress for three months. I didn't speak to a soul, not even the crew. It was pretty intense and I didn't sleep at all."
For the forthcoming 3096, based on the true life story of Natascha Kampusch, an Austrian abducted at the age of 10 and held captive for 3,096 days, the already wafer-thin actress went on a crash diet to create a haunted, emaciated look. It led some critics to wonder if her commitment to her characters was putting her own health at risk.
So it's kind of a surprise to see the actress in a run-of-the-mill sci-fi horror: "I really wanted to do it because it was a good buffer against all the hard films," she explains.
The part came about because of her friendship with the British star Noel Clarke. "I've known Noel for a couple of years and he texted me while I was in Cannes with The Other Side of Sleep saying, 'I have a part for you, mate!' We had been talking about doing another film about women's liberation before and I thought it was for that, but it turned out to be for a sci-fi about aliens. I play an alien killer. It was loads of fun and it was nice to do that for five weeks and then go straight on to doing the more difficult roles."
Campbell-Hughes had an eclectic upbringing that saw her live in the US, Germany, Switzerland and Ireland. Her mother is an investment banker, while her recently deceased father was a chemist. She now lives in London. Although she says of her lifestyle: "I don't really go out myself. I'm a hermit." The only thing she will admit to being is a "workaholic". She made seven films in an 18-month period between 2010 and 2012.
As a teenager, she tried to start up a fashion label. "Most of it is gone, thankfully," she says. "I gave up fashion years ago when I started acting full time. I gave up, but it's hard to ditch the reputation. I used to think that fashion was an art form. But it isn't. Maybe it is if you're a purist, but the fashion industry is not."
Concentrating on acting, she soon landed parts on British TV in Silent Witness, Casualty and most famously, Jack Dee's Lead Balloon playing a student. Her reaction to the mention of the MTV series Bluebell Welch, which she wrote, directed and starred in, is surprising: "I hated every second of that." She explains that the production was mismanaged.
She is, however, much more excited about Kelly + Victor, a love story adapted from the Niall Griffiths novel. "I had to really push the boundaries in that role. But I think if something is valid for the character, I will go to many lengths."
Director: Johannes Roberts
Starring: Noel Clarke, Colin O'Donoghue and Antonia Campbell-Hughes
In recent years, the actor, writer, producer and two-time director Clarke has developed a cottage industry within the British film industry. On the back of the success of urban youth dramas Kidulthood and Adulthood, the West London star has seemingly been given carte blanche to make films in which he takes a prominent role. Yet it's hard to see how his reputation for having his finger on the pulse can last much longer given the duds - the sports drama Fast Girls and the wedding comedy The Knot being the others - that found their way into cinemas in 2012. Storage 24 is another Clarke script that suffers from leaden dialogue and ropy characters - the best acting comes from a fluffy toy dog. The ambitious plot, in which the angry young man Charlie (Clarke) finds himself stuck in the storage facility of the title with his ex Shelly (Campbell-Hughes) and a group of friends after an alien attack, also seems staid after last year's excellent London set sci-fi invasion thriller Attack the Block.