HE wowed Downton Abbey fans as Jimmy the dashing second footman and thrilled fans as Slean in the ITV series Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands earlier this year.

And this month West Sussex actor Ed Speleers stars in the fantasy movie Alice Through the Looking Glass alongside a stellar cast.

The 27-year-old, who shot to fame in the 2006 film Eragon, plays James Harcourt in the movie based on the book by Lewis Carroll and the sequel to 2010’s Alice in Wonderland.

Most of the cast and crew from Alice in Wonderland are back for the whimsical adventure, which sees Alice returning to Wonderland and travelling back in time to save the Mad Hatter. Produced by Tim Burton, it again stars Mia Wasikowska as Alice, Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, Anne Hathaway as the White Queen, Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen and Matt Lucas as Tweedledum and Tweedledee, plus the voices of Alan Rickman, Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen and Timothy Spall.

They have been joined by Sacha Baron Cohen as the evil Time, Rhys Ifans as the Mad Hatter’s father, and Ed as the new character of James Harcourt. The pop star Pink has covered Jefferson Airplane’s psychedelic song White Rabbit and she has also written and recorded an original tune for the movie.

2016 looks like being a big year for Ed, who grew up in Chichester and was a boarder at Eastbourne College, where he was spotted by a drama teacher who recommended him for various roles. Earlier this year, he told The Observer newspaper, “I always feel funny talking about private school,” he says. “People make an assumption very quickly that you’re posh, but it’s not true. Equally, if I hadn’t been there I might not have had some of the opportunities I had.” His big break came at the age of 17 as the lead in the Hollywood movie Eragon with a cast that included Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich and Rachel Weisz. "It was a baptism by fire in some respects," he told Interview magazine. "I didn't have a clue about how a camera worked, I didn't know anything about that world."

In 2010 he starred in the movie A Lonely Place To Die, then landed the part of Jimmy in Downton Abbey, and played Jane Seymour’s brother in last year’s BBC drama Wolf Hall.

Earlier this year he played Slean in the ITV series Beowulf, and later this year, as well as Alice Through the Looking Glass, he will also appear in an adaptation of the Tom McCarthy novel Remainder.

On performing with CGI creatures in Alice Through the Looking Glass, Ed told Interview magazine earlier this year, "The fantasy element does bring a different slant to it but what's more important than anything is who your character is within that world.

"As long as you're understanding who that person is, then, in truth, [you can understand] the world around him or her."

Alice Through the Looking Glass is directed by James Bobin, who has directed the Muppet films and Sacha Baron Cohen’s Da Ali G Show. “It's funny because growing up, when Ali G first burst off the screen, it was something that I was probably too young to be watching, but I absolutely loved it...,” Ed told Interview. “And I just watched The Muppets for the first time the other day and I thought it was great, actually. It has this kind of offbeat quirkiness to it.

“[James Bobin] definitely has that; he's got a real sense of humour as a person and as a director. But what I liked about James was that he instilled this inherent confidence in your own ability, which I think is really important. He was really good at making you feel that every moment was really important and how to get the timing right.

“Comedy is not something that had necessarily jumped out as something I'd immediately go for and he instilled a confidence in me... There's a twinkle in his eye when he's directing. Sacha Baron Cohen was involved as well and he knows how to get the right results from people and do it with such a charming demeanour as well, which I think is cool.”

• Alice Through The Looking Glass is released in cinemas on May 27.