2011 saw some great new talent rise to stardom, but now let’s turn our attention to who may be following in their footsteps.
Again, we’ve chosen a group of fresh talent who we believe will be appearing in some interesting and high profile movies this year, which may or may not propel them to another level in their career. Some may be familiar to you already, some may be completely new. You may cheer at some inclusions, rage at who we left off (it was hard for us too, trust us!), but for better or worse, here are twenty-four actors and actresses that we will be keeping our eyes on this year.
She may be getting less awards talk than the other two Sundance breakouts from 2011, but while Elizabeth Olsen and Felicity Jones were getting fetted at red carpet galas, Brit Marling, star and co-writer of “Another Earth” and “Sound of My Voice”, was quietly working and building an amazing upcoming slate (indeed, more impressive than Olsen’s and Jones’ at the present moment). This month she’ll return to Park City for the first time as solely an actress, in legal drama “The Arbitrage” opposite Richard Gere. Later this year she’ll take on the female lead in Robert Redford’s next directorial vehicle, thriller “The Company You Keep” opposite Redford and Shia LaBeouf. But we have a feeling she’ll be pouring most of her heart into “The East”, an indie eco-terrorist thriller that she co-wrote and will also star in.
Already a celebrated presence on the Broadway scene as the titular star of rock musical “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”, Benjamin Walker had been poised to cross over to the big screen in a major way when he was cast as Beast in this year’s “X-Men: First Class.” A studio decision to make the character younger left Walker out in the cold and Nicholas Hoult in the role instead, but Fox and Walker patched things up fast. In 2012, Walker will headline the studio’s “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”, playing another highly unconventional and revisionist United States President under the direction of visionary director Timur Bekmambetov. And despite the project currently being on hold due to budgetary concerns, Walker is also gearing up to play archangel Michael opposite Bradley Cooper’s Lucifer in the 3-D battle epic “Paradise Lost”, described as being like “300 meets Lord of the Rings with winged warriors.”
Canadian actress Sarah Gadon toiled for years on television in her native country before catching the eye of acclaimed director David Cronenberg, who proceeded to cast her in this year’s Freud/Jung drama “A Dangerous Method” as the wife of Carl Jung, played by man of the year Michael Fassbender. Gadon must have impressed Cronenberg because he immediately gave her an even bigger opportunity, as the female lead in his next feature film, “Cosmopolis”, from the novel by Don DeLillo. The film is expected to bow in May at the Cannes Film Festival and is already generating major buzz thanks to its male star, “Twilight” vampire Robert Pattinson. Meanwhile, Gadon stays close to the Cronenberg family, completing work on David’s son Brandon Cronenberg’s feature directorial debut, “Antiviral” and is already showing up on shortlists for more commercial fare.
Chris “Thor” Hemsworth is paving a successful path in Hollywood thanks to action movies that put his hulking 6’3″ frame to good use, and now little brother Liam is attempting a similar career trajectory. He burst onto the Hollywood scene in anti-action flick “The Last Song”, based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks and co-starring Miley Cyrus, so perhaps it’s not surprising Hemsworth is now looking to shed that image and pump up the testosterone level big time. This year he’ll star amongst legends like Stallone, Willis, Schwarzenegger and Statham in “The Expendables 2″ and he’s also signed on for a heist thriller “Empire State” opposite Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, not to mention being the front-runner to play son and heir apparent to Bruce Willis in “Die Hard 5”. But before all of that, he’ll get his biggest break to date when he stars as Gale Hawthorne opposite Jennifer Lawrence in “The Hunger Games”, a teen dystopian trilogy tipped to be the next “Twilight.”
She may not have landed the titular role in “Snow White in the Huntsman”, but Aussie Bella Heathcote made quick work of conquering Hollywood with her winnings from the Heath Ledger Scholarship in 2010. With a supporting role in Andrew Niccol’s futuristic actioner “In Time”, Heathcote will be seen more prominently this year as one of the female leads opposite Johnny Depp in Tim Burton’s “Dark Shadows”, and also in Andrew Dominik’s “Cogan’s Trade” opposite Brad Pitt. On the indie side, she’s got “Twylight Zones”, David Chase’s portrait of a 1960s wannabe rock band, starring James Gandolfini. Has famous Aussie soap opera “Neighbours” exported another international star in Heathcote (to follow in the footseps of Russell Crowe, Jesse Spencer and Guy Pearce, just to name a few)?
Child actor Josh Hutcherson takes a big step towards more adult roles this year, as he shares the big screen with man-of-the-moment Chris Hemsworth in the “Red Dawn” remake, filmed two years ago but finally seeing a release this year (well, maybe). He’s already proven he has acting chops in films like the Oscar-nominated “The Kids Are All Right”, but it will be his turn as Games contestant – and male lead of the series – Peeta Mellark in “The Hunger Games” that will confirm to us if he also has that all-important leading man potential. Let’s hope he has romantic chemistry with Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss to pull off that much beloved relationship, especially since he’ll have some stiff competition from fellow one-to-watch Liam Hemsworth, who plays Gale, the inevitable other guy competing for Lawrence’s affections in the film.
Ok, calm down and don’t hit that X just yet. Doubters are running amuck protesting Tom Hooper’s casting of country-pop singer Taylor Swift in the fan-favorite role of Eponine in “Les Miserables”*, one of the most highly anticipated movies of the year, but that controversy is precisely why she deserves a spot on this list. The entire cast is star-studded, but it’s pretty undeniable that all eyes will be on how Swift performs. Do we believe she’ll knock it out of the park and surprise everybody, and maybe even land an Oscar?? Well, uh… not exactly. But we are certainly rooting for her to do just that (for her sake, and for ours, and for Les Mis fans everywhere), and more importantly, we will be watching closely. No pressure, Taylor!
* As of initial publication, Swift has not been officially announced as being part of the “Les Mis” cast, though strong rumors have persisted for months.
Making people about as happy as the news of Taylor Swift made them unhappy, “Les Miserables” director Tom Hooper chose little-known screen actor but celebrated Broadway star Aaron Tveit for the role of noble student revolutionary leader Enjolras. Already having shown a knack for being charismatic, with acting and singing chops to spare, Tveit will be introduced to a whole new demographic come December. It’s quite a leap for the actor who may be best known to screen audiences at this point as Nate’s sleazy politician cousin on last season’s “Gossip Girl.” It’s certainly a casting that has made even the snobbiest of Broadway fans happy and it’s undoubted that Tveit will be up to the task of bringing Enjolras to the big screen, so what else can we do but sit back and wait anxiously for December 6?