Last year, I posted a list of 10 up-and-coming actors to watch. That was mainly a list of under-appreciated actors that I thought more people should know about. This time, I’ve assembled a group of nine lesser-known actors who I think will make a serious splash in 2011. I tried to avoid actors who have already had a big “breakthrough” role. For example, Garrett Hedlund (Tron: Legacy) and Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland) may not quite be household names yet, but they’ve already had the roles that are going to help them get work in the future. These nine actors are ones who I believe have those roles coming up later this year, or who are poised to build a name for themselves in a slower way.
Juno Temple – Little Birds
You’ll also see her in: The Three Musketeers, Killer Joe, Dirty Girl, Jack and Diane, Kaboom
If you ask me, Juno Temple is THE young actress to watch right now. She’s already made a decent name for herself in a few short years (you may remember her from supporting roles in Notes on a Scandal, Atonement, Year One, and Greenberg). And you’ll be seeing plenty of her this year, seeing as she has six movies slated for 2011 release.
Her most interesting upcoming project is Little Birds, which played at this year’s Sundance festival. In the film, Temple and Kay Panabaker (No Ordinary Family, Fame) star as two girls on the run to L.A. While the film received somewhat mixed reviews, Temple is garnering plenty of praise for her performance in this coming-of-age drama.
Three of her other films, Kaboom, Jack and Diane, and Dirty Girl are cut from the same indie cloth, and all of them sound like potentially interesting projects. Dirty Girl is another teenage runaway movie for Temple, this time co-starring Milla Jovovich and William H. Macy. Jack and Diane is the “lesbian werewolf” movie that went through so many casting changes a couple of years back (Ellen Page was slated to star originally). Meanwhile, Kaboom is Greg Araki’s follow-up to Mysterious Skin, and this tale of sexual liberation has already seen a limited release and will be coming to DVD in May.
In terms of higher-profile projects, Temple will take a supporting role in Paul W.S. Anderson’s 3-D extravaganza, The Three Musketeers. She’ll also team up with Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, and Thomas Hayden Church in Killer Joe, a dramedy about a man who puts a hit out on his own mother.
All this comes on the heels of rumours that Temple has been cast in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. She joins a growing cast of newcomers to the franchise which includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anne Hathaway, and Tom Hardy. I could see Temple having the same kind of year that Andrew Garfield did last year. Like him, she’s got a few big roles in a mix of smaller and high-profile projects, which will help get her name out there before she jumps to the world of the superhero franchise.
Felicity Jones – Like Crazy
You’ll also see her in: Hysteria, Page Eight, Cheerful Weather for the Wedding, Chalet Girl
England seems to be pumping out one new “It Girl” after another, and now it’s Felicity Jones’s turn. Jones starred in the British TV adaptation of Northanger Abbey back in 2007, and since then, she’s appeared in films such as Brideshead Revisited, Cheri, and Cemetery Junction (which I thought was an incredibly charming little film).
But where she really made waves was at this year’s Sundance festival, where her new film Like Crazy, debuted. The film itself received plenty of love from the critics (and went on to win the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance), but when Jones won the festival’s award for acting, her status as possible Oscar contender was cemented.
Her other upcoming films stick closer to the British fare that Jones was previously known for. Hysteria tells the sure-to-be colourful history of the vibrator (it also stars Maggie Gyllenhaal and Hugh Dancy), Page Eight is a BBC spy thriller with Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz, and Cheerful Weather for the Wedding is a dramedy with Elizabeth McGovern. And there’s also Chalet Girl with Ed Westwick…but by the looks of things, the less that’s said about that, the better.
Joel Edgerton – Warrior
You’ll also see him in: The Thing, The Odd Life of Timothy Green, Say Nothing
This 36-year-old Australian is hardly a newcomer to Hollywood, but it seems like 2011 might finally be his breakthrough year.
Edgerton has appeared in King Arthur, Smokin’ Aces, Star Wars Episode II & III, and the Australian cult favourite, The Square, but oddly enough, it was last year’s Australian indie Animal Kingdom that earned him the most attention yet. Though Jacki Weaver was the only actor from the film to receive a very well-deserved Oscar nomination, many viewers (including myself) seemed to latch onto Edgerton’s charismatic, comparatively gentle (though that’s not saying much for that film) character of Baz.
After that, offers started to pour in. And Edgerton seemed to embrace his newfound Hollywood clout, because he’s got starring roles in a ton of big project coming up. The most high-profile of all is the Fighter look-a-like film, Warrior, which co-stars another up-and-comer from last year, Tom Hardy. The trailer looks like it’s full of sports movie clichés, but early word from advanced screenings has been decent so far.
Edgerton’s also got a pair of thrillers lined up. Say Nothing is an Australian vacation-gone-wrong mystery with Teresa Palmer, while The Thing is a good ol’ fashioned alien horror film with Mary Elizabeth Winstead.
Perhaps most interesting of all is the fantasy film The Odd Life of Timothy Green, with Jennifer Garner, Dianne Wiest, and Rosemarie DeWitt. The director, Peter Hedges, made Dan in Real Life and Pieces of April, which were two flawed but interesting films.
Rooney Mara – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the only film that Mara has lined up for 2011, but I think that’s all she really needs. While fans of The Social Network (and there are many on the internet) know perfectly well who Mara is, most people don’t, and this is a massive enough project to change that. Not only is it based on the biggest book phenomenon since The Da Vinci Code, but The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is directed by David Fincher, who has become one of the most respected directors in Hollywood. (If you ask me, losing the Best Director Oscar to Tom Hooper might be the best thing that’s ever happened to Fincher’s career.)
There’s already plenty of buzz for the film, and Mara has already posed in costume for several photoshoots. People seem to already like her even though most have only seen her in The Social Network (her few other past credits include A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Winning Season, and Youth in Revolt). Talk of an Oscar is already floating around, but with the slew of young actresses in meaty roles this year, it’s going to be a tough fight for everyone.
Sam Riley – On the Road
2007′s Control was supposed to be the movie that made Sam Riley a star. And his performance in that film as Ian Curtis was so searing and deft that it was hard to believe that it was his first movie. Yet even though Riley had a small string of projects afterwards, all of them ended up in distribution purgatory. Franklyn never made it out of the UK, while 13 fell prey to poor reviews and, despite offering a poster and trailer, still doesn’t seem to have a U.S. release date. Even Brighton Rock (Riley’s most promising project after Control), which played at TIFF, doesn’t seem to have plans for a proper North American release.
But hopefully, all of that is going to change with On the Road. It is, of course, an adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s famous 1955 novel, and when you combine that with co-stars of Garrett Hedlund and Kristen Stewart, it’s a recipe for the attention that eluded Riley’s previous films. And considering that director Walter Salles directed The Motorcycle Diaries, there’s a good chance that On the Road will capture the free-wheeling, open-road spirit that is necessary. This guy needs to get more work, and I think this might be the film that helps him do it. Sometimes I like to keep my favourite actors a secret (it’s a strange, contradictory feeling that a lot of people seem to have), but I’m excited for Riley to reach a bigger audience.
Jessica Chastain – The Tree of Life
You’ll also see her in: The Help, The Debt, Take Shelter, Coriolanus, The Fields, Wilde Salome
If you’re a fan of thoughtful movies, get ready to see Jessica Chastain everywhere. Because she has SEVEN films lined up for 2011. (I think she wins for sheer volume.)
The thirty-year-old beauty is a relative newcomer with only two theatrical films previously to her name. But she’s making up for lost time, and she’s starting off with a biggie.
First up (I think) is Terrence Malick’s ridiculously anticipated The Tree of Life, which comes out in May. She’ll play a wife to Brad Pitt and a mother to the future Sean Penn, and I’m already bewitched by all three of them just from the beautiful trailer. She’s already gaining Oscar buzz simply because of the calibre of the film.
Chastain also has a couple of big, lighter summer releases. The Help is based on Kathryn Stockett’s best-selling novel (I’ve worked in a bookstore for almost a year, and that book has been on the bestseller wall the whole time), and it stars Emma Stone and Viola Davis. She’ll also appear in The Debt alongside Sam Worthington and Helen Mirren. The film was supposed to get a late 2010 release, but has been pushed back, though, which is never a great sign.
She’ll also go small with apocalyptic thriller Take Shelter, which was a favourite at Sundance that’s already earning Michael Shannon praise from critics. As well, Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus is a star-studded period piece that offers Chastain a supporting role (stars include Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Vanessa Redgrave, and James Nesbitt).
Then you’ve also got The Fields, which is a crime thriller with Sam Worthington (again!), Chloe Moretz, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. There’s also Wilde Salome (directed by and starring Al Pacino), where Chastain will take the title role in a story based on one of Oscar Wilde’s most controversial works.
Despite this hugely impressive list of projects, I’m not sure that Chastain is going to become a “movie star” this year. I think she’ll gain a lot of respect as an actress, but I don’t see her starring in any rom-coms alongside Ashton Kutcher in the near future. But to me that’s a good thing, because it’s always interesting when an actress quietly becomes famous for quality work, and it’s surprisingly rare. Marion Cotillard did it, Rebecca Hall did it, and Jessica Chastain might just do it this year.
Elizabeth Olsen – Martha Marcy May Marlene
You’ll also see her in: Silent House, Peace Love & Misunderstanding
No, your eyes are not deceiving you, because that is indeed the younger sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. Just when a couple of Olsen sisters become completely irrelevant, you get a new one to shake things up.
And shake things up she did at Sundance this year. Making her film debut (well, unless you count a couple of Olsen twins TV movies from the mid-90′s…which I don’t), Olsen won critics over with an apparently searing performance as an abused young woman in Martha Marcy May Marlene (which also stars Sundance god John Hawkes). It seemed like she and Felicity Jones were on every blogger’s lips (or fingertips) during the festival this year. Some are predicting a Jennifer Lawrence-like rise to prominence for Olsen thanks to the film.
Olsen appeared in a second film at Sundance with the horror film Silent House. Though not as buzz-y as MMMM, I got a sense that most critics liked her in both films. She’ll also hit the big screen in Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding. With an impressive cast that includes Jeffrey Dean Morgan (curiously enough, it’s his second Woodstock comedy in three years), Catherine Keener, Chase Crawford, Jane Fonda, and Rosanna Arquette, it could turn out to be a crowd-pleaser.
Dominic Cooper – The Devil’s Double
You’ll also see him in: Captain America: The First Avenger, My Week with Marilyn
You probably know who Dominic Cooper is. After all, he’s appeared in films like Mamma Mia, The Duchess, and An Education. But there’s a good chance that you don’t know his name, because he never seems to get the credit that he deserves. He was fittingly unreadable in An Education and he showed off his rowdy, charming side in the very underrated 2007 coming-of-age dramedy Starter for 10 (which also stars James McAvoy and Rebecca Hall). And now that he’s slowly worked his way up, it seems like it might pay off in a big way this year.
In a rare leading role, Cooper will play Saddam Houssein’s son (he will also portray the man forced to become the son’s double) in The Devil’s Double. The film’s director apparently had to tone down some of its more extreme torture scenes, so you can be sure it will be an intense viewing experience. Coming out of Sundance, many reviewers praised Cooper, and the film got decent reviews.
While The Devil’s Double is bound to earn Cooper much more respect as an actor, I don’t see the film being much of a commercial success. But Cooper seems to be compensating for that in a big way by taking a major role in the highly anticipated (but not by me) Captain America movie. He’ll also appear alongside Michelle Williams in My Week with Marilyn.
Sam Claflin – Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
You’ll also see him in: United
Claflin made minor waves a few days ago when he reportedly beat of the likes of Alex Pettyfer (I Am Number Four, Beastly),
James Frecheville (Animal Kingdom), and Caleb Landry Jones (X-Men: First Class) to land the lead in the upcoming film The Seventh Son. It’s based on a teen book series by Joseph Delaney, and the film (currently scheduled for a 2013 release) also stars Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore.
But that’s a ways off, so let’s talk about Claflin’s more imminent films. He’ll take a supporting role in this summer’s tentpole blockbuster, Pirate of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (he appears briefly in this trailer). And even though the Pirates movies are all about Johnny Depp, I wouldn’t be surprised if the handsome Claflin catches the eye of a few young moviegoers.
Appearing in what will likely be the year’s highest grossing movie certainly isn’t a bad way to break into Hollywood, especially for someone who only has a handful of British television credits to his name (though, to be fair, one of them is the highly acclaimed Pillars of the Earth mini-series…Between him and Eddie Redmayne, I think I should check that thing out.) He’ll also star alongside Doctor Who himself, David Tennant, later this year in the British sports drama, United (though I feel like that will be one of those British movie that makes ZERO impact in North America).
Be sure to check out more of my lists of up-and-coming actors!