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David Gordon Green
(George Washington, All the Real Girls, Undertow, Snow Angels, Pineapple Express)
(Note: I haven’t seen Undertow, which I know some people don’t love, but I adore all of the others that I’ve seen by him)
I love the sense of atmosphere that is in every David Gordon Green film. Even a dumb, straight-ahead comedy like Pineapple Express has its own unique feeling. He’s not a showy director, but he doesn’t need to be. His assured eye and skill at capturing small moments makes his films captivating.
I also love the actors that he works with. Sam Rockwell, James Franco, Zooey Deshanel, Michael Angarano, Danny McBride, Paul Schneider, Bill Hader, and Jamie Bell have all popped up in various Green films, and he often gets career-best performances out of his cast.
He seems to be headed more towards broad comedy (Your Highness and The Sitter are both slated for 2011 release). While I’ll miss the introspection of All the Real Girls and the quiet sense of dread of Snow Angels, I’m happy to watch any movie that this guy makes.
You’ve seen them in your favourite recent movies – you just might not know it. They’ve shared the screen with actors such as Meryl Streep, Bruce Willis, and Pierce Brosnan. They’ve played such memorable roles as “Teenager #1″ and “Boy on Bike”. They are the next wave of up-and-coming actors.
Everyone likes to predict which young performers will hit it big, and these ten actors, while hardly household names, have proven that they have charisma and talent, even in the smallest of roles. If you hurry, you can still claim that you liked them before they hit it big.
And if you’d like to see more lists of up-and-coming actors, check out the archive!
1. Reece Thompson
Why he’s on the list: Because he’s already proven that he’s a leading man. After a slew of bit parts in TV shows and straight-to-DVD movies, Thompson got his first big starring role with 2007′s fabulous but underseen Rocket Science. Playing a stuttering debate team hopeful, Thompson grasped the off-beat humour of the film perfectly and also added some genuine emotional heft. The same year, he took the lead in The Assassination of a High School President, and Thompson’s modern riff on the hard-boiled detective genre was a blast.
Where you’ll see him: In two different indies screening at TIFF. Daydream Nation is a “provocative yet humorous romance” starring Kat Dennings, and Thompson will play the younger of her two love interests. As well, he’ll play a friend to Michael Angarano in Max Winkler’s comedy
Ceremony, which also stars Uma Thurman.
2. Zoe Kazan
Why she’s on the list: Because she knows how to pick a role. Even her earliest credits include films like Fracture and Revolutionary Road. Kazan (who, yes, is the granddaughter of Elia Kazan) has since gotten larger roles, and audiences are most likely to recognize her as Meryl Streep’s younger daughter in It’s Complicated, or alongside Zac Efron in Me and Orson Welles. But the critical acclaim came with a little-seen film from last year called The Exploding Girl, which stars Kazan as a college student suffering from epilepsy.
Where you’ll see her: Her biggest upcoming film, Meek’s Cut-Off, is a period-piece western premiering at TIFF. The film is directed by Kelly Reichardt (Wendy and Lucy), and it stars Paul Dano, Bruce Greenwood, and Michelle Williams. She’ll also take a supporting role in Happythankyoumoreplease, the directorial debut of actor Josh Radnor (How I Met Your Mother)
3. Mark Rendall
Why he’s on the list: Because he’s a magnetic, quirky presence. Before he got cast in larger parts, he (like most Canadian actors, it seems) paid his dues on various homegrown children’s shows and made-for-TV movies. After voicing everyone’s favourite aardvark, Arthur, and a starring role in the Canadian film Childstar, he began to land supporting roles in some larger Hollywood films. In 2007′s Charlie Bartlett, he stole the show as Kip, a sensitive, depressed teen. He’s also appeared in Silk, 30 Days of Night, My One and Only, and earned praise for his work in The Exploding Girl
Where you’ll see him: He actually doesn’t have any upcoming projects currently listed on IMDB, aside from a short film called Up & Down.
4. Olivia Thirlby
Why she’s on the list: Because she’s just plain awesome. She’s best known as Juno‘s shrewd best friend, but her first role was in Paul Greengrass’ acclaimed drama, United 93. Since then she’s appeared in a slew of smart indies, including Snow Angels (a Times Like Those favourite), The Wackness, Uncertainty, Breaking Upwards, and Solitary Man.
Where you’ll see her: In Kenneth Lonnergan’s follow-up to You Can Count on Me, Margaret, whose cast includes Anna Paquin, Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo, Kieran Culkin, and Matthew Broderick. Thirlby will also take supporting roles in the Ivan Reitman-directed No Strings, The Darkest Hour (an alien thing with Emile Hirsch), and Dredd (another sci-fi thing, written by Alex Garland [28 Days Later, Never Let Me Go]). As well, she’ll finally get to try her hand in leading roles in M and The No Game.
5. Johnny Simmons
Why he’s on the list: Because he’s on the rise. With only a handful of feature credits to his name, Simmons has quickly transitioned from films like Evan Almighty and Hotel for Dogs to a trio of showier roles. He was terrorized by Megan Fox in Jennifer’s Body and charmed as Michael Cera’s bandmate “Young Neil” in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. But for me, the performance that showed the most promise was a supporting role in The Greatest. He played a likeable but very flawed teenager struggling to come to terms with the death of his older brother, and Simmons deftly handled a complicated range of emotions.
Where you’ll see him: He’ll play the son of Robin Wright’s rabble-rouser in The Conspirator. The Robert Redford-helmed film is already earning fairly strong reviews at TIFF, and it could be a chance for Simmons to reach a wider audience.
6. Zoe Kravitz
Why she’s on the list: Because she’s an intriguing on-screen presence. As the daughter of Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonnet, she’s already got star power behind her name, and Kravitz is starting to prove that she’s got the talent to back it up. She hasn’t wasted any time courting high-profile projects, getting her start with a small role in 2007′s No Reservations. She’s also appeared in The Brave One, and stole her scenes (despite her shakily written character) in The Greatest.
Where you’ll see her: The sultry actress will appear in one of this fall’s more buzzed-about indies, It’s Kind of a Funny Story (directed by Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden). She’s also got a couple of potential blockbusters on the horizon with supporting roles in X-Men: First Class and Mad Max: Fury Road.
7. Hunter Parrish
Why he’s on the list: Because he’s got the makings of a full-blown teen heartthrob (he’s already built a bit of a following thanks to his work on “Weeds”) early roles were fairly minor, but 2009 offered a couple of larger big-screen projects. First, he was almost unrecognizable as Zac Efron’s scuzzy nemesis in the surprisingly enjoyable 17 Again. And though he was given very little to do as Meryl Streep’s son in It’s Complicated, his sheer charisma (and blindingly white teeth) made him memorable.
Where you’ll see him: I believe that he’s still on “Weeds”, but aside from that, he doesn’t have any other projects listed on IMDB right now, oddly enough.
8. T.J. Miller
Why he’s on the list: Because he has the everyman humour of Jason Segel or Seth Rogan. Despite being one of the older names on the list (and working as a stand-up comedian for years), Miller made his film debut only two years ago in the much-discussed Cloverfield (if he doesn’t look familiar, it’s because he played Hud, the man holding the camera, and served as more of a narrator than a visual presence). He’s had small roles in Extract (as Jason Bateman’s metalhead co-worker) and How to Train Your Dragon. But his most prominent role to date was in this year’s woefully underrated She’s Out of My League, where he stole the show as “Stainer”.
Where you’ll see him: Miller seems to be everywhere this year, and he’s still got two more appearances to go by the end of 2010. He’ll appear in, um, Yogi Bear (alongside Dan Ackroyd, Justin Timberlake, and Anna Faris) and Gulliver’s Travels (which co-stars Jack Black and Jason Segel).
9. Lily Collins
Why she’s on the list: Because she could be the next big starlet. Aside from an appearance on 90210, Collins’ only film acting gig to date is as Sandra Bullock’s daughter in The Blindside, where she turned in a very respectable performance. She’s also done stage acting, modeling and writing, and happens to be the daughter of Phil Collins. Apparently others are taking note…
Where you’ll see her: She has a role in next year’s sci-fi thriller, Priest, alongside Paul Bettany and Christopher Plummer. She’ll also co-star in Abduction with Taylor Lautner (before you write it off completely, the supporting cast includes Alfred Molina, Jason Isaacs, Maria Bello, and Sigourney Weaver). And finally, she’s slated to take the lead in yet another film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet.
10. Caleb Landry Jones
Why he’s on the list: Because he has star potential. His first role was as “Boy On Bike” in No Country for Old Men. Despite only appearing on screen for a mere couple of minutes near the end of the film, he somewhat stole the scene from Javier Bardem (and if you’ve seen the movie, you know that it was a fairly memorable scene on its own). He’s since appeared in the “Friday Night Lights” TV show and Fred Durst’s The Longshots. This year, he found himself in a supporting role in the box office quasi-hit, The Last Exorcism.
Where You’ll See Him: He has a role in The Social Network, but considering he’s billed as “Fraternity Guy”, one would expect it to be a fairly minor one. More notably, he was recently cast as Banshee in X-Men: First Class. Previous instalments in the franchise have served as a launching pad for Ellen Page, Ben Foster, and James Marsden.
A few months back, I wrapped up my Best Performances of the Decade series. But while that list included a lot of familiar names and acclaimed performances, I’ve decided to take a look at some of the performances that not everyone has seen. This list contains no Oscar or Golden Globe nominated roles, and I’ve limited myself to performances that received little or no awards attention and were relatively overlooked by audiences (as much as I think that Jim Carrey, Peter Sarsgaard, and Rebecca Hall should’ve been nominated for Oscars, they did receive a considerable awards attention elsewhere for the roles in question, which disqualified them from the list). Here are ten unfairly under-recognized performances from the past decade, in alphabetical order.
Daniel Bruhl – Good Bye Lenin!
Inglourious Basterds may have introduced German actor Daniel Bruhl to a wider North American audience, but it’s 2003′s Good
Bye Lenin! that really showcases his skills. Bruhl’s charismatic performance carries the film, and he nails the sense of whimsy that permeates every scene. Heartbreaking at times and hilarious at others, Bruhl’s performance shows enough genuine charm to cross all language barriers.
Clifton Collins Jr. – Capote
Clifton Collins Jr. is a solid character actor who has lately been favouring tiny roles in big studio films (Star Trek, Brothers). But if there’s one film that proves why he should get bigger roles, it’s Capote. Playing one of the two murderers that Truman Capote investigated for In Cold Blood, Collins makes his character Perry disarmingly and chillingly sympathetic. Collins is every bit as good as lead Philip Seymour Hoffman, and the scenes that they share together are breathtakingly intimate.
Abbie Cornish – Bright Star
Abbie Cornish’s performance as Fanny Brawne, the young love interest of poet John Keats, is just as beautiful as the cinematography in Bright Star. She revels in Fanny’s feisty modernity, but also reflects the melancholy of her restrained life. As Fanny’s relationship with Keats evolves, so does Cornish’s performance – ranging from star-struck to distraught over the course of the film. It truly is a breath of fresh air.
Robert Downey Jr. – Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
A favourite performance among his fans, Robert Downey Jr.’s work in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang proves why so many people love him. He’s hilarious, bumbling, and sexy as our protagonist and snarky narrator. Always a scene-stealer, Downey is the epitome of charisma here.
Emile Hirsch – Into the Wild
Previously best known for his work in the teen sex romp The Girl Next Door, Emile Hirsch stunned audiences with his raw performance in Sean Penn’s directorial debut, Into the Wild. Playing a young man who gives up his material possessions and sets out for the Alaskan wilderness, Hirsch is often the only person on screen throughout the film’s 2.5 hour running time. Hirsch takes what could have been a purely preachy character and injects a sense of vulnerability that makes his optimism admirable. He’s entirely charismatic and compelling.
Jared Leto – Requiem for a Dream
Ellen Burstyn received a well-deserved Oscar nomination for her work in Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream, but the unsung MVP of the film is Jared Leto. Leto’s strangely iconic turn as Jordan Catalano in My So-Called Life coupled with his foray into emo music has made him something of a critical punching bag, but he proves what an amazing actor he can be here. Much like the film itself, Leto’s performance as Harry is dark and harrowing. It easily could have become caricature, but his performance as a drug-addled optimist cuts right to the bone.
Daniel Day-Lewis – The Ballad of Jack and Rose
As one of the most acclaimed actors of his generation, it’s surprising to see how often Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance in The Ballad and Jack and Rose is overlooked. It may not be as “big” as some of the other performances that he gave in the past decade, but Lewis’ work here is just as good as anything else he’s done. Playing a quietly desperate, confused man, Lewis’ performance is heartbreaking and unforgettable.
Guy Pearce – Factory Girl
Always a chameleon, Guy Pearce’s turn as the legendary Andy Warhol is uncanny. To me, the entire film is underrated, but Pearce’s performance is certainly the highlight of Factory Girl. The character is often downright unlikeable, and Pearce’s snarky screen presence is striking.
Sam Rockwell – Snow Angels
Sam Rockwell is an actor who is just starting to get the recognition that he deserves, and it’s easy to see why with a film like Snow Angels. David Gordon Green’s story of small-town tragedy is disturbingly beautiful, and Rockwell is stunning as a recovering-alcoholic-turned-evangelist. The film’s bombastic final moments are only amplified by the quiet, desperate journey that Rocwell’s performance takes us on.
Mark Ruffalo – You Can Count On Me
You Can Count on Me is a film that I recently caught up with, and while it provided my favourite Laura Linney performance to date, the real stand-out for me was Mark Ruffalo. His character is an insufferable screw-up, yet rather than making him a downbeat loser, Ruffalo revels in his messiness and makes him a purely charming, memorable guy. There are no big “cinematic” moments in the film, but this allows Ruffalo to give an all-around great performance, rather than relying on select scenes to stand out.
Samantha Morton – Control
Michael Angarno – Snow Angels
Ryan Gosling –The United States of Leland
Keri Russell – Waitress
Jason Bateman – Juno
Benicio Del Toro – Thing We Lost in the Fire
Wintery small-town dramas are not exactly a rare commodity in recent indie cinema, but Snow Angels (written and directed by David Gordon Green) does it well. It doesn’t pull its punches with the gritty subject matter, but if you can get past the bleakness, you’ll find an oddly beautiful film. It stars Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell, and Michael Angarano.
Snow Angels opens with high school student Arthur Parkinson (Angarano) practising trombone with the school marching band when two gunshots ring out from nearby. The films then jumps back in time, and works its way up to that point again. It focuses on two families in crisis. Arthur’s parents are separating, and his co-worker and ex-baby-sitter, Annie (Beckinsale), is trying to deal with raising a young daughter alone. Annie’s estranged husband, Glenn (Rockwell), claims to have made changes in his life, and wants to become part of the family again. He’s become a devout Christian, and on a rare outing with his daughter, tells her that “Daddy doesn’t drink beer anymore”. Arthur’s budding romance with a new student (Olivia Thirbly) and Annie’s gradual re-acceptance of Glenn looks promising, yet all that time, the viewer has that opening scene in the back of their mind. And at around the halfway point, Snow Angels takes a drastic change. To discuss anything after that point would lead to major spoilers, but it’s suffice to say that the last half of the film constitutes a slow, tragic descent, until the film’s shocking finale.
Snow Angels is not an easy film to watch. It’s depressing and bleak. Yet, at the same time, there is warmth to the characters that propels the film along. Green develops every character fully, which is rare in ensemble films. These characters – even those who could potentially be boiled down to “good” and “bad” stereotypes – never seem one-dimensional. Annie is a deceptively complex character. She seems so well put-together, yet she makes awful decisions sometimes, and takes out her anger on her daughter. We follow the arc of her character, and sympathize with her. Green makes sure that we understand the motivations of each character, and that makes the outcome of the movie heartbreaking, but far more rewarding, in an odd way.
The relationship between Arthur and Lila is handled very well, too. Amongst the sadness and fragmentation of every other romantic relationship in the movie, the optimism of these two teenagers is comforting. They’re both kind of geeky, but also very charming, and “young love” is portrayed in a refreshingly low-key way.
The entire ensemble cast is superb. Sam Rockwell has the most bizarre role, and he takes the yo-yo emotions of Glenn and balances them to create a sadly realistic character. One scene later in the film (I’m not giving anything away) is just a long take of Glenn dancing, and while it could have drifted into uncomfortably humorous territory, Rockwell doesn’t let his character become a caricature here, or anywhere else in the film.
Kate Becinsale has a really tough role to play, especially in the second half of the film. She’s solid throughout, whether it be in a rare light moment where she’s flirting playfully with Arthur at work, or a dark scene where she’s yelling at her daughter. The cracks in Annie’s put-together facade are apparent, and as her character crumbles, Beckinsale is there with emotional force to back it up.
Angarano is also a great commodity to the film. His performance is feels very honest. Arthur is a somewhat introverted character, but the few moments of emotional outburst that Arthur has are important, and Angarano’s performance never feels forced.
I don’t really have any gripes with the film. It felt a little bit long, but looking back, I don’t see how any scene could have been removed or shortened. Every part of the film played an important part to the overall story, and the slow development is crucial in order for the ending to have a proper impact.
This is a very carefully put together film, yet it never feels self-conscious. From the cast to the cinematography to the soundtrack, everything works together so well. I think Green has created a dark, atmospheric near-masterpiece with Snow Angels.