Last week, we took a look at the relative dearth of leading men in Hollywood: why Tom Cruise, Will Smith, et al. remain at the top of the tree and why so few serious competitors have emerged since. But one of the most exciting things about our job is getting to watch the new names that emerge, breakouts who have the potential to join the A-listers, or at the very least, deliver a host of hugely exciting performances for decades to come.
So we’ve decided to kick off our On The Rise selection for 2012 by looking at some of the actors who we’re tipping for big things in the next few years. Last time we made these kinds of picks and predictions we did pretty well, listing the likes of Joel Edgerton, Edgar Ramirez, Jason Sudeikis, Adam Scott, Jake Johnson and David Oyelowo who have all gone on to become much-sought-after names, and we’re feeling just as confident about the folks we’ve gone with this time around.
It’s hard to know who qualifies for a list like this, but we wanted to lean towards new faces, rather than picking out names you’ve likely been hearing a lot about recently. Guys like Michael Fassbender, Ryan Gosling, Tom Hardy, Benjamin Walker (the star of this year’s “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter“) and Joel Kinnaman (who will be the new “RoboCop“) all have parts in big movies on the way, and will form the next wave of stars for sure, but these actors are right behind them. Have a look below, let us know who you think you could break out soon, and stay tuned for our look at the actresses tomorrow. So, in alphabetical order…
Adam Shankman‘s jukebox musical “Rock of Ages” has one of the oddest, most intriguing casts of the summer, with Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Paul Giamatti and Bryan Cranston all donning leather and mullet wigs in what’s increasingly looking like a guilty pleasure. But none of them are actually the film’s lead, as the central couple is played by Julianne Hough (“Footloose“) and Latin music star Diego Boneta. And it’s the latter who looks like he could break out in a big way if the film’s a hit. The 23-year-old Mexican actor started out in telenovelas and as a teen singing sensation, with two hit records to date, before crossing the border to take recurring roles in teen shows “Pretty Little Liars” and “90210.” Last year, he got some attention for playing the male lead in the direct-to-video sequel “Mean Girls 2.” Shankman says that when Boneta auditioned to play busboy and aspiring rock star Drew Boley in his film, he had “that feeling you get when you realized you’ve discovered lightning in a bottle.” And while Boneta’s skills haven’t yet been glimpsed in trailers, it’s clear others have been impressed — he was going to play Adam in Alex Proyas‘ “Paradise Lost” before the film was cancelled. Breaking out from a musical isn’t the easiest thing, but there’s a distinct lack of young Hispanic leading men, and Boneta could well be the person to fill that gap.
One of the more startling images in the movies so far this year was of Andrew, the bullied, troubled teen in “Chronicle,” sitting in a junkyard crushing a car with his newfound telekenetic powers, eyes as dark as night. The clip was front and center in the marketing, and it’s undoubtedly seared Dane DeHaan, who played the character, onto the eyes of many. The 25-year-old got his big break with a stunning performance as gay adopted teen Jesse in the final season of HBO‘s “In Treatment,” and followed it up swiftly with a recurring role in “True Blood.” The movies were always going to come calling after that, and “Chronicle,” in which he gave a performance simultaneously sympathetic and terrifying, the true heart of the film, is the first of four movies that’ll hit before the end of 2012. Next up is the male lead in lesbian werewolf indie “Jack and Diane” alongside Juno Temple and Riley Keough, but the latter part of the year will see him with key roles in two of our most anticipated films of the year. He’s playing Shia LaBoeuf‘s rickets-stricken best friend in John Hillcoat‘s Prohibition-era gangster tale “Lawless,” and will follow that up swiftly with Derek Cianfrance‘s crime tale “The Place Beyond the Pines,” in which he’ll star in the film’s final segment as the son of Ryan Gosling‘s motorcycle stunt rider, continuing the generational feud with the son of the cop-turned politician (Bradley Cooper) who tormented his father. And at present, he’s joined fellow bright young things Daniel Radcliffe, Jack Huston and Elizabeth Olsen as troubled poet Lucien Carr in beat-era murder mystery “Kill Your Darlings.” Rest assured, it’s not just his resemblance to the actor that’s put him on the path to becoming the next Leonardo DiCaprio.
In between all the writing and directing and poetry and whatnot, James Franco is also trying to be a bona-fide movie star, but the jury is still out on whether it’ll work out: “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” was a big hit, but not really down to the actor, and one can’t help but feel he’s been spread a little thin with some of his turns. We’ll get the best test so far in a year when the actor headlines Disney and Sam Raimi‘s “Oz: The Great and Powerful,” but could the star be surpassed by his 26-year-old brother Dave in the meantime? Dave was once best known for Funny or Die videos with his brother, but he’s been consistently gathering steam across the last few years. A regular role on the last season of “Scrubs” led to supporting turns in “Charlie St. Cloud,” “Greenberg” and last summer’s “Fright Night,” but he made his biggest impression to date in the hit “21 Jump Street,” giving his popular kid drug dealer unexpected subtlety and nuances that many actors would have skipped over. Clearly word got out before it even hit theaters, as he’s got a number of very promising projects in the works for early 2013 — he’ll play the boyfriend of lead Teresa Palmer in Jonathan Levine‘s zombie romance “Warm Bodies“; he’s just one in an excellent ensemble cast, including Jesse Eisenberg, Melanie Laurent, Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Freeman, Isla Fisher, Michael Caine, Common and Woody Harrelson in Louis Letterier‘s magician heist movie “Now You See Me“; and he’s playing none another than Romeo in Fox‘s Shakesperean re-do “Rosaline.” He’s got all the talent (if not more so) than his brother, but without the restlessness, which seems like a formula for success to us.
Having a famous actor for a dad might help open a few doors, but there’s plenty of celebrity offspring who never managed to make it last, let alone generate the kind of excitement that Domhnall Gleeson is whisking up these days. The son of Irish character actor favorite Brendan Gleeson (and brother of Brian Gleeson, who’s playing one of the dwarves in “Snow White and the Huntsman“), spell-check nemesis Domhnall starred alongside his father in “Studs” and Martin McDonagh‘s Oscar-winning short “Six Shooter” before picking up a Tony nomination at 23 for his Broadway role in McDonagh’s “The Lieutenant of Inishmore.” Since then, the lanky, long-haired actor has cropped up in many unexpected places: he and Andrea Riseborough touchingly played older donors Rodney and Chrissie in Mark Romanek‘s “Never Let Me Go“; he was adventurous Weasley brother Bill in both parts of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows“; embodied Live Aid mastermind Bob Geldof in the TV drama “When Harvey Met Bob“; and unrecognizably played outlaw Moon in the impossibly tense scene that marked the highlight of the Coen Brothers‘ “True Grit.” Coming up is a reunion with Riseborough in James Marsh‘s acclaimed Sundance thriller “Shadow Dancer” and as one of the villains in comic book tale “Dredd.” But it’s Working Title who’ll be providing him with the two parts that look to make him a bona-fide star: he’s playing Konstantin Levin in Joe Wright‘s adaptation of “Anna Karenina,” and he’s just bagged the lead opposite Zooey Deschanel in Richard Curtis‘ “About Time.” We’d wager that within a year or two, everyone will know how to spell Domhnall.
For some blessed actors, stardom is something that comes overnight and effortlessly. For others, it can take decades to really get your name out there. In the case of 49-year-old Frank Grillo, it’s firmly the latter. He’s been acting for twenty years, racking up credits in the likes of daytime soap “Guiding Light” and action drama “Prison Break,” among others, alongside tiny roles in “Minority Report” and “The Sweetest Thing.” But for the last six months or so, he’s been lining up role after role. First was “Warrior,” where even among a superb cast, he shone as Frank Campana, the trainer of Joel Edgerton‘s Brendan. Then he repeated the trick, standing out in another excellent ensemble as the defiant, argumentative Diaz in Joe Carnahan‘s survival drama “The Grey.” Carnahan’s already announced that he’s writing a part for Grillo in his “Death Wish” remake, and he’s not the only one to fall for the actor, as Grillo is in virtually everything hitting in theaters for the rest of the year: Stephen Frears‘ “Lay the Favorite“; David Ayer‘s found-footage cop flick “End of Watch“; the ensemble drama “Disconnect” and the period blockbuster “The Gangster Squad.” And at long last, he’s getting to play a lead — starring alongside Jaimie Alexander in “Intersection,” an actioner helmed by “Enemy of the State” writer David Marconi. Will it be the first of many? We suspect it could well be.
Those who only know it from the short-lived MTV remake, it may seem odd that British teen series “Skins” essentially seems to serve as a factory for new movie stars. Dev Patel, Nicholas Hoult, Kaya Scodelario (“Wuthering Heights”) and Jack O’Connell (the upcoming “Beautiful Creatures“) all got their start on the show. But the one with the potential to be the most talented of them all is Daniel Kaluuya, who had a supporting role in the earliest iteration of the show as Posh Kenneth, as well as writing a pair of episodes. The actor has gone on to great acclaim in Roy Williams’ stage hit “Sucker Punch” as well as becoming something of a British TV staple, with appearances on “Doctor Who and “Psychoville” among many others. That reached something of a peak across 2011, as he gave excellent performances in both Jack Thorne‘s gripping supernatural drama “The Fades” (somehow managing to make a “previously on” summary genuinely moving) and in Charlie Brooker‘s dystopian reality TV satire “Fifteen Million Merits,” part of the “Black Mirror” anthology series. Movie work has been a little slower, with Hideo Nakata‘s “Chatroom” his most notable credit, but it is beginning to pick up. He played Rowan Atkinson’s sidekick in “Johnny English Reborn” and will next be seen alongside James McAvoy and Mark Strong in the eagerly anticipated action thriller “Welcome to the Punch.” He’s got charisma to burn and continues to make smart choice after smart choice — it can’t be long before he’s topping a marquee near you.
For all the familiar faces in the promotional materials for “Prometheus,” there’s one who seems less immediately recognizable. Is it a streamlined Tom Hardy? No, it’s 35-year-old Logan Marshall-Green, a TV and theater veteran who we’re likely to see much, much more of down the line. Marshall-Green’s proabably most familiar from TV — he played Ben McKenzie‘s older brother on “The O.C.” and has also appeared in “24” and in a lead role in TNT‘s “Dark Blue.” But the actor also has a string of theater credits, including Neil LaBute’s “The Distance From Here” (which won him a Drama Desk Award), “Peanuts” spoof “Dog Sees God” written by “Easy A” writer Bert V. Royal, and Edmund in the Public Theater production of “King Lear” that starred Kevin Kline, all of which suggests he’s far from just a pretty face. A few significant movie roles followed, including Richard Gere‘s ill-fated partner in “Brooklyn’s Finest” and one of the leads in M. Night Shyamalan-produced horror “Devil,” but his part in “Prometheus” is easily his biggest endeavor yet. The actor plays Charlie Holloway, one half of the central scientific couple with Noomi Rapace’s Elizabeth Shaw, and he looks right at home among his better known co-stars. If we, and Ridley Scott, are right about him, he seems like he could be a potential answer to the leading man crisis in Hollywood, capable of both sensitive drama and more action-heavy fare. The actor doesn’t have anything lined up at present as far as we can tell, but if “Prometheus” hits the way we think it might, his calendar will start filling up.
Scoot McNairy has come to the brink of stardom more than once in the past — he had roles in films like “Wonderland” and “Herbie Fully Loaded” in the mid-noughties, and five years ago toplined the well-received indie romance “In Search of a Midnight Kiss,” but could never quite convert either into true Hollywood attention. But that all changed when the Texan actor starred, with his girlfriend and soon-to-be-wife Whitney Able, in Gareth Edwards‘ micro-budget sci-fi “Monsters.” The film proved to be a big festival hit, and suddenly McNairy was the toast of the town. And while he had a number of offers floating around (including, coincidentally, Logan Marshall-Green‘s part in “Prometheus“), he seems to have pretty good taste, turning down “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” for two serious, dramatic pictures from top directors. First up is the return of the “The Assassination of Jesse James” helmer Andrew Dominik with crime tale “Killing Them Softly,” in which the actor and “Animal Kingdom” star Ben Mendelsohn play two junkies who rip off a mob-affiliated card game, bringing enforcer Brad Pitt down on them. And soon after, he’ll turn up in Ben Affleck‘s based-in-fact drama “Argo,” as Iranian Consul Officer Joe Stafford, one of the hostages that Affleck’s CIA team is tasked with rescuing. When you add in found-footage horror flick “A Night In The Woods” from the producers of “Monsters,” he’s going to be damn near inescapable in the next few months, and we’re sure there’ll be much more to follow.
Sitting down to rewatch “Shaun of the Dead,” one wouldn’t necessarily pick out the chubby electronics store employee who taunts Simon Pegg as a potential leading man of the future, as funny as he was. But Spall returned to torment Pegg again three years later, lean, mean and just as hilarious as before, as one of the two Andys, alongside Paddy Considine, and the actor hasn’t looked back since. The son of the great Timothy Spall, Rafe’s been working consistently for a decade, across an impressive range of genres, tackling TV costume drama in “Wide Sargasso Sea” and “A Room With A View,” and giving impressive dramatic turns in Playlist favorite “The Scouting Book For Boys” and “He Kills Coppers.” But 2011 was a truly exceptional year for him: he played Anne Hathaway‘s hapless beau in “One Day,” walked away with Roland Emmerich‘s “Anonymous” as William Shakespeare, and turned in a unpredictably terrifying terrier-like performance opposite Chiwetel Ejiofor and Christopher Eccelston in cult TV hit “The Shadow Line.” He just wrapped up a hugely acclaimed run with Sally Hawkins in London stage hit “Constellations,” and then next up is none other than Ridley Scott‘s “Prometheus,” as bespectacled botanist Milburn, which should expose him to his widest audience yet. And following that, he gets a chance to play leading man, teaming up with “Bridesmaids” star Rose Byrne as a poorly-matched married couple in Working Title Films rom-com “I Give It A Year,” directed by “Borat” writer Dan Mazer. Spall’s got an unconventional delivery style that’s not to everyone’s taste, but we find him an enormously exciting actor to watch, and considering the range he’s displayed to date, we think he’s poised to go huge.
Australian crime thriller “Animal Kingdom” was good for pretty much everyone involved: Guy Pearce has had a clear career boost from his small role, Joel Edgerton became a go-to leading man, Ben Mendelsohn has a major part in Andrew Dominik‘s “Killing Them Softly,” lead James Frecheville is featuring in U.S. flicks like “The First Time,” and Jacki Weaver won an Oscar nomination and is now cropping up in films like “The Five-Year Engagement” and “Stoker.” And, while it took a little longer than some of his co-stars, Sullivan Stapleton, who played volatile middle brother Craig Cody, is the latest to join them. The actor, who previously appeared alongside Daniel Radcliffe in “December Boys,” followed “Animal Kingdom” by stepping in for Richard Armitage on British action series “Strike Back” when the latter left to make “The Hobbit.” Thanks to airing on Cinemax, the show became a huge hit, bringing him further to the attention of U.S. casting directors, and he’s another one cropping up in the impressive cast of “The Gangster Squad” as Ryan Gosling‘s childhood pal, a mob enforcer who also serves as a police officer. And that in turn led to him landing one of the most sought-after parts in Hollywood (and one that his “Animal Kingdom” co-star Joel Edgerton had been courted for beforehand): the lead, Themistocles, in “300: Battle of Artemesia,” the sequel to Zack Snyder‘s 2007 stylized bloodbath. Given that “300” turned its lead, Gerard Butler, into a legitimate star, we can’t see any reason that Stapleton, who’s displayed impressive acting chops so far, can’t be even bigger.
Honorable Mentions: The original helped give early exposure to Michael Fassbender, so it’s possible that more than one star from “300: Battle of Artemesia” breaks out, and either Callan Mulvey, the Aussie actor who’s also in Kathryn Bigelow‘s Osama Bin-Laden picture “Zero Dark Thirty,” and Jamie Blackley, who’ll first appear in “Snow White and the Huntsman” and the Bryan Singer-produced “uwantme2killhim” couldn’t join Stapleton in getting a huge boost from the movie. Also from the swords-and-sorcery school are another Aussie, Jai Courteney, who’s gone from Starz‘s “Spartacus” to playing John McClane’s son in “A Good Day to Die Hard.” And don’t forget the cast of “Game of Thrones” — Kit Harrington and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau have both booked high-profile roles since the series started (in “The Seventh Son” and “Oblivion” with Tom Cruise, respectively), and we’d expect the likes of Richard Madden (who was up for the part that Harrington got in the aborted “Arthur and Lancelot“) and Gethin Anthony, who plays Renly Baratheon in the show, to join them soon.
Otherwise, names to watch from across the pond include Steve Oram, who’s written and starred in Ben Wheatley‘s next, “Sightseers,” and Olly Alexander, who followed “Enter the Void” with a co-starring role opposite Greta Gerwig in “The Dish and the Spoon.” Australian actor Sam Reid is one to keep an eye on too: he had a major part in “Anonymous” and was due to be among the cast of “Paradise Lost.” That film was scrapped, but things are still looking good — he’ll co-star with Kevin Costner in TV show “The Hatfields & The McCoys” and is joining Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in Susanna Bier‘s “Serena.”
Finally, Suraj Sharma was picked from hundreds to topline Ang Lee’s “Life Of Pi” — if that film lands, expect him to be doing much more, while Emory Cohen (“Afterschool“) pays Dane DeHann’s adversary, the son of Bradley Cooper‘s character, in “The Place Beyond the Pines,” and might well shine there. And while Josh Pence is famous for playing one of the Winklevi in “The Social Network,” but even having his face replaced by Armie Hammer, he’s not hurting for work, with appearances in three of the biggest movies of 2012, “Battleship,” “The Dark Knight Rises” and “The Gangster Squad” all lined up. And what about yourselves? Who do you tip for major stardom in the next couple of years?