Over recent weeks, in addition to our coverage of the fall festivals, we’ve been indulging in what’s become our annual orgy of prognostication, our On The Rise series. We expanded the remit this year, including more picks in each category as well as more categories. We looked at the Actors, Actresses, Screenwriters, Cinematographers, Composers, Directors and Actors Under 20 we believe are going to be Big Things in the coming months and years, and there’s been quite some heartache, recrimination and frosty pointed silences round the Playlist dinner table as a result.
Many of those arguments spring from the tricky business of walking the line between people we think are inevitably going to be big stars no matter what and those we really want to see getting more work, which is not always one and the same. It’s been a difficult balance to strike over time, though we think we’ve done a pretty good job. At least we hope we have. It occurred to us along the way that perhaps a good way of keeping ourselves honest would be to look back at previous years’ picks and see how right or wrong we got it.
And so for the first time this year, we’re rounding off On The Rise 2014 by looking back at On The Rise 2012. That’s not so long ago, but since the names we chose were those we judged to be on the cusp of bigger things, by now the proof should be in the pudding. In some cases, our pick have become so embedded in the public consciousness, it’s hard to believe that they were only regarded as “rising” a couple of years ago. Others, not so much, but those cases are interesting for a whole different reason. So here we go: who did us proud, who faltered and who, two years on, remains a “who?” in Hollywood?
It’s hard to believe that we’ve only had a crush on Scoot McNairy for two years, but if our 2012 actors list has a poster boy, it’s probably him. As we noted back then, he’d already been around a while, but at that point “Monsters” had just been released, and he’d turned down some obvious duff choices (“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”) for smaller roles in the much more interesting “Killing Them Softly” and “Argo.” He’s been ubiquitous since, adding prestige indies “12 Years a Slave,” “Touchy Feely” “Promised Land” "Frank" and “The Rover” to his movie CV, and making polyester and bottle glasses work as a look in AMC’s “Halt and Catch Fire,” the best TV show you’re probably not watching. Even potential paycheck gig “Non-Stop” was way more fun than it had any right to be, and with roles in David Fincher‘s “Gone Girl,” Kevin MacDonald’s “Black Sea” and “Batman vs Superman” coming up, and “Halt & Catch Fire” getting renewed, we’ll not want for McNairy in the next few years either, which is exactly the way we want it.
Similarly, Dane DeHaan, Domhnall Gleeson and Dave Franco have had pretty impressive trajectories the last few years. DeHaan went from 2012’s “Chronicle,” "Lawless" and "The Place Beyond the Pines" to juggling leads in smaller indies with his supporting role as Harry Osborne in the “Amazing Spider-Man” series. 2015 will see him star in “Tulip Fever” alongside fellow breakouts Alicia Vikander and Jack O’Connell, and Anton Corbijn’s “Life,” in which he’ll play no less a personage than James Dean opposite Robert Pattinson.
Gleeson had arguably the trickiest role in the great “Frank” and pulled it off brilliantly, but was also one of the best aspects of Joe Wright’s “Anna Karenina” and carried Richard Curtis’ surprisingly enjoyable “About Time” through some of its less convincing turns. He reteams with Alicia Vikander (see "Actresses") for Alex Garland’s “Ex Machina” next year, and has Angelina Jolie’s “Unbroken” in the can, with a big role in the also-very-prestige-sounding “Brooklyn” for John Crowley coming up too. Oh, and he’s got a role in some microbudget indie called “Star Wars: Episode VII” but we can’t find any information and have no idea what it might be about.
Meanwhile, Franco has continued to define himself as the Franco brother without any particularly complicated aspirations to "art," but has been consistently entertaining in a series of studio pictures since “21 Jump Street” —he had a voice role in ”The Lego Movie,” support in “Warm Bodies,” showed new shades to his arrogant frat boy persona in the very good “Neighbors” and took a lead role in the bad-but-successful-enough-to-get-a-sequel “Now You See Me.”
Frank Grillo, we noted even back then, had been around as a supporting actor for a while, and he still shows up in small roles in big films like “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” we had hopes after showy turns in “The Grey” and “Warrior” that leading man status might just happen for him. And it sort of has, but in genre cheapies like “The Purge: Anarchy,” the underwhelming “Intersections” and potentially the upcoming U.S. remake of “The Raid” rather than anything more substantial.
Logan Marshall-Green, despite being one handsome, handsome dude, has failed to set screens alight, perhaps because “Prometheus,” which should have been his breakout, was such a disappointment. But upcoming roles in “Madame Bovary,” John Hillcoat’s Vietnam vet TV movie “Quarry,” Karyn Kusama’s thriller “The Invitation” and as Tennessee Williams in “Lonely Hunter” might give him a second bite at the cherry.
“Prometheus” co-star Rafe Spall, meanwhile, also had a surprisingly quiet couple of years. Perhaps it was the misfire of “I Give it a Year” which was his first proper lead, but a supporting role in mathematics drama “X+Y” is probably the biggest title on the horizon for him. Meanwhile, aside from “Kick-Ass 2” and the underseen “Welcome to the Punch,” movie roles have also been criminally thin on the ground for Daniel Kaluuya, though he did appear in the Danny Boyle pilot for police force satire “Babylon,” which has just made our list of Most Anticipated Fall TV Shows, and Denis Villeneuve’s upcoming “Sicario” should hopefully get him a little more exposure.
And languishing at the bottom of the pile are Diego Boneta and Sullivan Stapleton. To be fair to us, we reckoned Boneta would break out in a big way “if ‘Rock of Ages’ was a hit” and um, well, we all know what happened there. Instead he’s got a few low-profile horror films and thrillers on the way and also a role in football biopic “Pele.” We had Stapleton pegged as potentially the next Gerard Butler after “300: Rise Of An Empire” but with the first Gerard Butler himself struggling at the moment, perhaps that was more prescient than we knew. With “Gangster Squad” such a stinker of a film, UK TV series “Strike Back” is still the best place to sample Stapleton’s talents post-”Animal Kingdom,” at least until “Kill Me Three Times” is released, in which he stars opposite Teresa Palmer and Simon Pegg.
Easily the most sought-after actress of our 2012 list is Alicia Vikander, who has no fewer than nine films awaiting release, making Jessica Chastain look like J.D. Salinger. We put Vikander on the list on the basis of her turn in Danish drama "A Royal Affair," and her casting in the then-upcoming "Anna Karenina" (in which she gave an unutterably lovely performance). Since then, she also impressed in "Hotell," and faded into the background in "The Fifth Estate" (which, to be fair, almost everyone did), but before the year is out, she’ll be seen in "Son Of A Gun" with Ewan McGregor, and World War One drama "Testament Of Youth" with Kit Harington. Then she has seven films scheduled for release in 2015, beginning with long-delayed fantasy actioner "Seventh Son." She also plays the female lead in Guy Ritchie‘s "The Man From U.N.C.L.E," and will be a robot girl in Alex Garland‘s directorial debut "Ex Machina" with Oscar Isaac, while also appearing in virtually every 2015 Oscar hopeful: with Dane DeHaan in costume drama "Tulip Fever," in Bradley Cooper‘s "Chef" movie, opposite Eddie Redmayne in Tom Hooper‘s "The Danish Girl," and alongside Michael Fassbender in Derek Cianfrance‘s "The Light Between Oceans."
Almost as in-demand is Brie Larson: she made the list after turns in "Rampart" and "21 Jump Street," but soon blew the roof off the place with an astonishing performance in "Short Term 12" that put her on the A-list. At Christmas, she’ll play the female lead in "The Gambler" opposite Mark Wahlberg, while Bollywood musical "Basmati Blues" is also in the can, and next year she teams with Judd Apatow for "Trainwreck" and Joe Swanberg for "Digging For Fire," as well as some more serious fare, via Lenny Abrahamson’s Fritzl-ish drama "Room."
"Downton Abbey" graduate Jessica Brown Findlay is also busy: the actress’ Hollywood debut in "A Winter Tale" didn’t go so well, but she’s got "The Riot Club" coming up (our review), along with the female lead in "Victor Frankenstein" alongside James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe.
A number of the class of 2012 have remained with a foot in the TV world. Alison Brie has no fewer than three shows on the go, with "Community" surprisingly still airing, along with "Mad Men" and Netflix’s animation "Bojack Horseman," but is still lining up movie work. And she stole the show as the voice of Unikitty in "The Lego Movie," and has Will Ferrell/Kevin Hart comedy "Get Hard" coming up. She’s finally graduating to leads too, opposite Jason Sudeikis in "Sleeping With Other People," and with Lily Collins in Drew Barrymore‘s "How To Be Single."
Ruth Wilson also remains active in movies: "The Lone Ranger" didn’t get her the attention we hoped, but she did crop up in "Locke" and "Saving Mr. Banks," and has "Suite Francaise" coming next year. Most of her attention is on the lead, with Dominic West, in Showtime’s upcoming drama "The Affair," though.
Alice Englert, the daughter of Jane Campion who was so impressive in "Ginger & Rosa," has hopped between the big and small screen. She was good in both underseen young adult movie "Beautiful Creatures," and nailbiting horror "In Fear," but also appeared in British miniseries "New Worlds," and the upcoming "Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell." "Shame" actress Nicole Beharie hasn’t yet taken off in the movies, but has become a big name on TV, playing the lead in last year’s unlikeliest surprise hit, "Sleepy Hollow." Hopefully that’ll give her the boost to become the movie star she deserves to be.
Of the actresses who haven’t yet become wildly recognizable names, Jane Levy‘s been tied up with little-watched sitcom "Suburgatory" and big-screen vehicles "Fun Size" and "Evil Dead" both disappointed. She’s since focused on indies like "About Alex" and "Bang Bang Baby" in the meantime, but has the lead in next year’s animation/live-action mix "Monster Trucks," so she could yet crossover. We picked up on waifish indie actress Julia Garner after "Electrick Children" and "Martha Marcy May Marlene," and she continued to impress in "We Are What We Are" and "I Believe In Unicorns," though her sole mainstream venture so far is "Sin City: A Dame To Kill For," so the less said about that, the better. Next up for her is comedy-drama "Good Kids" with Craig Roberts.
Finally, we’re still waiting for Australian actress Bella Heathcote to take off. At the time, she seemed like one of the surest things on the list, with "Dark Shadows," "Not Fade Away" and "Killing Them Softly" on the way. But the first two tanked ("Not Fade Away" undeservedly, in which she’s good in an underwritten part), and she was cut out of the third. She lost out on playing "Cinderella" to Lily James, as well, but will next be teaming up with the actress, in the long-gestating "Pride & Prejudice & Zombies," so don’t count her out yet (she also has Hugh Grant rom-com "The Rewrite" and Bret Easton Ellis adaptation "The Curse Of Downers Grove" on the way).
Due to the nature of film directing, we can’t expect any of our director picks to have amassed nearly as many titles as an actor or even a cinematographer could have in the two years and four months since we compiled our 2012 list. But that hasn’t stopped several of them from picking up massive buzz, major projects or turning out new films in the meantime. Top of our minds is probably Justin Kurzel, who took the festival success of his vicious, brilliant low-budget feature debut “The Snowtown Murders” and ran with it all the way to what has to be one of the most ambitious sophomore films in recent memory, a version of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” that couldn’t be more perfectly cast with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard starring. That film seems primed for a Cannes 2015 slot, and Kurzel has already lined up his next, as he’ll be reteaming with Fassbender to bring “Assassin’s Creed” to the screen. It’s a mark of just how much Kurzel’s stock has risen that his name (and Fassbender’s of course) attached to ‘Creed’ has piqued our interest to such a degree in a video game adaptation —in fact, that project is leading the way in perhaps changing our assessment of the video game movie altogether, as we discuss here.
More firmly in genre territory but certainly productive and buzzy, Gareth Evans returned to screens in 2014 with a segment of horror anthology “V/H/S 2” and “The Raid 2,” the even more breathless sequel to his breakout hit. And while “The Raid 3” has also been announced, Evans is also slated to direct from his own script the intriguing, kinda batshit real-life story of an Ultimate Fighter champion who masterminded a heist called “Breaking the Bank” (though that title will no doubt change as there’s a Kelsey Grammer financial collapse comedy shooting now with that name).
Zal Batmanglij followed up the great “Sound of My Voice” with another Brit Marling collaboration on “The East,” which while divisive was a film that further established Batmanglij’s particular, distinctive style and tone. Next up, he is making a move, like so many promising directors, into prestige TV, directing two episodes of the adaptation of the bestselling “Wayward Pines” trilogy for FX, and the cast assembled thus far is pretty stellar: Melissa Leo, Matt Dillon, Terrence Howard, Toby Jones, Carla Gugino, Shannon Sossamyn and Juliette Lewis among others. And for a director who hasn’t had another film out since landing on the list with 2012’s “Safety Not Guaranteed,” we’re still pretty chuffed that we marked Colin Treverrow out for big things —he’s currently at work on, oh a little thing called “Jurassic World,” so obviously Steven Spielberg has quite some faith in him. He also has no fewer than five other action/sci-fi/thriller projects in development.
We touted Adam Wingard as one to keep an eye on particularly within the horror genre, and he’s largely been at work in that wheelhouse since, though fun slasher “You’re Next” suffered from an oddly delayed release schedule which may have killed the buzz it was designed to increase. But with segments of both installments of the “V/H/S” anthology series and “The ABCs of Death” under his belt, not to mention fun throwback thriller “The Guest” opening soon, and potential project “Dead Spy Running” upcoming, Wingard’s career is certainly ticking along nicely.
Alan Taylor parlayed his successful 6 episodes of “Game of Thrones” into a big-screen gig on “Thor: The Dark World” and while that film is the runt of the recent Marvel litter (great excuse to relink to our ever-controversial ranking of all the Marvel movies for everyone to get all hot and bothered by again), it was enough of a success to get him the helmer gig on “Terminator: Genisys” (a title that every time we have to type, we die inside a little).
Dee Rees, by contrast, has less to show for the last few years after her stunning debut “Pariah.” She has a list of developing projects as long as your arm, as both writer and director, including a fairly mouthwatering Viola Davis-starring HBO series which she is writing and may direct the pilot for, as well as an atypical but awesome-sounding Philip K Dick adaptation “Martian Time-Slip.” Currently Rees is filming a Bessie Smith biopic starring Queen Latifah for HBO, so it shouldn’t be long before we get to sample her talents again.
If there was one director of all the breakouts on our 2012 list who seemed to have the world at his feet, it was probably Benh Zeitlin after the adulation accorded his “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” But even back then, Zeitlin pointedly avoided the studio attention he attracted in favor of developing his own project, a pretty crazy-sounding melange of adventure story, eco-commentary and meditation on aging and time, marked by magic realism notes similar to ‘Beasts.’ It’s admirable that he’s eschewed the easy temptations of Hollywood, but we wonder just how long this project will take to realize? Similarly, UK bright young things Will Sharpe and Tom Kingsley, who co-directed the excellent “Black Pond” that sadly never saw a stateside release, have seemed somewhat stalled since —they’re still attached as writers to an adaptation of Voltaire’s “Candide” potentially for Film 4, but there’s been no further word on that for ages now. However, back in February it was reported they had wrapped on “The Darkest Universe” which they call “a romantic comedy set in space, or to be more specific, on planet Earth” though we’ve yet to hear about any release plans.
And finally, why the hell haven’t we heard more from Lucy Mulloy whose excellent, award-winning 2012 Cuban escape drama “Una Noche” signalled the arrival of such an exciting and vital new talent? That film is still the most recent credit listed on her bio, and we know of no other brewing projects. We really hope that changes soon.
Probably the biggest name on our screenwriters’ list is Drew Pearce: at the time, he was a relatively little-known British comedy writer who’d penned the unused draft of "Runaways" for Marvel, landing him the prime gig of co-penning "Iron Man 3" with Shane Black. The result was one of the best Marvel scripts, and Pearce remains an in-house favorite, and he wrote and directed the best of the Marvel One-Shots, "Hail To The King," which sees Ben Kingsley reprise Trevor Slattery opposite Scoot McNairy. He’s also in-demand in the franchise world, writing "Mission: Impossible 5" and "Sherlock Holmes 3," and has various other projects floating around, including Jason Segel comedies "The Other F Word" and "Delinquents," while he’ll also be making his directorial debut on top-secret crime picture "The Long Run" for 20th Century Fox.
Kelly Marcel remains firmly in demand too. The British writer gained attention for selling spec script "Saving Mr. Banks" to Disney, which reached the screens last Christmas. She took a swift left turn just after, penning the "Fifty Shades Of Grey" adaptation that hits next Valentine’s Day, and was also on set throughout the tumultous production of “Mad Max: Fury Road” (she and Tom Hardy are BFFs). Coming up, she’s writing HBO drama "Madonnas Of Echo Park," "Westbridge" for the BBC, and a biopic of Elvis for Baz Luhrmann to direct.
Graham Moore‘s had some ups and downs over the last couple of years: he topped the Black List with Alan Turing biopic "The Imitation Game," saw Warner Bros pick it up, then drop it. But Moore’s firmly back on top of the world as the film was made with Benedict Cumberbatch, and is widely tipped to be a serious Oscar contender after going down a storm at Telluride and TIFF. He’s also been adapting non-fiction bestseller "The Devil In The White City" for Leonardo DiCaprio.
Andrew Baldwin‘s likely had some frustrations, too. He broke through with post-war Yakuza tale, which had first Daniel Espinosa and Michael Fassbenderattached, then Takashi Miike and Tom Hardy, but ultimately fell through. But actioner "Bastille Day" with Idris Elba and Adele Exarchapolous goes into production next year, and he’s currently writing the fifth Bourne movie for 2016. Finally, Josh Zetumer penned the surprisingly decent "RoboCop" remake earlier this year, and has an untitled spy franchise in the works at Universal.
2012 Cinematographers On The Rise Picks: Mihai Milamaire Jr, Thomas Townend, Luc Montpellier, Reed Morano, Matyas Erdely
The busiest of our Cinematographer picks in 2012 is the superhumanly prolific Reed Morano. A long-time indie favorite who got our attention thanks to films like "Shut Up And Play The Hits" and "For Ellen," she’s barely stopped working since. Last year brought sterling work on "Kill Your Darlings" and "The Inevitable Defeat Of Mister & Pete," and she was back at Sundance in force this year with "The Skeleton Twins" and "War Story." She also shot all the episodes of HBO‘s gorgeous "Looking," and has become Rob Reiner‘s go-to DoP with "The Magic Of Belle Isle" and "And So It Goes." Carson McCullers/Tennessee Williams biopic "Lonely Hunter" is on the way, but Morano’s actually shifting gears to direction: she’s currently in production on her debut "Meadowland," with an impressive cast including Elisabeth Moss, Juno Temple, Olivia Wilde and Giovanni Ribisi.
Otherwise, the cinematography class of 2012 has been surprisingly quiet. As expected, Mihai Malamaire Jr did a stunning job, on 70mm no less, on "The Master," but hasn’t had A-list helmers banging down his door in the way that you would imagine. He teamed with horror helmer Dennis Iliades twice, for "+1" and the upcoming "Home," and also lensed long-delayed Zoe Saldana-starring biopic "Nina." But he looks to be back on form, with Scott Frank‘s imminent noir "A Walk Among The Tombstones."
Given his stunning work in "Attack The Block," Thomas Townend‘s been surprisingly low-profile, mostly sticking in the promo/commercial world, though he did lens David Hare‘s two sequels to Bill Nighy spy drama "Page Eight," and has lost-in-limbo horror picture "Hidden," starring Alexander Skarsgard and Andrea Riseborough too.
"Miss Bala" DP Matyas Erdely also racked up a few credits, doing fantastic work on Sean Durkin‘s miniseries "Southcliffe," lensing Hammer horror "The Quiet Ones," but hasn’t done much beside that. And we’re a little disappointed that "Take This Waltz" DP Luc Montpellier hasn’t been busier too. Other than short-lived TV drama "Lucky 7," he’s mostly worked on little seen Canadian indies like "The Right Kind Of Wrong."
So how are we driving? Do we need to chuck our crystal ball and go with runic pebbles for our soothsaying from now on? Either way it’s been an interesting exercise for us to check back in on the graduating class of On The Rise 2012 — we can’t help but feel a little bit proprietorial over them. Let us know your thoughts in the comments: who should work more? who should work less? Otherwise, that’s a wrap for On the Rise for another year. Check back around this time in 2015 for a whole new crop of fresh faces, and a look back at how our 2013 picks have gotten on in the meantime.