Adèle Exarchopoulos - "Blue is the Warmest Color"
Relative newcomer Adèle Exarchopoulos was the belle of Cannes this year for her breakthrough and baring turn in "Blue is the Warmest Color." Her performance opposite Lea Seydoux as a teenager coming to grips with her homosexuality was so strong it caused the Jury, led by Steven Spielberg, to award the Palme d'Or not just to the filmmaker Abdellatif Kechiche, but its two lead starlets as well -- a first for the festival. Following its unofficial preview in Telluride, the film makes its North American premiere at the festival, where the actress stands to emerge as one of the true talks of Toronto, hopefully boding well for the awards season ahead (distributor Sundance Selects is betting on her performance given the film doesn't qualify for a Best Foreign Film Oscar).
Tiger Hu Chen - "Man of Tai Chi"
Keanu Reeves stars in his directorial debut "Man of Tai Chi," but he left leading man duties to his "Matrix" stunt man Tiger Hu Chen, who embodies the titular fighter. In the long-in-the-works martial arts epic, Chen plays Linhu, an unassuming tai chi practitioner who works as a delivery man to pay the bills. When an underground leader of an extreme fight club makes Linhu an offer he can't refuse, it isn't long before Linhu uncovers the seedy nature of the world he's now a part of. Chen has a number of acting credits to his name, but Reeves' film is the first to truly showcase the performer's innate charisma and ability to carry a film. Jackie Chan better watch his back.
Gugu Mbatha Raw - "Belle"
English Actress, Gugu Mbatha-Raw stars as the lead in Amma Asante’s new film "Belle." Mbatha-Raw has been acknowledged as the recipient for "breakthrough" awards as a supporting actress in "Larry Crowne," but garnered initial critical acclaim, even prior, as the lead in the J.J. Abrams created series "Undercovers." Currently, Mbatha-Raw stars opposite Kiefer Sutherland, as the female lead in FOX’s Sci-fi drama, "Touch." In the period-piece "Belle," Mbatha-Raw gets to showcase her talents as a leading lady by embodying the titular real-life character, the illegitimate mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral.
George Mackay - "How I Live Now"
Up and coming English actor George Mackay stars opposite Saoirse Ronan in Kevin Macdonalds' thriller "How I Live Now." Mackay hit mainstream success in Edward Zwick’s "Defiance" when he acted alongside actors Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber. The following year, Mackay was recognized for his work in "The Boys are Back," in which he acted opposite Clive Owen and was nominated for both British Independent Film Awards and London Critics Circle Awards. "How I Live Now," based on the popular teen novel of the same name, stars Mackay as the hunky love interest to Ronan who is separated from his girlfriend when war breaks out in England. Charismatic, mysterious and easy on the eyes, Mackay stands to emerge as a teen favorite should the film find an audience.
Pier-Gabriele LaJoie - "Gerontophilia"
Pier-Gabriele LaJoie is a relatively new actor with only two notable acting credits to his name. That said, LaJoie looks to make a promising feature film debut with “Gerontophilia." In “Gerontophilia” LaJoie joins provocative Canadian director Bruce La Bruce in telling the story of a young man, Lake, who develops romantic feelings for a senior citizen of the same gender. La Bruce’s work is infamous for its sexually charged themes and depictions. Such characteristics require versatility and execution from LaJoie as the lead. La Bruce’s vision coupled with LaJoie’s deliverance should make for quite the memorable performance.
[Nigel M. Smith, Clint Holloway and Ohad Amram contributed to this article.]