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We Have Seen The Futures: Indiewire Interviews The 37 Indie Film Breakouts of 2012

Photo of Nigel M Smith By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire December 26, 2012 at 10:16AM

With 2013 days away, we're revisiting our interviews with the three-dozen most buzzed-about up-and-comers of the past year -- all of whom you are likely to hear a lot more about in years to come.
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With 2013 days away, we're revisiting our interviews with the most buzzed-about up-and-comers Indiewire profiled in 2012. We spoke with the 37 breakout sensations below, all of whom you are likely to hear a lot more about in years to come. This list is by no means definitive so please let us know who your most memorable breakouts this year were in the comment section below. And be sure to click on the names to access the full interviews. (Names are listed alphabetically.)

#1. Christopher Abbott
Profession: Actor
Breakout Film: "Hello I Must Be Going"
Why We Profiled Him: In the Sundance U.S. Dramatic Competition opener “Hello I Must Be Going,” 25-year-old actor Christopher Abbott more than held his own opposite Melanie Lynskey (“Win Win”) and Blythe Danner as an actor who takes up a steamy affair with a woman (Lynskey) over 10 years his senior. He also turned heads this year as the lovable boyfriend of Allison Williams' preppy character in Lena Dunham's hit HBO show "Girls."
What He's Up To: Shooting the second season of "Girls," which returns in January.

SXSW Aneurin Barnard in "Hunky Dory"

#2. Aneurin Barnard
Profession: Actor
Breakout Film: "Citadel"
Why We Profiled Him: If there were an acting award for versatility at this year's SXSW Film Festival, Welsh performer Aneurin Barnard was the one to beat. In the Narrative Spotlight selection "Hunky Dory," he sang and acted opposite Minnie Driver as a (yes) hunky high-school student with a voice to melt hearts. And in the Midnighters film "Citadel," Barnard played a young father suffering from agoraphobia and fighting for survival after a pack of feral children attacks him and his family.
What He's Up To: He wrapped shooting "Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes," directed by Francesca Gregorini ("Tanner Hall") and starring Jessica Biel and Alfred Molina. He also stars in the upcoming "Trap for Cinderella," co-starring Alexandra Roach (the young Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady") and directed by Iain Softley ("Hackers").

#3. Samantha Barks
Profession: Actor
Breakout Film: "Les Miserables"
Why We Profiled Her: There was no big-screen newcomer more buzzed about this holiday season than Samantha Barks, the 22-year-old UK newcomer who beat out Taylor Swift to nab the part of Eponine in Tom Hooper's big-screen adaptation of the hit musical "Les Miserables" starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried.
What She's Up To: Barks is in talks to join the cast of another movie musical, “Walking on Sunshine,” a musical comedy set to 1980s pop songs, starring Kylie Minogue.

#4. Zal Batmanglij
Profession: Writer, director, producer
Breakout Film: "Sound of My Voice"
Why We Profiled Him: The 2011 Sundance Film Festival served as a springboard for a remarkable number of writer-directors. Mike Cahill of "Another Earth," Dee Rees of "Pariah," Sean Durkin of "Martha Marcy May Marlene" and Evan Glodell of "Bellflower" all made strong impressions. Zal Batmanglij, whose "Sound of My Voice" (co-written by star Brit Marling, who was also in Park City with "Another Earth") screened in the NEXT section, saw his film sell to Fox Searchlight and top Indiewire's 2011 mid-year critic's poll. But unlike the writer-directors mentioned above, he had to wait well over a year to see his debut open theatrically, in April.
What He's Up To: Batmanglij and Marling re-teamed with Fox Searchlight for their upcoming thriller "The East," premiering at Sundance in January. In the film, Marling stars as a contract worker tasked with infiltrating an anarchist group, only to find herself falling for its leader. Alexander Skarsgard, Ellen Page, Julia Ormond and Patricia Clarkson all star. Batmanglij told Indiewire that he hopes to do another movie with Marling once he's done editing "The East." "We spent so many years laying down the track, and we've got it down a little bit now," he said. "I actually want to now take the train for a test drive and really try it out. I want to write a big movie."

#5. Malik Bendjelloul
Profession: Director
Breakout Film: "Searching For Sugar Man"
Why We Profiled Him: Only one day into the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, first-time director Malik Bendjelloul experienced a high most filmmakers only dream of. His World Cinema Documentary Competition contender “Searching for Sugar Man” drew rave notices after its opening-night premiere, and the next day Sony Pictures Classics, making the first buy out of the festival, snatched it up.


What He's Up To: What isn't he up to? Bendjelloul said he has over four years' worth of ideas. Which one he’ll tackle next, he doesn’t know. “Maybe I’ll do another documentary, or maybe I’ll do a narrative feature,” he said. “If I do another documentary, the story needs to be as good as this one.”

#6. Mike Birbiglia
Profession: Writer, director, actor
Breakout Film: "Sleepwalk With Me"
Why We Profiled Him: Mike Birbiglia came to Park City this year as a popular comic and emerged as an acclaimed filmmaker, writer and actor following the great reception his film debut, "Sleepwalk With Me," received at Sundance. The film won the Best of NEXT Audience Award (beating out Craig Zobel's button-pushing "Compliance") and found a home at IFC Films.
What He's Up To: Birbiglia isn't messing around with the formula that brought him praise and indie-film cred. He told us that he's in the process of adapting his latest solo play "My Girlfriend's Boyfriend" into a sophomore feature. The show, which explores Birbiglia's bumbling love life, ended its successful off-Broadway run March 18, 2011 and is currently touring the States after playing around the world.

#7. Jamie Blackley
Profession: Actor
Breakout Film: "While We Were Here"
Why We Profiled Him: British actor Jamie Blackley starred alongside Kate Bosworth in the black-and-white Tribeca Film Festival World Narrative Competition contender "While We Were Here." He told Indiewire over the phone from London that his trip to New York in support of the film marked his first visit to the Big Apple. It won't be his last.
What He's Up To: The rising 20-year-old talent, best known for his supporting turn in "London Boulevard" opposite Keira Knightley and Colin Farrell, is on his way to becoming a household name after bagging the lead role in Warner Bros.'s prequel to "300," "300: Battle of Artemesia." Blackley will play Calisto, the 16-year-old leader of a small band of soldiers.

#8. and #9. Zachary Booth and Thure Lindhardt
Profession: Actor
Breakout Film: "Keep the Lights On"
Why We Profiled Them: In Ira Sach's acclaimed semi-autobiographical gay relationship drama "Keep the Lights On," Danish actor Thure Lindhardt and Zachary Booth give two of the year's most impassioned performances as a troubled couple who stay together for the better part of a decade despite their destructive bond.
What They're Up To: Lindhardt can next be seen in "Byzantium," Neil Jordan's first vampire movie since "Interview with a Vampire," opposite Gemma Arterton, Sam Riley and Saoirse Ronan, that premiered to good notices in Toronto. Booth recently wrapped shooting the family drama "Last Weekend" opposite Patricia Clarkson.

#10. Jay Bulger
Profession: Director
Breakout Film: "Beware of Mr. Baker"
Why We Profiled Him: Jay Bulger suffered a broken nose at the hand of the subject of his first feature-length documentary, "Beware of Mr. Baker," but the injury was clearly worth it. His arresting expose on Ginger Baker, the legendary (and legendarily volatile) English drummer, best known for his work with Cream and Blind Faith, won the grand jury documentary prize at this year's SXSW film festival.
What He's Up To: "I’m doing this movie called 'The Great Mojo Revival' with Jonathan Batiste," Bulger told Indiewire a month back. "It’s a narrative-fiction movie, starring the great pianist. He’s a character. He’s an old-school musician, pianist, virtuoso -- and I’m making a movie about what it’s like to be a young, handsome, jazz-pianist master in 2012 that harks back to the old school-type of jazz musician."

#11. Sheldon Candis
Profession: Writer, director
Breakout Film: "LUV"
Why We Profiled Him: Sheldon Candis, a graduate of the USC School of Cinematic Arts, has several short films to his name, including "The Walk" and "The Dwelling," a documentary that chronicles the lives of two homeless Tokyo residents. The first-time feature filmmaker arrived in Park City this year with his U.S. Dramatic Competition contender "LUV," a blistering semi-autobiographical tale that cuts close to the heart. Indomina and BET acquired the film out of the fest.
What He's Up To: "I want this movie to get out the best way possible, but to be honest with you, we're super, super close with some new ideas," Candis told Indiewire. "Trust me, as soon as I know, you guys will be the first to know."

#12. Derek Connolly
Profession: Writer
Breakout Film: "Safety Not Guaranteed"
Why We Profiled Him: There wasn't a comedy more heartfelt and nutty at this year's Sundance Film Festival than Colin Trevorrow's "Safety Not Guaranteed." The high-concept indie charmer won over critics and audiences with its blend of sci-fi and romance, culminating in a Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award for the film's writer, Derek Connolly, and a coveted distribution deal with FilmDistrict.
What He's Up To: Connolly is penning the script for a new Pixar movie, to be helmed by Teddy Newton (best known for the ingenious short "Day and Night").

#13. Matt D'Elia
Profession: Actor, writer, director, producer
Breakout Film: "American Animal"
Why We Profiled Him: NYU Tisch graduate Matt D'Elia caused a stir at the 2011 SXSW Film Festival with his debut feature "American Animal," a dark and completely nutty comedy he wrote, directed, produced, edited and stars in. The film didn't go on to win any awards as the festival, but it was met with some of the most passionate reviews to come out of the event. Slant Magazine called D'Elia's vision "original, gutsy, and uncompromising"; The Wall Street Journal said "American Animal" is "personal filmmaking with ambition to burn"; while HitFix said the film "deserves to launch D'Elia as a filmmaker of note." Filmgoers discovered what all the fuss was about when it opened in select theaters in early May.
What He's Up To: D'Elia shot his latest, "Powder Keg," late this summer. "I'm so excited to make a movie that I can easily explain," he told Indiewire. "I still can't explain 'American Animal.' My next movie's a post-heist movie. I'm actually going to be in it again, so I must hate myself [laughs]. The fact that I'm in a movie that I can't watch and that I'm preparing to do it again is crazy. I'm a masochist. It's another one-location movie heavily inspired by 'Reservoir Dogs' and David Mamet."

#14. Daniel Dencik
Profession: Director
Breakout Film: "Moon Rider"
Why We Profiled Him: Following in the footsteps of a rather remarkable amount of recent documentary filmmakers to come out of Denmark, Daniel Dencik won the Reel Talent Award a few months back at the closing ceremony of CPH:DOX.
What He's Up To: "Expedition to the End of the World," an extraordinary look at a group of scientists and artists that travel to the Northeastern fjords of Greenland, which are accessible for the first time due to melting ice.

#15. Ava DuVernay
Profession: Writer, director
Breakout Film: "Middle of Nowhere"
Why We Profiled Her: Ava DuVernay became the first African-American to win the Best Director award at Sundance this year for her indie drama, "Middle of Nowhere." Although "Middle of Nowhere" is only DuVernay's second full-length feature, she's no newcomer; she's already made a name for herself as one of the preeminent figures in modern African-American cinema, even before her history-making win at Sundance. In addition to running her renowned marketing firm, The DuVernay Agency (later DV Marketing + Media), where she worked with directors like Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, Kevin Smith, and Robert Rodriguez, DuVernay won the Best Screenplay Award from the African-American Film Critics Association for her first feature film, "I Will Follow." She also launched an ambitious, groundbreaking film distribution movement in 2010 called AFFRM (African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement), which organizes film festivals and theatrical releases for black indepedent films.
What She's Up To: She's in the midst of pre-production on her follow-up, which she plans to shoot in March.

#16. Julia Garner
Profession: Actress
Breakout Film: "Electrick Children"
Why We Profiled Her: With her tight blonde curls and the stark contrast between her skin tone and her bold lipstick, it's impossible to ignore Julia Garner's presence in a room. The high school senior had a small role in last year's Sundance breakout "Martha Marcy May Marlene," but her first starring role, in Rebecca Thomas's "Electrick Children," had even more heads turning at the Berlin and SXSW film festivals this year.
What She's Up To: Garner appeared in Stephen Chbosky's adaptation of his own novel, the Generation X classic "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," and will soon pop up in Leah Meyerhoff's "Unicorns" (in which she will star alongside Joshua Leonard and Amy Seimetz). In the pipeline, she's also snagged a role in the "Last Exorcism" sequel -- all before graduating high school.

#17. David Gelb
Profession: Director
Breakout Film: "Jiro Dreams of Sushi"
Why We Profiled Him: "Jiro Dreams of Sushi," a visually stunning portrait of Jiro Ono, the chef of what is often called the greatest sushi restaurant on the planet, marks the feature film debut of director David Gelb. He worked alone for several weeks in Jiro's kitchen with just a camera and a translator, capturing Jiro's dedicated routine and artistry. The resulting film is an eloquent look at one of Japan's living national treasures; a treat for food and film lovers alike. The film's gone on to become one of the indie box office success stories of 2012, having made over $2 million domestically since opening in May.
What He's Up To: "I'm working on a script right now with Matt Spicer, who is a great writer, and it's a murder mystery set in contemporary New York," Gelb told Indiewire. "I don't think I'll make another food documentary until I find somewhere I really want to hang out for a whole month."

#18. Adam Goldman
Profession: Writer, director, actor
Why We Profiled Him: Adam Goldman has managed to do what few people before him have done: he has made a narrative web series that people are actually talking about. "The Outs" is a look at gay life in contemporary Brooklyn that sees the local dating scene through the eyes of Mitchell (Goldman) and his best friend Oona (Sasha Winters, who came up with the concept with Goldman). Men meet each other through Grindr, sure, but they also attempt to ask out the delivery guy from the Mexican restaurant. They take care of their exes when they get drunk and depressed. A cruel sexting trick ends a date.
What He's Up To: "I'd love to write for television," he told Indiewire. "Part of the success for the show is that I write and direct it. If you read the script and then watch the episode, it's fairly one-to-one.  I'd love to continue doing that and get paid for it."

#19. Leslye Headland
Profession: Writer, director
Breakout Film: "Bachelorette"
Why We Profiled Her: Leslye Headland, 30, came to Sundance with some serious buzz around her debut feature "Bachelorette," based on her hit Off-Broadway play. She delivered on it by garnering a distribution deal with The Weinstein Company's Radius Label and some pretty great notices. The film broke VOD records when it premiered on digital platforms before opening in select theaters.
Wh She's Up To: She opened her third play, "Assistance," in February at Playwrights Horizon in New York, while on the film side she says she's "still very much in 'Bachelorette' mode, which is a great place to be."

#20. Dree Hemingway
Profession: Actor
Breakout Film: "Starlet"
Why We Profiled Her: As the daughter of Woody Allen muse Mariel Hemingway and great-granddaughter of legendary author Ernest Hemingway, 24-year-old model/actress Dree Hemingway had a lot riding on her back at SXSW earlier this year when she premiered "Starlet" -- a film that features her in her first lead role. She hit it out of the park, impressing audiences and critics with a vulnerable and star-making turn (apt given the title of Sean Baker's drama) as Jane, a 21-year-old LA transplant who develops a deep bond with an elderly woman (Besedka Johnson) after a chance encounter.
What She's Up To: "Right now, the biggest thing that’s in the works for me is that I’m going home to England to visit my boyfriend’s family," Hemingway told Indiewire, laughing. "I’m reading scripts, I really just want to find that next thing that touches me -- and I don’t know if it’s necessarily shocking, but I wouldn’t mind doing a period piece. I want to challenge myself."

#21. Alison Klayman
Profession: Director
Breakout Film: "Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry"
Why We Profiled Her: Rookie filmmaker Alison Klayman lucked out on her first project by managing to pin down China's most famous international artist and outspoken domestic critic, Ai Weiwei, for a documentary profile. Since premiering "Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry" at Sundance, where it went on to win a Special Jury Prize, Klayman has seen her profile rise as controversy around the film and its subject have continued to grow.
What She's Up To: "I still want to do more projects that have to do with China," Klayman told Indiewire. "The China story also doesn't only take place in China. I'm not saying that's the only project I want to make, but in building my list of ideas, I keep getting drawn back."

#22. Fran Kranz
Profession: Actor
Breakout Film: "Cabin in the Woods"
Why We Profiled Him: The Joss Whedon fanclub is already no doubt familiar with California-bred actor Fran Kranz, thanks to his winning turn as geeky programmer Topher Brink in Whedon's now-defunct, high-concept Fox TV series "Dollhouse." Now, two years after that show wrapped, Whedon is responsible for Kranz's big-screen breakthrough as Marty, a stoner with smarts, in the post-modern horror blast "The Cabin in the Woods," penned by Whedon and Drew Goddard (who also directed).
What He's Up To: During Whedon's off-time from shooting his upcoming blockbuster "The Avengers," Whedon had Kranz play Claudio in his black-and-white modern take on "Much Ado About Nothing." The film recently premiered to rave notices in Toronto and will hit select theaters next year.

#23. Adam Leon
Profession: Writer, director
Breakout Film: "Gimme the Loot"
Why We Profiled Him: New York-based writer-director Adam Leon is going to have a tough time topping his 2012. At this year's SXSW Film Festival in Austin, the first-time feature filmmaker won the Narrative Grand Jury Prize for his debut, "Gimme the Loot." Shortly after the win, Sundance Selects announced they had acquired U.S. rights to the film. Less that two weeks after SXSW, Leon was back in New York screening his film at the New Directors/New Films festival to packed, enthusiastic audiences. And just a few weeks later, Leon screened his debut in the Un Certain Regard section of the recently wrapped Cannes Film Festival. It opens early next year.
What He's Up To: Leon told Indiewire that he's working on "something that's a little different. I'm so passionate about it that I'm paranoid to talk about it."

#24. Jonathan Lisecki
Profession: Writer, director
Breakout Film: "Gayby"
Why We Profiled Him: Jonathan Lisecki penned, directed and starred in "Gayby," the hilarious longform version of the award-winning short of the same name about two thirty-something friends from college, Matt (Matthew Wilkas) and Jenn (the hilarious Jenn Harris,) who decide they want to bring a baby into the world the old-fashioned way. Lisecki recently netted a Spirit Award nomination for his debut.
What He's Up To: He's back to acting again in the upcoming comedy "Big Gay Love," directed by Ringo Le.

#25. Nicholas McCarthy
Profession: Writer, director
Breakout Film: "The Pact"
Why We Profiled Him: After debuting his creepy short "The Pact" at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, Nicholas McCarthy returned a year later to Park City with a feature that expanded on the short. McCarthy's stellar debut played well with horror fans and critics, culminating in a coveted distribution deal with IFC Films. It opened this past summer.
What He's Up To: He's in the midst of shooting another genre film.

#26. Julia Pott:
Profession: Animator
Breakout Film: "My First Crush"
Why We Profiled Her: London-raised, New York-based animator Julia Pott's brilliant animations have received over a million hits on YouTube, thanks largely in part to her web breakout "My First Crush." The film sets Pott's signature hand-drawn animals to recordings of people discussing their awkward histories with their first crushes.
What She's Up To: She hit the festival circuit this year with her heartbreaking coming-of-age friendship story "Belly."

#27. Condola Rashad
Profession: Actor
Breakout Film: "30 Beats"
Why We Profiled Her: To theater buffs, Condola Rashad (daughter to actress Phylicia Rashad) is a known name, having snagged a recent Tony nomination for her Broadway debut in drama "Stick Fly." But for cinemagoers, Rashad is a fresh face whose big screen debut in "30 Beats," a loose and heated adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler's "La Ronde," finally opened this summer after a long journey to the big screen. She also appeared in Lifetime's remake of the 1989 weeper "Steel Magnolias," alongside an all-African-American cast that includes Queen Latifah, Alfre Woodard, Phylicia Rashad, Jill Scott and "Pariah" breakout Adepero Oduye. Rashad played bride-to-be Shelby, the role made famous by Julia Roberts in the original.


#28. Marialy Rivas
Profession: Writer, director
Breakout Film: "Young & Wild"
Why We Profiled Her: Chilean writer-director Marialy Rivas raised eyebrows at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival with her sexually provocative debut, “Young & Wild.” Rivas, an award-winning short filmmaker (her short "Blokes" screened at the festival last year), walked away from this year's edition with the World Cinema Screenwriting Award, which she shared with co-writers Camila Gutiérrez, Pedro Peirano and Sebastián Sepúlveda.


What She's Up To: Rivas told Indiewire that she has just finished another script with Gutiérrez titled “Princess.” She describes it as a religious drama based on a true story that's centered on an 11-year-old girl and set in the south of Chile. "It’s kind of like ‘Rosemary’s Baby,’ in a way,” she said.

#29. Gina Rodriguez
Profession: Actor, singer
Breakout Film: "Filly Brown"
Why We Profiled Her: In the Sundance U.S. Dramatic Competition contender "Filly Brown," from directors Youssef Delara and Michael D. Olmos, Gina Rodriguez gave a commanding turn as the titular young hip-hop artist. Previously, the NYU Tisch School of the Arts graduate was best known for her brassy performance in the teen dance comedy "Go for It!" Indomina acquired "Filly" shortly following its Sundance run.
What She's Up To: Rodriguez, who recently signed a talent deal with ABC, is currently in talks to appear in Olmos' next project, an untitled boxing bio pic. "Michael had approached me after 'Filly Brown,' talking about an autobiography of this girl who was a boxer," Rodriguez said. "She grew up poor with a single dad and boxing was their connection. She just now became a professional. Her story’s just really beautiful. Little did Michael know, my father was a boxing referee. I started boxing at the age of three and it’s what brought him and I together. My dad’s my best friend."

#30. Joshua Sanchez
Profession: Writer, director
Breakout Film: "FOUR"
Why We Profiled Him: Joshua Sanchez's debut feature film "FOUR," based on the play of the same name by the playwright Christopher Shinn, was one the big hits on the festival circuit this year, culminating in a Spirit Award nomination for its lead star Wendell Pierce ("The Wire"). In the drama, he stars as a middle-aged man, Joe, married to a woman, who goes on a date with a young man he met on the internet. Back at the Los Angeles Film Festival, the film's four stars jointly won the festival's acting award.
What He's Up To: He's starting work on his own feature-length screenplay, set in south Texas, inspired by his growing up near the border.

#31. Kaya Scodelario
Profession: Actor
Breakout Film: "Wuthering Heights"
Why We Profiled Her: Best known in the U.K. for her breakout turn as a troubled teen in the controversial hit series "Skins" (that spurred an MTV knockoff stateside), 20-year-old Kaya Scodelario made a transfixing transition to the big screen in Andrea Arnold's radical take on "Wuthering Heights." Although this doesn't mark her first film -- she had bit parts in "Moon" and "Clash of the Titans" -- her role as Cathy, the heroine of "Wuthering Heights," marks her biggest yet.
What She's Up To: She'll next be appearing in the Dakota Fanning-starring weepie "Now Is Good." But Scodelario told Indiewire that she's most excited her title role in "Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes," premiering at Sundance in January. In the film, Scodelario stars as a troubled young woman who takes a strange fascination to a new neighbor who resembles her dead mother. "That was me giving 150% of myself to a project," she said of shooting the drama. "I was in every single shot. I just loved every minute of it."

Courtesy of Filmmakers "Black Pond" directors Tom Kingsley (left) and Will Sharpe (right)
#32. and #33. Will Sharpe and Tom Kingsley

Profession: Writers, directors
Breakout Film: "Black Pond"
Why We Profiled Them: With their first feature, the oddball murder mystery "Black Pond," British directing duo Will Sharpe and Tom Kingsley are taking the UK by storm. The two (along with producer Sarah Brocklehurst) were nominated for the 2012 Outstanding Debut BAFTA this year for "Pond," alongside Ralph Fiennes ("Coriolanus"), Richard Ayoade ("Submarine"), Joe Cornish ("Attack the Block") and Paddy Considine ("Tyrannosaur"). Not bad company.
What They're Up To: They're almost done adapting Voltaire's classic novel "Candide." "The book is in itself a critique of novels," said Sharpe. "I guess the film is sort of sending up some stock devices and things that for some reason are acceptable in filmmaking [but] are in fact completely ridiculous." Their adaptation will be set in the present day like "Black Pond," but the similarities end there. "There are elements of it that are more fantastical and magical [than in 'Black Pond']," Sharpe said. "People die in it and come back to life."

#34. Omar Sy


Profession: Actor
Breakout Film: "The Intouchables"
Why We Profiled Him: French actor Omar Sy did the unthinkable earlier this year: he beat Jean Dujardin at his own game. Days before "The Artist" swept the Oscars and snagged Dujadin the statuette for best actor, Sy beat him in the same field at the 37th Cesar Awards, France's equivalent to the Academy Awards. The win may have come as a surprise to North Americans, who had yet to see Sy's film "The Intouchables," but to anyone in Europe, chances are they saw this coup coming. Sure, "The Artist" was an awards juggernaut at the time, but it didn't have "The Intouchables"' firepower at the European box office, where it grossed a staggering $281 million ($166 million in France alone). It opened this summer in North America and, next to"Amour," is the biggest competitor for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar at next year's ceremony.
What He's Up To: Sy wrapped filming Michel Gondry's latest, "Mood Indigo," in which he stars alongside two of France's biggest names, Audrey Tautou and Romain Duris.

#35. Alicia Vikander
Profession: Actor
Breakout Films: "A Royal Affair" and "Anna Karenina"
Why We Profiled Her: Already a star in her native Sweden, the gorgeous Alicia Vikander is best known for her role in the Swedish TV drama "Andra Avenyn." Earlier this year she turned heads in Berlin, where her period drama "A Royal Affair" had its premiere. She was one of the biggest breakouts at Toronto this year, thanks to her scene-stealing work in the aforementioned film and Joe Wright's "Anna Karenina" adaptation.
What She's Up To: Up next for the budding star is another period romp, albeit a supernatural one. In the 18th-century adventure story "The Seventh Son," Vikander will star opposite Julianne Moore, Jeff Bridges, Olivia Williams and Ben Barnes. The film is set to open October 18.

#36. Quvenzhané Wallis
Profession: Actor
Breakout Film: "Beasts of the Southern Wild"
Why We Profiled Her: Six-year old Quvenzhané Wallis gave a brutally honest and subtle performance in "Beasts," the debut feature from Benh Zeitlin that took both Sundance and Cannes by storm, winning the Grand Jury Prize at the former and two awards (the FIPRESCI prize and the Camera d'Or for best first feature) at the latter. An Oscar nomination seems likely; if so, she'd be the youngest actress ever to be nominated for a Best Actress Oscar.
What She's Up To: She's next set to appear in Steve McQueen's "Twelve Years a Slave" opposite Michael Fassbender and Brad Pitt.

#37. Benh Zeitlin
Profession: Writer, director
Breakout Film: "Beasts of the Southern Wild"
Why We Profiled Him: in her wrap-up of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, New York Times critic Manohla Dargis wrote that "Beasts" was one of the best films to play at the festival in two decades. No kidding. The film went on to win the Grand Jury Prize at the event after slaying the critics. In Cannes, where the film screened in the Un Certain Regard section, "Beasts" won the FIPRESCI award and the Camera d'Or for best first feature.
What He's Up To: Zeitlin told the Associated Press that his next effort will be "a Louisiana-made fable about a hidden ecosystem where the aging process is 'out of whack' and people can age quickly or very slowly."The writer/director plans to use the same team behind the camera and wants to be reunited with his cast from "Beasts."

This article is related to: Futures, Interviews





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