By Taylor Lindsay | Indiewire January 15, 2014 at 10:30AM
Brit Marling, Elizabeth Olsen, Edward Burns, Terrence Howard and Gabourey Sidibe all came to Park City as relative unknowns and emerged as highly sought-after talents. With the 2014 edition of the Sundance Film Festival launching tomorrow, the springboard is loaded. Here's Indiewire's picks for the 10 actors to watch this year.
Abdikani Muktar ("Fishing Without Nets")
Why You May Know Him: Chances are you don't. Muktar starred in "Fishing Without Nets" when it was a little-known short film, released in Kenya in 2012. It went on to win the Grand Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking at Sundance in 2012. It was next seen in 2013 at the War on Screen International Film Festival in France.
What Sundance Could Mean for Him: The original short film was shot in East Africa using Somali non-actors -- if the film is a hit, Muktar will be considered a non-actor no more. Given that "Captain Phillips" gave a huge boost to Somalian Barkhad Abdi (who starred as the eerily threatening pirate leader), this story told from pirates' perspectives might do something similar for Muktar -- you never know.
What's Next: Nothing charted, but we'll see after Sundance.
Astrid Berges-Frisbey ("I Origins")
Why You May Know Her: The trilingual stunner has starred in a series of French films since 2008, but you probably know her from "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" (2011) as Syrena the mermaid. Shortly after in 2012, she appeared in "The Sex of the Angels" (originally "El Sexo de los Angeles") as the lead's girlfriend.
What Sundance Could Mean for Her: After "Pirates," Berges-Frisbey was in one French and one Spanish film -- this is her second on-screen English role. "I Origins" should be a seamless success for her, as it looks like she's used to playing the love interest. She's also no stranger to the drama genre, and given that this film is a drama sci-fi about a molecular biologist, her presence promises to add a satisfying romantic dimension. America will likely fall in love -- there's always a demand for lithe and sultry.
What's Next? There's talk of the mermaid returning for a sort of reprisal role in "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" in 2016. But that's a long way off -- expect to see her surfacing all over the world in the meantime.
Grigoriy Dobrygin ("A Most Wanted Man")
Why You May Know Him: This Russian actor is the stuff of Youtube fangirl montages. The roguish 27-year-old stars in a series of Russian action films filled with cars, guns, and grisly extremities. At the Berlin International Film Festival in 2010, he won an award for Best Actor for his role in "How I Ended This Summer" ("Kak ya provel etim letom"). He was last seen in 2012 when he starred in "Atomnyy Ivan," an uncharacteristic Russian Romance flick (probably a stab at CV diversity here). But he's by no means finished with the thriller genre.
What Sundance Could Mean for Him: This is a huge charge forward for Dobrygin. In his first English thriller, he stars in "A Most Wanted Man" as the most wanted man, alongside Rachel McAdams, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Robin Wright. From author John le Carre of "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, " Hoffman and crew race to uncover Dobrygin's identity: victim, villain, extremist, or thief? Regardless of which, it's probably his big breakout role.
What's Next? We'll see more of Dobrygin later this year in adventure-thriller "Black Sea" alongside Jude Law. He also stars in currently-filming "Territoriya," another Russian drama.
Meredith Hagner ("Hits")
Why You May Know Her: She's got a list of lovable roles. Hagner was most notably in Whit Stillman's adorkable "Damsels in Distress" with Greta Gerwig and "Going the Distance" (in that hilarious tanning salon scene with Justin Long). She's frequently seen in recurring roles in TBS comedy "Men at Work," Fx's "Lights Out," and USA's "Royal Pains" and recently guested in an episode of "The Following" with Kevin Bacon.
What Sundance Could Mean for Her: Hagner has been brushing all the right soldiers and will probably feel familiar to us in "Hits," a dark comedy about a paranoid municipal worker the oddities involved in the struggle between "the man" and the little man. Staring alongside Julia Stiles and Michael Cera seems like a natural progression after her myriad of roles in comedies and dramas. She's already on a steady upward progression, and "Hits" might be that last needed nudge to stardom.
What's Next: Look for Hagner in "We'll Never Leave Paris" (a rom com with Zachary Quinto and Maggie Grace), "Any Tom, Dick, or Harry" (comedy with Leighton Meester) and "Creative Control" (a drama in the works), all coming later in 2014.
Josh Wiggins ("Hellion")
Why You May Know Him: This 13-year-old from Houston is making his debut at Sundance in his first professional acting role. His previous experience includes middle school theater, lip syncing, and YouTube videos. His leap to the screen puts him in the role of Aaron Paul's onscreen son, the titular hellion. Which is a little funny actually, because according to him he was "always kind of a goody two-shoes in school" (read a quick interview here).
What Sundance Could Mean for Him: A lot. His fiery performance as a motocross and heavy metal obsessed angry-young-man is the focal point of "Hellion"'s plot. When his reckless behavior forces the CPS to place his little brother with his aunt, Jacob and his father struggle to rebuild their motherless family and bring Wes home. For his first role, it's a fierce one. There will probably be a lot more opportunities coming his way if "Hellion" hits hard.
What's Next? No buzz, but no rush.
Desiree Akhavan ("Appropriate Behavior")
Why You May Know Her: In 2011, Akhavan crafted a short "Portlandia"-esque web series called "The Slope," a Brooklyn-based chronicle of a lesbian couple. Both her and copilot/costar Ingrid Jungermann generated lots of buzz that year, and after the show concluded with the characters' separation, Jungermann created a spin-off called "F to 7th." Now Akhavan is starring in her own show-inspired feature film "Appropriate Behavior," which she wrote and directed herself.
What Sundance Could Mean for Her: She's obviously got those gritty-realistic acting chops, but "Appropriate Behavior" is a chance for her to showcase her writing ability on a bigger platform. The film focuses on the post-breakup life of Shirin, a recently-single bisexual girl in a complex, perfect Persian family. Viewers who are charmed by Shirin and her rebellious escapades will almost definitely discover "The Slope" (there's a link to the show from the film's website). We're braced for an increase in demand and explosive breakout.
What's Next? Nothing official yet.
Charlie Tahan ("Love Is Strange")
Why You May Know Him (or at least his voice): Since he was 8 years old, Charlie has been in a slew of dramas including "Charlie St. Cloud," "I Am Legend," "Blue Jasmine" and in four episodes of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." He was also the boyish voice of Victor Frankenstein in the animated "Frankenweenie."
What Sundance Could Mean for Him: The now 15-year-old fills (and spills over) a supporting role as Marisa Tomei's temperamental teen son in "Love Is Strange." Showcasing a range of emotions and angst, Tahan is finally bursting into an adolescent role. The film centers on Ben and George, a couple of newlyweds forced by a financial crisis to live separately in New York. If it's a hit at Sundance, Tahan is set to keep with his steady progression upwards and will probably make a few of those super-successful-before-age-18 lists.
What's Next? Look for Tahan this year in "Wayward Pines," a TV series in the vein of "Twin Peaks" directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Tahan will play Ben Burke, a lead role.
Meron Getnet ("Difret")
Why You May Know Her: Starring in the first Ethiopian film to ever premiere at Sundance, Meron Getnet is a renown actress, poet, and playwright in Ethiopia. She was one of four Ethiopians chosen to attend President Obama's African Youth Leaders Forum in DC. She is a feature a popular TV drama and is already a star in her country. And she's rising in America with her debut at Sundance in a film written and directed by Zeresenay Berhane Mehari and executively produced by Angelina Jolie.
What Sundance Could Mean for Her: A breakout performance in the US. "Difret" is the story of a 14-year-old girl caught up in a country's staggering progression toward equal rights. When she acts in self-defense, an aspiring young lawyer (Getnet) risks her career to represent the child and save her life. Based on real events, the World Dramatic film promises a daring and moving story. And hopefully a new spotlight for Getnet.
What's Next? Getnet is currently working on her Masters on development and the arts at Addis Abada University. There's nothing official in the works for more feature film performance, but this might be the first of many (or at least a couple) more.
Cameron Monaghan ("Jamie Marks is Dead")
Why You May Know Him: The 20-year-old is best known for his portrayal of Ian Gallagher in Showtime's "Shameless," with 39 episodes and counting. Before it got off the ground, Monaghan dabbled in shows like "Rizzoli & Isles," "NCIS," and "Fringe." Also pre-"Shamless" was "Corey and Lucas for the Win," in which he played Corey for all six episodes.
What Sundance Could Mean for Him: After a lot of TV time, "Jamie Marks is Dead" marks a burst of activity in film work for Monaghan (see below -- this is the first of many). After his death, the ghost of high schooler Jamie Marks is as lonely as he was during life, and he visits his classmate Adam McCormick in a search for love and friendship. Monaghan stars as Adam in a refreshingly moving role. Filmmaker Carter Smith in an interview (watch it here) said that a big hurdle for him was finding actors (references to Monaghan and costar Noah Silver) who "could really understand what wasn't on the page and bring that to life - that was huge."
What's Next? A lot. Monoghan will star in books-to-movies "The Giver" as Asher, and in "Vampire Academy" as Mason Ashford (his looks and that role? Seamless). Other upcoming features for him include "Mall," "All Hail the Squash Blossom Queen," and future episodes of "Shameless."
Boyd Holbrook ("The Skeleton Twins," "Little Accidents")
Why You May Know Him: If you saw "The Magic of Bell Isle," you might recognize Holbrook as the cowboy-hat-wearing blonde. That was 2012, and the next year he popped up in everything from "The Host" (as Kyle) to "Behind the Candelabra" (as Cary James) to "Out of the Furnace" (as Tattooed Guy, according to IMDB). At Sundance this year, "The Skeleton Twins" casts him next to Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, and Luke Wilson.
What Sundance Could Mean for Him: This looks like a great kickstart into big-name casts. "The Skeleton Twins" features estranged siblings Maggie and Milo (Wiig and Hader), as they reunite after near-death experiences and try to patch things up. These two are masters at quirk and melancholy, and with Wilson on board and Craig Johnson directing, the ensemble promises great mood and emotional variety. Holbrook is poised to succeed.
What's Next? More variety! Holbrook is in "Little Accidents" with Elizabeth Banks, which will premiere at Sundance. Also coming soon is"A Walk Among the Tombstones" with Liam Neeson, and "Gone Girl" with Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike.