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On The Rise 2014: 12 Actors To Watch

On The Rise 2014: 12 Actors To Watch

In Hollywood, you can be on top of the world one minute, and then a public indiscretion, or a handful of box office disasters, or the simple fact of getting old, can each result in fewer and fewer calls (you can count on hearing from Millennium Entertainment no matter what). Bad news for the old guard, but good news for the many aspiring and talented performers looking to fight their way to billboards, bus shelters and the front few rows of the Academy Awards.

Every year brings an exciting influx of new talent, actors who come tearing out of nowhere and soon find themselves booked up the wazoo with work. As part of our ongoing On The Rise series (read about the cinematographers here and the composers here), we’re going in front of the camera and looking at some of the male actors set to break out in the next twelve months or so (their female counterparts will follow in a separate piece next week). Who will be joining our previous picks like Jack Reynor, David Oyelowo, Dan Stevens,  Tahar Rahim, Dane DeHaan, Domhnall Gleeson, Scoot McNairy and Joel Edgerton this time around? Check out our choices below and let us know who we should be paying attention to in the comments section. And here’s last year’s list in case you are curious.

Jack O’Connell
Already getting a quick mention on last year’s list, there was some debate as to whether to include Jack O’Connell this time out, because for many of us he’s already loomed too large this past year for this list. Then we realized that his major showcase films haven’t been released yet, and there’s a possibility that many may at this point still find it hard to put a face to the name. So by next February, he’ll seem like an overnight sensation, but O’Connell’s  been acting for a decade, starting out on U.K. TV show “The Bill” for a few episodes, before landing his first big-screen role as the fabulously named Pukey in Shane Meadows’ “This Is England.” Next up film-wise was a role again as a loutish youth in the Michael Fassbender-starring “Eden Lake.” He worked consistently in Brit movies thereafter, in films like “Harry Brown,” and playing football legend Bobby Charlton in “United,” but the real coup was scoring a role on U.K. TV phenomenon “Skins,” which appears to have been a breeding ground for 98% of new British talent. Aside from a small part in the “300” sequel earlier this year (of which he said to us in interview, “I was in front of a mirror for more time than in front of a camera”), the first opportunity you’ll get to really see him flex his muscles, literally and figuratively, will be with David Mackenzie’s astounding prison dramaStarred Up,” which comes out August 29th. Starring opposite Ben Mendelsohn and Rupert Friend, O’Connell is a snarling force of nature in the film, which would have catapulted him to the top of our watchlist. However, he has two other projects coming down the pike, the first being lead role in Angelina Jolie’s “Unbroken” (trailer here), which will be released around Christmas, and for which we’re certain there will be an Oscar campaign. And then to capitalize on whatever heat that campaign brings, early next year you’ll get to see the woozy, brilliant Belfast-set “‘71” from director Yann Demange which blew us away at this year’s Berlinale. Beyond that, O’Connell will appear in the Tom Stoppard-scripted “Tulip Fever” alongside Alicia Vikander, Christoph Waltz and Dane DeHaan, and was attached to the buzzed script “Section 6,” a period spy film about the formation of MI6, even before it got a director—it’s now going to be helmed by Joe Cornish. There are few enough sure things in this industry, but if you can find a bookie who’ll give you odds, put the farm on Jack O’Connell.

Jerrod Carmichael
Despite fierce competition from “22 Jump Street,” we’d still argue that “Neighbors” was the best studio comedy of the summer. And that’s in part to the depth of its comic ensemble: from familiar faces like Seth Rogen and Christopher Mintz-Plasse, to performers showing new aspects like Rose Byrne and Zac Efron, to newer faces like Hannibal Buress and Ike Barinholtz, pretty much everyone brought their A-game. But there was one actor with whom we were completely unfamiliar, and who despite relatively little screen time, made an enormous impression, and it turns out many think that he could be the next big thing in comedy. 26-year-old Jerrod Carmichael, a North Carolina narrative, moved to L.A. at the age of 18 to pursue a career in stand-up, and has been honing his act ever since, to the extent that he’s pretty much top of the tree now: he’s a remarkably assured and accomplished performer, with smart and progressive material and a low-key, entirely winning manner. His first proper non-stand-up gig was writing for Odd Future‘s sketch show “Loiter Squad,” followed by a recurring role on short-lived sitcom “Goodwin Games,” but it’s “Neighbors” that really pushed him into the spotlight. Carmichael played Garf, one of the more prominent non-Efron members of the frat, and while we imagine there’s plenty more on the cutting-room floor, what was left, particularly a killer scene between him and Hannibal Burress’ cop character, really showed that he’s clearly got a career in movies ahead of him. People have been paying attention: He’s already taped an hour-long stand-up special for HBOdirected by none other than Spike Lee, which will air in the fall, and NBC, after coming close to picking up a pilot presentation showcasing him, have already fasttracked another pilot written by and starring Carmichael. The Apatows and Stollers of the world are just as excited about him, from what we hear, so expect him to be inescapable within the next couple of years.

Ben Rosenfield
On the whole, “Boardwalk Empire” has been better at giving really meaty material to undersung character actors like Shea Whigham, Michael K. Williams and Bobby Cannavale than it has been at uncovering new faces. That said, it’s helped to give younger actors like Jack Huston and Charlie Cox major boosts, and hot on their footsteps is Ben Rosenfield. The 22-year-old, raised in Montclair, New Jersey by actress Kate Redway Rosenfield and Stephen Rosenfield, founder of the American Comedy Institute, made his professional acting debut as Carey Mulligan‘s brother in the off-Broadway adaptation of Ingmar Bergman‘s “Through A Glass Darkly” in 2011, which certainly feels a bit like being thrown in at the deep end. But Rosenfield swam, and he soon made an impressive screen appearance in 2012 as the title character in undervalued biopic “Greetings From Tim Buckley,” opposite Penn Badgley. It wasn’t a huge part (the film focuses more on Buckley’s son Jeff), but the actor nailed a tricky role, and when the part of Willie Thompson, Eli’s son and Nuckie’s nephew in “Boardwalk Empire,” was recast, Rosenfield landed the gig. Moving to center stage in season four, Willie wanted to get involved in the family business but is pushed to go to college, with tragic consequences, and Rosenfield proved a hugely valuable addition to the ensemble. And this looks to be just the start, as he’s returning for the fifth season, and the movies have come knocking again too. He starred alongside fellow bright young things Nicola Peltz and Gregg Sulkin in teen drama “Affluenza,” and alongside Anne Hathaway in Sundance rom-com “Song One,” but there’s bigger and better on the way as well. This fall, he’ll join Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain and Albert Brooks for J.C Chandor‘s much-anticipated “A Most Violent Year,” and has also wrapped the lead, alongside Taissa Farmiga, in the untitled new picture from Hannah Fidell, writer-director of the acclaimed “A Teacher.” You couldn’t ask for a better slate than that, really…

Andrew Scott
The first time we really noticed Andrew Scott front-and-center in any project was as Moriarty in BBC’s “Sherlock” opposite Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. It was so atypical and so unexpected, it seems he attracted the right kind of attention, because he started to crop up all over the place. Scott had been around for a good while before that as a stage actor, and won small parts in “Saving Private Ryan” and “Longitude” back in the last millennium. He had a lead role in loopy but little-seen single-season BBC comedy “My Life in Film” and a substantial supporting role as Col. William Smith in the handsome and huge HBO miniseries “John Adams.” But rescuing him from eternal “that guy!” status was his casting in “Sherlock,” which has undoubtedly alerted many more people to his talents. Since that he’s become a staple on British screens big and small—appearing in the great period drama show “The Hour” alongside Ben Whishaw, Romola Garai and Dominic West, and the Christopher Eccleston-starring “Blackout,” and was strong in otherwise middling miniseries “The Town.” But it’s over the last couple of years that things have really taken off for him, as he snagged a lead role in surprisingly successful (and surprisingly decent) Irish comedy “The Stag” aka “The Bachelor Weekend” and was one of the voices in the Tom Hardy “vehicle” (haha because it’s all set in a car, see?) “Locke.” But what really has us tipping him for even bigger things in future are a pair of films from Cannes, the first being Ken Loach’s disappointingly drearyJimmy’s Hall” in which Scott was the best quality by about a hundred miles despite having only a few scenes. And the second is the joyous, terrificPride” from Matthew Warchus in which he takes a lead with Dominic West again, Bill Nighy and Paddy Considine. October 2015 will see him alongside Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy in “Frankenstein,” and we think it can only be a matter of time before he takes a sort of Michael Sheen-style position as an actor who can straddle TV, film and the Atlantic Ocean, with ease.

Taron Egerton
If you end up winning a role that John Boyega, now the lead in “Star Wars: Episode VII,” and the hotly-tipped Jack O’Connell (see above) were both in contention for, you can be sure that people are gonna sit up and pay attention to you. That’s what happened to Taron Egerton: The other two equally fast-rising Brits were up for the lead role in Matthew Vaughn‘s upcoming spy actioner “Kingsman: The Secret Service” alongside Colin Firthbut it’s Egerton that won out, and he’s following it up with a diverse mix of gigs afterwards. The 25-year-old actor, who hails from North Wales, trained first at the hallowed National Youth Theater, then the even more prestigious RADA, from which he graduated in 2012. His first major gigs, alongside long-running TV detective show “Lewis,” were on stage: in the acclaimed National Theater production of “The Last Of The Haussmans,” and alongside Tom Sturridge in “No Quarter,” the third play by Polly Stenham (who’s writing Nicolas Winding Refn‘s next film). Earlier this year, he did an excellent job in the ensemble firefighting TV drama “The Smoke,” before landing the hotly-contested ‘Secret Service’ gig, and trailers and Comic-Con footage suggest that he’s got a cheekily charming screen presence that could take him far. Since that film wrapped, he’s shot the WWI drama “Testament Of Youth,” a potential Oscar sleeper, and will be Mad Teddy Smith in “Legend,” Brian Helgeland‘s film about the legendary and much feared gangster twins Ronnie and Reggie Kray, starring Tom Hardy in both roles.

André Holland
2013 was make-or-break for André Holland. The then 30-year-old actor saw his second shot at sitcom glory (after 2011’s “Friends With Benefits” for NBC), in the shape of a Josh Gad co-written White House family comedy “1600 Penn,” get cancelled after one season. But it may have been a blessing in disguise: having impressed as unbending reporter Wendell Smith in “42” opposite Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson, Holland was cast in a central role in Steven Soderbergh’s “The Knick.” Which we’ll get back to in a minute…but no one comes from nowhere, so where did Holland spring from? In fact, his first screen credit (he’s worked on and off in theater) was an episode of “Law & Order” back in 2006, and who among us hasn’t appeared in at least one episode of “Law & Order”? After such inauspicious beginnings, Holland went on to carve a regular career as a bit-part player in productions good (another baseball picture—Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden’s “Sugar,” Spike Lee’s undervalued “Miracle At St. Anna”) and bad (he played a character called DJ Jazzles in the horrible “Bride Wars”), before landing regular slots on those two aforementioned sitcoms. But “The Knick” will be his biggest showcase yet. He plays Dr. Algernon Edwards, the Harvard-educated surgeon foisted onto Clive Owen’s character as his assistant, and given that the most impressive thing about the Soderbergh show is its attention to its supporting characters and the social issues of the day, we expect his to be one of the most compelling arcs. And he’s going to be inescapable fairly soon on the big screen: Holland has a role in upcoming race issues family drama “Black and White” alongside Octavia Spencer, Kevin Costner and Anthony Mackie, and also in Ava du Vernay’s probable Oscar contenderSelma.” He’ll play pioneering American politician and friend of Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo), Andrew Jackson Young.

Jeremy Strong
Among the fresh faces and square-jawed potential leading men elsewhere on this list, we like to feature a couple of slightly more left-field picks—actors who might not be heading up a Young Adult franchise or a superhero movie anytime soon, but who we’ve been consistently impressed by as character players. And one such talent is Jeremy Strong, a Yale and RADA graduate and Steppenwolf Theater Company alum who’s been steadily climbing up the billing of various small- and big-screen projects since starting out with the lead in indie “Humboldt County” opposite Fairuza Balk and Peter Bogdanovich, back in 2008. Small parts in “The Happening” (don’t hold it against him), “The Messenger” and “Robot and Frank” followed, and with a nice air of symmetry, he landed the role of John Nicolay, private secretary to the President in Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” which of course starred Daniel Day-Lewis, for whom Strong himself served as an assistant back on “The Ballad of Jack and Rose.” He also appeared as a CIA analyst alongside Jessica Chastain in “Zero Dark Thirty” and has an occasionally recurring role on legal drama “The Good Wife.” Last year saw him take a key role in the ensemble assembled for Frank Darabont’s initially promising but ultimately disappointing “Mob City”—nonetheless, Strong was one of the show’s high points as a laconic member of the Mob Squad, and he also proved himself much better than the material as Lee Harvey Oswald in Kennedy assassination movie “Parkland.” But don’t fear if you still don’t recognize him—commit his face to memory now and you’ll be ahead of the curve as potentially his most exciting projects are still to come. Soon he’ll be seen in “The Judge” with Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall; and in Playlist favorite Oren Moverman’s next film “Time Out Of Mind” alongside Jena Malone and Richard Gere. He plays James Reeb, the pastor and Civil Rights activist who was beaten to death by segregationists in Alabama in 1965 in Ava du Vernay’s “Selma,” which is due out this Christmas, and in 2015 will be part of the ridiculously stacked cast of “Black Mass,” the Whitey Bulger biopic which stars Johnny Depp, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson, Juno Temple, Corey Stoll, Peter Sarsgaard, Joel Edgerton, Adam Scott, Kevin Bacon, Jesse Plemons and Julianne Nicholson, among others. So, yeah, it feels like they’ve cast that movie directly from the archives of the Playlist and the daydreams of our contributors, making it another surefire rung on the ladder for Strong.

Jonny Weston
Liam Neeson might have a very particular set of skills, skills which will only go so far: the veteran star got a new
lease on life with “Taken,” but has been consistently
reluctant to make sequels, with only a dump truck of money from Luc
and Fox persuading him into both “Taken 2” and next January’s
Taken 3.” But it’s very possible that the series could continue
past him, perhaps by handing off to heir apparent Jonny Weston. The 26-year-old South Carolina native moved to LA to study at USC, only to quit
school when he discovered acting. He first came to attention
back in 2012 with a small role in James Franco-featuring indie “About
” and the lead in Curtis Hanson‘s surfing picture “Chasing
.” Neither drew much of an audience, and neither did cult
horror flick “John Dies At The End,” in which he had a small role, but he
proved his mettle at SXSW this year.
Weston co-starred with Juliette Lewis in Jen McGowan‘s “Kelly &
,” about the relationship between an oversexed, wheelchair-bound
teenager and a suburban mom, and while the film’s not perfect, it
demonstrated that Weston is more than just a pretty face
. And he looks to
be delivering on that promise shortly, as he secured the lead in buzzy
Michael Bay-produced sci-fi “Project Almanac,” a time-travel answer to
Chronicle” that’s already winning good notices out of Comic-Con. He’s in next spring’s “Insurgent,” and perhaps most importantly, has joined the cast of “Taken
” in a major role, playing the beau of Maggie Grace‘s
perpetually-kidnapped Kim, with a potential role in EDM drama “We Are
Your Friends
” alongside Zac Efron.

David Gyasi
With actors like Chiwetel Ejiofor, Idris Elba, David Oyelowo, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, David Harewood and more finding stardom in the U.S. after frustrations at home, U.K. writers have been puzzling over why Britain can’t hold on to its best black actors. The answer, of course, is that no one writes them any good parts, and though one can only hope this state of affairs changes, the latest to head across the Atlantic is David Gyasi, who’s netted a key role in Christopher Nolan‘s latest. 34-year-old Gyasi, a native of Fulham who trained at Middlesex University, has been acting for over a decade, traversing the familiar route of appearances in long-running shows like “Casualty” and “Doctors” at first, while also appearing in regional stage work. But he stood out alongside Hugh Dancy and John Hurt in 2005’s Rwanda-set drama “Shooting Dogs,” and bigger and better roles followed, including a major role in the stage production of “War Horse” (in the role taken onscreen by Benedict Cumberbatch). But his career really kicked off in 2012: he began with the year with a small part in George Lucas‘ passion project “Red Tails” before impressing massively in the undervalued, era-spanning BBC drama “White Heat,” as one of a group of university flatmates whose number also included Sam Claflin (“Catching Fire“), Reece Ritchie (“The Lovely Bones‘) and MyAnna Buring (“Kill List“). Late that year, he also stood out in another star-studded ensemble, the Wachowskis‘ “Cloud Atlas,’ while in between, also managed to fit in an episode of “Doctor Who,” and a bit part as “Skinny Prisoner” in “The Dark Knight Rises.” Christopher Nolan, the director of the latter, must have been impressed by what he saw on set, because Gyasi has reunited with the A-list filmmaker to play a key role in his upcoming “Interstellar,” as one of the astronauts who join Matthew McConaughey on his epic mission (you can see snippets of him in the trailer). Last time Nolan promoted from within, he turned Tom Hardy and Joseph Gordon-Levitt into movie stars. Will he manage the same again with Gyasi?

Luke Bracey
With actors like Channing Tatum and Dwayne Johnson drawing crowds to some movies, but failing to do so with others (let’s not forget “White House Down” or the recent “Hercules“), the search for the next great action hero continues apace. But being picked to literally fill the shoes of an older action legend is a good way to get noticed, so it could be that Luke Bracey has the right stuff. The 25-year-old Australian, like so many of his countrymen, got his start on long-running soap “Home & Away,” which gave key early boosts to Heath Ledger, Chris Hemsworth, Guy Pearce, Jason Clarke, Naomi Watts, Isla Fisher and Melissa George. This brought him to the attention of Hollywood casting directors who cast him as a love interest in “Monte Carlo,” and as Joseph Gordon-Levitt‘s replacement as Cobra Commander in “G.I. Joe: Retaliation.” 2013 saw him cast as the lead in a McG-directed teen soap spin on “Romeo & Juliet” called “Westside,” which wasn’t picked up to series, but that might be for the best, as the movies came calling. He’ll be busy this fall, facing off against Pierce Brosnan as the co-lead in spy actioner “November Man” and will be playing the younger version of James Marsden in Nicholas Sparks-derived weepie “The Best Of Me.” Taking his shirt off near some water in a Sparks picture helped turn Ryan Gosling into a superstar, but if that somehow doesn’t work, Bracey has a pretty major back-up: he’s taking over from Keanu Reeves as Johnny Utah in next summer’s remake of “Point Break,” which Warner Bros. just moved to the height of summer, suggesting they’re feeling pretty confident about it. We can be a little wary of someone like Bracey: he could just turn out to be Sam Worthington 2.0. But Hollywood casting directors certainly seem to be high on the guy, so he’s certainly one to keep an eye on.

Jamie Dornan
With a role in one of next year’s most hotly anticipated films, Jamie Dornan could be a star in the making. The 32-year-old Northern Irish actor (distantly related to 1940s star Greer Garson) started off as a model for the likes of Calvin Klein while simultaneously playing in folk band Sons Of Jim, but despite making a brief acting debut in Sofia Coppola‘s “Marie Antoinette,” he was for years best known as Keira Knightley‘s swain. Better things for his career seemed to be on the way when he was cast as the Sheriff (and former Huntsman) in hit ABC series “Once Upon A Time,” but he was killed off after only a handful of episodes in a shock plot twist. Third time was the charm though, and last year Dornan appeared opposite Gillian Anderson in “The Fall,” a critically acclaimed BBC thriller series in which, cast firmly against type, he played the ordinary suburban father who’s secretly a bitterly misogynist serial killer, his model looks making him almost incongruous yet effective in the part. It put Dornan on the map, and when Charlie Hunnam dropped out of Sam Taylor-Wood‘s upcoming adaptation of erotic literary blockbuster “50 Shades Of Grey,” Dornan landed the much-talked-about role of billionaire/bondage enthusiast Christian Grey. The part has the potential to make him a lust object for billions, but Dornan actually has the acting chops to back it up, impressing in the recent Channel 4 drama “New Worlds” opposite Alice Englert. On the way, he’ll appear in transatlantic romance “Flying Home,” a supporting gig in the Bradley Cooper-starring untitled chef-themed movie, a second season of “The Fall,” and “50 Shades Of Grey” hitting next Valentine’s Day. After that, the world should be his oyster, and he’s already started lining up projects, with an action movie at home in Ireland called “The Siege Of Jadotville,” and some rumors that he might take the lead in Guy Ritchie‘s “King Arthur.

Ben Schnetzer
Thanks to a borderline-Aspergers level of recall for
British character actors common to Playlist contributors, most of the faces from
the excellent ensemble in Cannes crowd-pleaser “
Pride were familiar to
us. Bar one: the young actor playing Northern Irish firebrand activist
Mark, one of the film’s most central figures. So we were positively
shocked, not least because of how entirely convincing he was, to
discover that the actor playing the part was (gasp!) an American, 24-year-old Ben Schnetzer. The son of two actors, Schnetzer racked up a major gig while
barely out of his teens alongside Sam Neill on short-lived ABC mystery
show “Happy Town,” before heading over to London to study at the
prestigious Guildhall School Of Music and Drama. Since graduating last
year, he hasn’t skipped a beat: he played the major role
of Jewish boy Max in last year’s “The Book Thief.” But he made a much
greater impression in “Pride” in a tricky role: Mark is the archetypal
activist, sincere, fierce and humorless. But Schnetzer
makes him likable, and he stands as the fiery
center of integrity of the film. He stayed on the other side of the pond for his next
project, joining a cast of fellow rising stars like Sam Claflin,
Douglas Booth, Max Irons, Holliday Grainger, Jessica Brown Findlay, Sam
and Olly Alexander in Lone Scherfig‘s “The Riot Club,” an
adaptation of stage hit “Posh,” which will be on the festival circuit
this fall. He returned Stateside for the lead role in
Punk’s Dead,” the belated sequel to cult hit “SLC Punk,” as Ross, the
son of Michael A. Goorjian‘s character Heroin Bob. And there’s
blockbuster exposure on the way, with a key role in Duncan Jones
Warcraft” in 2016, while he’ll be appearing on stage with Holly Hunter
and Bill Pullman in David Rabe’s “Sticks And Bones” this fall.

Honorable Mentions: There are a few TV figures who could step up in the next few years, including “Game Of Thrones” actors Richard Madden, Pedro Pascal, Joe Dempsie (who has the lead in sequel “Monsters: Dark Continent“) and Thomas Brodie-Sangster (who’ll next be seen in “The Maze Runner“). There’s also “Rectify” actor Aden Young, “Boardwalk Empire” graduate Jack Huston, “Sleepy Hollow” star Tom Mison, “The Newsroom” player Thomas Sadoski (shortly to be seen in “Wild“), Matthew Rhys of “The Americans,” “Homeland” star Rupert Friend, Thomas Middleditch of “Silicon Valley,” Chris Geere and Aya Cash from “You’re The Worst,” and the boys from “Workaholics,” who are picking up big movies left right and center.

Also worth keeping an eye on: “The Hundred Foot-Journey” actor Manish Dayal, Scott Haze of “Child Of God,” “Chronicle” and “Unbroken” actor Alex Russell, Travis Fimmel, who has the lead in ‘Warcraft,” non-tree “Guardians” breakout Dave Bautista, Jake Lacy of “Obvious Child,” Ray Fisher, who’s playing “Cyborg” in “Batman V. Superman,” Tom Sturridge, soon to be seen in “Far From The Madding Crowd,” “Blue Ruin” star Macon Blair, and Olly Alexander from “Game Of Thrones” and “Posh.” And some bitter disagreement ensued at the Playlist over two performers in particular, Matthias Schoenaerts and Chadwick Boseman. The pair fell between the cracks in previous years, and both have big projects either on the way or in theaters, but it was ultimately decided that both were too well-known and well-established at this stage to make a list like this one. Agree? Disagree? Have some more names to add? Let us know below, and check back next week for our corresponding list for the actresses. — Oliver Lyttelton, Jessica Kiang

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