Logan Miller, “Take Me to the River” and “The Stanford Prison Experiment”
Despite being only in his teens, actor Logan Miller has already done more than most actors twice his age. Credits include small roles in “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” opposite Matthew McConaughey and Sofia Coppola’s “The Bling Ring,” and in the TV shows “Grimm” and “Children’s Hospital.” He also has indie cred, having worked with Kelly Reichardt on her last film, “Night Moves.” He’s now finally poised to break out in a bigger way via two Sundance entries with a lot of buzz surrounding them. First up is Matt Sobel’s NEXT entry “Take Me to the River,” in which Miller plays a gay teenager forced to retreat back into the closet when goes to visit his ultra-conservative extended family. He has a smaller part in “The Stanford Prison Experiment,” his other film playing at the festival, but his supporting company is stellar. Co-starring opposite him in Kyle Patrick Alvarez’s follow-up to “C.O.G.” are Ezra Miller, Billy Crudup and Tye Sheridan. We’re confident that Miller has what it takes to stand out amongst such a solid ensemble.
Anya Taylor-Joy, “The Witch”
Model Anya Taylor-Joy has close to no acting credits to her name. The fact that she managed to bag the lead role in Robert Egger’s buzzed-about period horror film “The Witch,” with so little experience, is mighty impressive. Clearly the filmmaker saw raw potential in the blond beauty to deliver. In “The Witch,” Taylor-Joy plays Thomasin, the teenage daughter of a couple who leads a devout Christian life near the woods in 1630. When their newborn son mysteriously vanishes under her watch, Thomasin’s parents start to question whether their daughter practices witchcraft. Witch or not, the role sounds like a showstopper for this newcomer.
Christopher Abbott, “James White”
Ex-“Girls” star Christopher Abbott is no stranger to Sundance, having appeared in “Martha Marcy May Marlene” and “Hello I Must Be Going.” But he’s never come to the festival in support of a role as big and juicy as the one has has in the NEXT entry drama “James White.” In the drama, directed by “Martha Marcy” producer Josh Mond, Abbott is rumored to give a deeply felt performance as a young New Yorker struggling to keep his self-destructive behavior in check shortly after learning that his mother (played by Cynthia Nixon) is losing her battle with cancer. Abbott’s been a fascinating screen presence for some years now (he made a strong impression in a bit role in his most recent thriller, “A Most Violent Year”), but from the sounds of it, “James White” marks an important transition for the actor to something more substantial.
Melissa Rauch, “The Bronze”
Anyone who watches (and there are millions of you) CBS’s “The Big Bang Theory” know actress Melissa Rauch as series regular Bernadette Rostenkowsi. Not only does she play the lead role in Sundance opener “The Bronze,” but she also wrote and executive produced the Duplass brothers production. Talk about a triple threat. In the comedy, Rauch plays a foul-mouthed former gymnastics bronze medalist who feels threatened as a local celebrity when a new young athlete arrives in town. The comedy is one of the most buzzed-about titles in this year’s lineup, with Rauch leading the pack as a talent to watch. Here’s hoping she’s deserving of gold and not bronze for her potentially star-making performance.
Bel Powley, “The Diary of a Teenage Girl”
British actress Bel Powley seemingly came out of nowhere a few months back to nab a coveted part alongside Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult in Drake Doremus’ futuristic love story “Equals” (slated for release sometime this year). Before that film opens, Sundance audiences will be able to see what all the fuss is about when “The Diary of a Teenage Girl” premieres. In the coming-of-age drama, from first-time director Marielle Heller, Powley stars as a teen artist living in 1970s San Francisco who enters into an affair with her mother’s attractive boyfriend. Kristen Wiig stars as her mother and Alexander Skarsgard co-stars as the boyfriend. If she can hold her own opposite those two, Powley has a very bright future ahead of her.
Tony Revolori, “Dope” and “Umrika”
Already SAG nominated for his ensemble work in Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” Tony Revolori comes to Sundance this year with more distinction than most of the actors on this list. Still, we bet you’re unfamiliar with his name. That could change once this year’s edition of Sundance wraps. The actor, who killed it opposite Ralph Fiennes in “Budapest,” appears in two very different project at the festival that look to showcase his diverse range. In the 90s-set coming-of-age hip-hop drama “Dope,” Revolori plays a hip-hop fan growing up in The Bottoms, one of Inglewood’s tougher neighborhoods. Then “Umrika” sees the actor completely switch gears for an Indian film, co-starring “Life of Pi” breakout Suraj Sharma.
Jacqueline Kim, “Advantageous”
Jacqueline Kim made her name as the first Korean-American actress to be nominated for a Spirit Award for her title role in the 2002 drama “Charlotte Sometimes.” Still, despite that distinction, the actress’ star hasn’t risen since her initial breakthrough. Following a brief appearance in the web series “Futurestates,” Kim is finally back on the big screen in Jennifer Phang’s anticipated U.S. Narrative contender “Advantageous,” which Kim co-wrote. In the mind-bender set in the near future, Kim plays Gwen Koah, a woman who works as a spokesperson for a company that offers a radical new technology allowing people to overcome their natural disadvantages and begin life anew. What that all means, we’re not so sure. We’re just excited to see Kim back in a project that’s sure to put her in the spotlight.
Thomas Mann and RJ Cyler, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”
Out of this pair, Thomas Mann is probably better known. The young actor has built up an impressive career over the past few years, appearing in “It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” “Project X” and “Beautiful Creatures.” On top of “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” he also appears in “The Stanford Prison Experiment” at Sundance this year. RJ Cyler, on the other hand, has only one other credit to his name. But in Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s buzzed-about comedy, the pair star as best friends whose lives are forever changed when they befriend a leukemia-stricken classmate (“Bates Motel” star Olivia Cooke). If the two actors have the kinetic chemistry we hope they do, the sky’s the limit for these two young actors.
Avan Jogia, “I Am Michael” and “Ten Thousand Saints”
Canadian actor Avan Jogia landed his first acting role on a TV movie drama directed by Polish Oscar nominee Agnieszka Holland. He’s followed that up with a slew of other less prestigious TV movies, but is making a big bid for the big screen at Sundance this year with two anticipated features: “I Am Michael” and “Ten Thousand Saints.” In “I Am Michael,” Jogia stars alongside James Franco and Zachary Quinto in a real life story about a gay activist who rejected his homosexuality to become a Christian pastor. “Ten Thousand Saints” sees Jogia act opposite a starry cast that includes Ethan Hawke and Hailee Steinfeld. Later this year he will also have the starring role in Spike’s high profile miniseries, “Tut,” co-starring Sir Ben Kingsley.