It may be a fickle goal – corrupting, even – but there’s no question that for the vast majority of actors the top of the Hollywood tree is the place to be.
And so, as we roll into 2012, and a fresh calendar of veritable quality mixed liberally with garbage and chewing gum for the eyes, we’ll see new gems unearthed, giants fall and movie stars made. Using the power of prediction, and Wall Street style logical growth trajectory, here are six actors likely to be Kings and Queens of Cinema by this time next year. Watch this space.
6. Chris Hemsworth
Harshly described by some as Sam Worthington Mk. II, Aussie heartthrob Hemsworth has already cemented himself firmly in Hollywood minds as the dynamic new wave superhero Thor, having worked his way from soap operas to supporting roles in the likes of Star Trek and A Perfect Getaway, all the way to leading man status in big budget action spectaculars. While he has the brawn and looks of Worthington, Hemsworth clearly possesses superior acting chops.
In 2012 he will be the big star in the perhaps ill-advised remake of Red Dawn, reprise his role as Thor in the hotly anticipated The Avengers, and take up a somber, serious role as Formula 1 driver James Hunt in Ron Howard’s Rush, a biopic of the ill-fated Niki Lauda.
Already commanding one segment of the Marvel franchise, it’s arguable that Hemsworth has a long fall or possibly serious typecasting ahead of him. But with serious dramatic roles at the behest of respected Directors coming in, and a status as a thinking man’s action hero, it will take some doing to stop the Melbourne born lad being the poster boy for numerous blockbusters for some time.
5. Emma Stone
Another with a quick career curve hurtling north, Emma Stone’s previous specialty was in comedy, starting with surprise hit Superbad, growing with cult classic Zombieland and earning a breakthrough in Easy A, has seen her come to the attention of the big hitters, and last year’s The Help quickly expanded this growth into drama.
As well as getting worldwide exposure as Spiderman’s darling Gwen Stacy in The Amazing Spider Man, a sure fire way to make her name recognizable, she will be in the company of the big boys for crime thriller The Gangster Squad, with a cast including Sean Penn and Josh Brolin.
Owning a bewitching ‘cute’ factor reminiscent of a young Christina Ricci, and funnybones to match her charm and genuine talent, it is clear that she has a niche carved out for herself. If she picks up a couple of serious roles, and delivers in those parts, Stone is surely destined for household name status.
4. Rooney Mara
The mere mention of Rooney Mara instantly concocts the phrase ‘Fincher Factor’. After a pretty anonymous early career in teen sensibility flicks such as Youth in Revolt and Tanner Hall, Mara earned some interest with Fincher’s The Social Network. So impressed was the director that he instantly entrusted her with the role of Lisbeth Salander, made iconic by Noomi Rapace, in December’s remake of the Swedish sleeper hit. Two hits under the same master and Mara was an overnight star.
As of yet, her schedule for this year seems scarce, with a reported drama based on the killing of Osama Bin Laden the only project in the works. But as The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo proved to be a critical hit, with much acclaim dished Mara’s way, it’s unlikely she will be out of the limelight for long.
Doubtlessly attractive as an actress, Mara proved with Dragon Tattoo that is she is willing to get down and dirty for a role, a hugely advantageous move at an early stage in her career. Add that to a subtle, earthy talent and you have the makings of a very sought after young actress, and a name on everyone’s lips.
3. Tom Hardy
It’s odd to mention Hardy as somebody on the rise, since he’s been an actor performing in big pictures home and abroad for more than ten years, albeit with far less success than he is garnering now. One of a large crop of talent to emerge from the cast of Band of Brothers, the Brit may not have cracked the big time in Black Hawk Down or Star Trek: Nemesis, but on the back of a supercharged 2010/11 back catalogue, he is scheduled to explode into life this year.
While his best performance was 2008’s Bronson, it was two years later with Inception that Hardy caught the eye, and last year built on it with Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Warrior, hugely diverse roles that packed punch, no pun intended. And while This Means War may look suspect at first glance, it is this summer’s The Dark Knight Rises which is sure to make Hardy a colossus. Considering that John Hillcoat’s quiet historical drama Wettest Country follows, versatility is the name of the game.
Already on many the list of favorite actors for many, Hardy’s charisma and intensity earns job offers and admirers at every turn, seemingly in most genres. He currently looks as unstoppable as his super-villain Bane.
2. Ryan Gosling
Before simmering on screen in last year’s standout Drive, Ryan Gosling was enjoy something of an acting renaissance. Though once a heartthrob for teenage girls, fodder for romantic melodramas, the Canadian actor has slowly clawed his way into more respectable, serious roles. With the likes of Half Nelson and Lars and the Real Girl he proved his abilities, before coming to life with Blue Valentine, and then Nicolas Winding Refn’s thriller, a pick of the year for many, came along and he delivered the deeply memorable, star making turn.
This year will see him in thrillers The Place Beyond the Pines and Only God Forgives, along with the hugely promising period crime drama The Gangster Squad, co-starring Emma Stone. Hardly a trio of sure-fire hits, but in Gosling’s current form it’s hard to see him missing a beat.
His prior career seems based on slow, patient progression to get away from cheaper, forgettable parts in half rate pictures. A three year hiatus after Lars in particular raised eyebrows. It now seems that, invigorated and inspired, Gosling is about to graduate to full blown big name.
1. Jessica Chastain
Last year’s out of nowhere sleeper star, Jessica Chastain was certainly busy, building in twelve months a solid back catalogue that most actors would be delighted to achieve in five years. Though her anticipated big break in The Debt was lost amidst release date chaos, she quickly dodged a potential career landmine, bagging parts in the critically acclaimed Take Shelter, shining in Ralph Fiennes’s directorial debut Coriolanus, and wowing the eyes and hearts of viewers of Terrence Malick’s deeply philosophical The Tree of Life.
In 2012, Chastain is due to hook up with Malick again with another, as yet unnamed project, and will work with John Hillcoat for the aforementioned Wettest Country, co-starring Hardy and Guy Pearce. There’s also a biopic of author C. K. Williams and drama/potential horror flick Mama for her to stretch herself with.
One wonders whether this daughter of California will ever stop, at least before she earns supernova star status, and it seems likely that the answer is a resounding no. Possessing the sort of elegant grace rarely seen in modern cinema, a fragility and tempered beauty, it is unlikely the roles will cease rolling in for her.