Each year brings a host of new faces — or even faces you’ve seen before but never recognized their appeal. In the next 12 months, we will develop a new list of actors who define what’s new and exciting about the movies. Here are eight people we predict will enjoy a breakout year, possibly with awards season prospects.
Where she’s been: After wrangling a handful of awards for playing George Clooney’s level-headed (yet not, thankfully, merely precocious) daughter in “The Descendants,” the twentysomething brought genuine sincerity to her role as a wallflower finding first, questionable love in the sharp high school dramedy “The Spectacular Now.”
Where she’s going: She’s the new “It” girl. She has the YA sci-fi pic “Divergent,” where she battles no less than Kate Winslet, out in March; plus another romance, “The Fault in Our Stars,” in which she’s a cancer patient who falls for a paraplegic former basketball player. Most exciting is “White Bird in a Blizzard,” a Sundance-bound indie where she loses her marbles after losing her mother (Eva Green), directed by New Queer Cinema legend Gregg Araki (“Mysterious Skin”).
Where she’s been: The English actress turned heads as a youngster whose love was ruined by immigration laws in “Like Crazy.” But it was her fierce and introspective performance as Nelly Ternan, Charles Dickens’ secret mistress, in “The Invisible Woman” that proved she was capable of greatness.
Where she’s going: She has a small but key role in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” But she should have much more room to shine as third-billed in “True Story,” about a journalist (Jonah Hill) who discovers a wanted murderer has been falsely living under his name. And next year she plays Stephen Hawking’s wife, opposite Eddie Redmayne.
Where she’s been: Diaz has been around for awhile, including stealing chunks of “Raising Victor Vargas,” “Hamlet 2” and “Be Kind Rewind.” But she deservedly received even more attention than she’s used to last year as Oscar Grant III’s girlfriend in “Fruitvale Station.”
Where she’s going: She’s in an Adam Sandler movie! Actually, it’s one of Sandler’s periodic good (or at least good-intentioned) ones. She’s one of the stars of “The Cobbler,” a dramedy-fantasy written and directed by Thomas McCarthy (“The Station Agent,” “The Visitor,” “Win Win”).
Where’s she’s been: Another young English thespian — and one with an even better name than Felicity Jones — Imogen Poots has held her own with older actors in “Solitary Man,” “A Late Quartet” and “The Look of Love.” She’s also done the Hollywood ingenue thing already, cropping up as the eventually possessed love interest in the remake of “Fright Night.”
Where she’s going: She has roles in “That Awkward Moment,” with Zac Efron, Michael B. Jordan and Miles Teller, plus the Aaron Paul vehicle “Need for Speed.” But the one we’re excited for is as a key member of the massive ensemble in Peter Bogdanovich’s comeback film, “Squirrels to the Nuts,” along with Jennifer Aniston, Owen Wilson and Kathryn Hahn, another actress who should be everywhere. She’s also listed in the giant cast for Terrence Malick’s “Knight of Cups” — but the director is known for filming actors and cutting them later, so who knows if she’ll be in it.
Where he’s been: Starting with “Mysterious Skin,” the young actor has been a reliable presence in the “Funny Games” remake, “Martha Marcy May Marlene” and “Melancholia,” as Kirsten Dunst’s impromptu boytoy. It was last year’s “Simon Killer,” in which he played a polite, awkward and furtively evil secret sociopath, that pushed him overboard.
Where he’s going: All over the world. He’s in “Sils Maria,” by French filmmaker Olivier Assayas (“Carlos”), alongside Kristen Stewart, Chloe Grace Moretz and Juliette Binoche. Assayas passed him over to his girlfriend, Mia Hansen-Love, for “Eden,” co-starring Greta Gerwig. And he’s in “Paradise Lost,” in which he’s dating the niece of Pablo Escobar.
Where he’s been: You’ve seen the English actor in “The Help,” “Red Tails,” “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” “Lincoln,” “Middle of the Road” and — if you saw it, and you should have — “The Paperboy.” He’s probably best remembered, though, as Forest Whitaker’s revolutionary son in another Lee Daniel production, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.”
Where he’s going: Along with more indies like “Default” and “Captive,” he’ll have a prominent role in Christopher Nolan’s breathlessly anticipated “Interstellar.” He’s also rumored for a role in no less than “Jurassic World.”
Where she’s been: Last year, Bell — a promising part of “What Happens in Vegas,” “It’s Complicated” and “No Strings Attached” — took matters into her own hands and wrote, directed and starred in “In a World…,” playing an ignored but ambitious voiceover narrator fighting through a patriarchal business.
Where she’s going: She’s been rewarded for her indie hit by getting to make out with Jon Hamm in “Million Dollar Arm.” She’ll also voice Mona Lisa in “Mr. Peabody & Sherman,” plus do more serious work in the thriller “The Coup,” with Owen Wilson and Pierce Brosnan.
Where she’s been: Nowhere much. The young Canadian actress was in “Breathe In,” by “Like Crazy” filmmaker Drake Doremus. But after the Southern crime drama “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” played festivals, she’s become the next big thing to become the next big thing.
Where she’s going: She’s in “The F Word” with Daniel Radcliffe, and she’ll be seen in “That Awkward Moment” with fellow list-maker Imogen Poots. Watch this space.