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The Breakout Stars of 2010

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Some were new to us (Gareth Edwards), some have been our radar for a while (Andrew Garfield), but all became kind of a big deal for the first time this year. Young, gifted and here to stay, they’re our breakout stars of 2010.

If you were at this year’s Movie-Con, you’ll know that it’s impossible not to have at least a bit of a crush on Gareth Edwards. The charming, funny Midlander has talent to burn, as he proved when he invented a whole new genre with sci-fi/road-movie/romance Monsters, and then made it in his bedroom. A creature feature set in the tangled jungles of Central American (District Vine?), it subverted all expectations and scored him a BIFA. A champion for bedroom geeks everywhere, he’s our hero of the year.

If she’s still acting at 150, Chloe Moretz won’t utter ten words to make as many jaws drop as that line in Kick-Ass. It was a cinematic introduction that was met with the sound of cheering and soft drinks being spat across multiplexes, depending on your view of a character with the vocab of a 12 year-old Malcolm Tucker. As level-headed off screen as she’s charismatic on it, she’s the tweenage star we’d most expect to follow in Natalie Portman’s footsteps to awards glory in due course. And she does a great impression of Cheryl Cole. Which is another win.

Mo’Nique may have won the Oscar for Precious, but newcomer Gabby Sidibe was the story, a Brooklyner plucked from a call centre job to fill the character of Claireece "Precious" Jones with spirit and passion. She did exactly that, lightening the hard-edged urban fairytale with gentle determination and picking up an Oscar nomination along the way. That Elle magazine picked her as cover star of its 25th anniversary issue spoke volumes for an actress on the rise. Now it’s up to Hollywood to find the roles to exploit her talent.

If Toy Story 3 ensured that Pixar continue to blaze a trail for animation with heart, soul and brains, the chasing pack did some catching up this year. Universal Animation – best known ‘til now for bewhiskered adventure The Tale Of Despereaux and monkey caper Curious George – partnered with Chris Meledandri’s Illumination and unleashed beaky bad guy Gru on the world. Thanks to Steve Carell’s voice talents, he had an accent that was half-Béla Lugosi, half-Ricardo Montalban, the dastardly schemes of Blofeld and the heart of a big fluffy marshmallow. Gru perched at number six in the year’s US box office, just below Woody and friends, and just above Shrek and Toothless the dragon. Animation is now very big business, so expect more Gru-someness to come.

In 2010, Blighty’s own Andrew Garfield got the gig every young actor was praying for. And no, we’re not talking about Spider-Man, but a spot on David Fincher’s The Social Network; the chance to work with one of the most demanding directors in the business. Of course, for a self-confessed comic-book geek, scoring Spidey is as big as it gets, bringing all the pressure that comes with carrying a major Hollywood tentpole, but it was his wounded turn as Facebook’s Eduardo Saverin that first caught Sony’s eye (his gymnastic skills wouldn’t have hurt either). Never Let Me Go should keep that hot streak running well into 2011.

The Spanish director was another newcomer to charm this year’s Movie-Con into submission. Watching the opening moments of his subterranean thriller Buried, it was obvious the man had chutzpah too: not too many filmmakers would dare kick off their first English-language feature with two minutes of pitch blackness. Cortés is no ordinary filmmaker, however. The Real Madrid-mad director coaxed a terrific, fraught Ryan Reynolds into an all-too-believable performance as a man having several bad days all at the same time, and snuck in a few tricks Hitchcock would have been proud to call his own. It didn’t storm the box office but Hollywood was clearly watching. Next up? Robert De Niro and Sigourney Weaver in Red Lights.

With a 28 year career and highs and lows that would make a skydiver dizzy but still energised as ever, Drew Barrymore added a new page to her CV in 2010. Nobody was too surprised when the actress-stoke-producer turned out to be pretty handy at the whole directing malarkey too, least of all her godfather Steven Spielberg. “At six years old she was telling me where to put my cameras,” he remembered with a laugh. Furious fun, Whip It! was one of the debuts of the year: smart, fun and seriously kick-ass. Like Samantha Morton with The Unloved, Barrymore proved she could cut serious mustard on both sides of the camera.

This was the year Chris Morris, hitherto a reclusive comedy genius, became a mainstream comedy genius. Thanks to his anarchic comedy Four Lions, in which a bunch of hapless Islamic terrorists try to blow up the London Marathon, we were treated to the usually media-shy Morris’ skewed view of the modern world on the big screen. It was a very welcome shift of medium for the man who’s been scaring the hell out of TV and radio executives for two decades. The Day Today gave us the bomb dog, Four Lions went one better and delivered the bomb crow.

Just as Seth Rogen and Jason Segel graduated to leading man status after emerging from the Apatow school, Jay Baruchel has the charm and smarts to match, or even better them as he follows the same path from supporting player to comic lead. He’s certainly getting his chance: this year saw him flexing his comic talent (She’s Out Of Your League), action props (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice) and vocal chords (How To Train Your Dragon). The 28 year-old Canadian has been making big movies for a while – Million Dollar Baby and Tropic Thunder among them – but 2010 was the year he moved to the centre stage.

As the Millennium Trilogy’s troubled heroine/wrecking-ball Lisbeth Salander, Noomi (“Know-me”) Rapace grabbed us by the throat with her blistering debut in March, and went on to cast a shadow through the whole year as parts two and three followed. David Fincher had to search long and hard to find someone to step into her biker boots for his take on the Dragon Tattoo – finally settling on Social Networker Rooney Mara – as Rapace headed to Hollywood and Sherlock Holmes 2. We don’t know whether she’ll be friend or foe to Baker Street’s finest, but Holmes will be praying it’s the former. The rumour mill, which suggests that she’ll be playing a French gypsy, has also linked her with Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel. If cast, we’d back her to kick serious xenomorph ass.

The Empire bookie has stopped taking bets on the 20 year-old Kentuckian to win an Oscar for her performance as Winter's Bone's Ree Dolly. And what a performance. Tougher than granite, whip-smart and unfussily beautiful, she was more than capable of taking care of herself and her loved ones. She also proved a dab hand at skinning squirrels. It was the kind of breakout turn that made everyone in Hollywood sit up and take note - and we mean everyone: Steven Spielberg stopped her in a corridor to ask her if she was the Jennifer Lawrence, while Matthew Vaughn and Jodie Foster picked her for X-Men: First Class and The Beaver. In fact, the only people who'd have a bad word to say about her have bushy tails and eat nuts for a living.