The 15 Breakout Stars Of 2013

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Every year brings some faces to freshen the Hollywood gene pool, talents that make an extra impact or people we’ve seen before in other capacities showing a knack for something different. We round up our favourite new arrivals and surprises for 2013...


Film: The Impossible
Age: 16
Have I seen him before? You heard his voice in The Secret World Of Arrietty, otherwise no

Stage veteran Holland hadn’t appeared on screen when he was first approached about playing young Lucas in Juan Antonio Bayona’s heart-shattering drama, set during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. “We weren’t told anything about the film,” he said. “I didn’t know it was about a tsunami. I didn’t know who was in it. I didn’t know who was directing it. So I went on tape, and Juan Antonio Bayona really liked me. We met three or four times, and we had a really good working connection and a good friendship. After six weeks of auditioning, he cast me in the role.” With a naturalistic, emotional performance, Holland scored, opening the door wide for a career and winning the Jameson Empire Awards’ Best Male Newcomer.

What’s next? He’s since appeared in How I Live Now with Saoirse Ronan, has worked with Tom Hardy on Locke and will be part of the sprawling ensemble for Ron Howard’s In The Heart Of The Sea.


Film: You're Next
Age: 30
Have I seen her before? She appeared in Home And Away and, er, Step Up 3D

Australian actress Vinson got her big break the way so many of her fellow actors from Down Under have: acting in soaps. It was her first taste of performing before moving to the States to try her luck in Los Angeles. A succession of TV guest roles followed, plus the part of Natalie in Step Up 3D. But now she’s really arrived thanks to a scorching performance in Adam Wingard’s You’re Next, where she eschews screaming horror conventions for brutal, Buffy-style retaliation. “We were definitely trying to break all horror clichés. Often the female protagonist is over-sexualised and unrealistic,” she told Elle. “If you’re a strong, confident woman on the inside, you don’t have to show skin to prove it on the outside. The film seriously shows the benefits of self-defence training, to know that you have the confidence to fight back in a life-threatening situation”.

What’s next? There’s more horror with Bait and Patrick, and then possibly a chance to kick even more butt, as she’s rumoured for the untitled “female Expendables” scheduled to shoot next year.


Films: Sunshine On Leith, How I Live Now, For Those In Peril (pictured)
Age: 21
Have I seen him before? McKay had small roles in Peter Pan, The Boys Are Back and Hunky Dory

Though MacKay had been working steadily before this year, in October 2013 he pulled off the somewhat impressive feat of appearing in three films that opened on the same day. All right, so it was a quirk of scheduling, but he showed impressive range across a musical channelling The Proclaimers’ music, a dystopian thriller and a shipwreck drama. Trying not to think about his sudden burst of fame, he takes inspiration from Dexter Fletcher on the future. “I found Dexter quite inspiring so maybe I’d like to try some writing and directing when I’m more experienced,” he told The Scotsman. “But really I’m hoping the acting goes okay, or I’ll be pretty fucked.” His work on For Those In Peril, meanwhile, won him a Scottish BAFTA.

What’s next? He’s lined up crime drama Bypass and gay rights drama Pride. It looks like things are going okay so far.


Film: The Liability
Age: 23
Have I seen him before? TV’s Skins launched him into cinemas for the likes of This Is England, Eden Lake and Harry Brown

Another one who had been working fairly solidly, O’Connell stepped it up in terms of awareness this year, taking on a key role in gangster film The Liability as a lad volunteered by his stepfather to drive a hit man around. The role meant capably sharing the screen with such intimidating types as Tom Roth and Peter Mullan. “I bet Tim gets his ego caressed all the time, and when he turned up on set at first he was a bit standoffish,” O’Connell told the Yorkshire Post. “I thought ‘Sod you then, mate. I’ll just do my job, you do yours.’ And then as a result of that, four weeks down the line, we got on. I was in LA and he picked me up in his Jaguar. We started cruising around all Beverly Hills. I had to pinch myself.”

What’s next? He has a big role in buzzed-about prison pic Starred Up, blockbuster action 300: Rise Of An Empire and he will carry Angelia Jolie’s latest directorial outing, Unbroken.


Film: Wadjda
Age: 12
Have I seen her before? Nope

Waad Mohammed is a revelation and first-time star in a film with a lot of boundary-breaking elements. It was Haifaa Al-Mansour’s first film, and the first Saudi Arabian film directed by a woman, not to mention the country’s first ever entry for the Foreign Language Oscar. And it was mostly directed from the safety of a van, lest the sight of Al-Mansour ordering male actors around appear unseemly. But it’s Waad who steals scenes, playing the title character who dreams of buying a bike so she can race her friend. “We saw lots of girls, and if we liked someone, they’d tell us no,” recalls Haifaa Al-Mansour. “We only had seven days until principal shooting when we found Waad. She came in wearing jeans, similar to the spirit of Wadjda. She had a carefree attitude. I asked her to sing because I needed a girl with a nice voice, and she started singing Justin Bieber!”

What’s next? There’s nothing lined up yet, but she has plenty of time.


Film: What Richard Did
Age: 21
Have I seen him before? He appeared in a couple of TV movies and had roles in Dollhouse (a film, not the Joss Whedon show) and Country

Reynor, born in Colorado but brought up in Ireland, has seen his career skyrocket this year. Lenny Abrahamson plucked him from near-obscurity to lead the festival hit What Richard Did, about a young man whose life is blighted by a moment’s violence, and helped him in more ways than one. "I was flying to LA after Toronto with a suitcase stuffed with clothes and zero money, so Lenny gave me the last $50 in his pocket," Reynor told Interview. The debt has yet to be fully repaid, though the film (and his star-making performance) launched Reynor onto the radar of Michael Bay and Vince Vaughn, so he probably has the cash now.

What’s next? He’s appearing in Vaughn’s latest, Delivery Man, and has been busy dodging giant robots and explosions on the set of Transformers: Age Of Extinction. Just don’t call him the next Shia LaBeouf...


Film: The Way Way Back
Age: 17
Have I seen him before? He had small TV roles, including one in the US version of The Killing, plus character blips in Things We Lost In The Fire, Fred Claus, Aliens Vs. Predator and a slightly bigger part as John Cusack’s son in 2012

Before he was chosen by first-time directors Jim Rash and Nat Faxon for their long-gestating coming-of-age comedy drama, Canadian actor James was probably best known as Mireille Enos’ sullen teenage son on The Killing. But The Way Way Back let him deal with teenage angst another way, starring appealingly alongside the likes of Steve Carell and Sam Rockwell. According to Faxon and Rash, he got the job immediately. “Liam was the one who came in through the door and felt like Duncan,” Faxon told Empire. “Both the way he was physically and especially how he was as a person, the old soul, the more complicated kid. More than some of the others, who were fine actors, and knew how to play the characters, but weren't the character. He was.”

What’s next? There’s nothing on the horizon currently.


Film: About Time
Age: 23
Have I seen her before? She appeared in Neighbours and short-lived US TV drama Pan Am

Another Aussie import who was noticed in soap land (this time in Neighbours), Robbie is just starting to move into the next stage of her career. After a couple of smaller thrillers, she left a strong impression in Richard Curtis’s About Time as Charlotte, the fetching friend of his sister who so beguiles the young Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) that she prompts one of his early time travel efforts. “"It was so intimidating to read: 'She steps out of the car and she's the most gorgeous thing he's ever seen, she's got these beautiful long legs...'” she chuckled to The Guardian. “I'm thinking: 'Oh no, my legs aren't like that...' You just hope Richard's going to use reaction shots to convey all that, so it takes the pressure off me.” There may be less pressure, but there will be plenty of attention soon enough.

What’s next? Robbie has a key role in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf Of Wall Street, and is now shooting con-man drama Focus opposite Will Smith and wartime drama Suite Française.


Film: 42
Age: 31
Have I seen him before? He’s had lots of TV guest roles and appeared in 2008 sports drama The Express

Boseman had built up a healthy career as a guest star on US TV dramas, including most of the big standards – ER, Law & Order, CSI, etc. – and also scored a few decent film roles. But being picked by director Brian Helgeland to embody one of the biggest sporting heroes in US history was a whole new experience. “It's a tremendous amount of pressure,” he told The Huffington Post at the time. “But at the same time it was fun. I tried to find ways of taking myself away from that way of thinking. I felt pressure mostly from the family, you know? Not that they said, ‘You better get this right.’ Or they were really overbearing at all. But I just wanted to do well by them.” With charm and honesty, he pulled it off, and boosted his career to a new plateau at the same time.

What’s next? There’s more sports with American football comedy drama Draft Day and then Boseman will play another icon, James Brown, in Tate Taylor’s biopic Get On Up.


Film: In A World...
Age: 34
Have I seen her before? She’s a regular, reliable comedy performer on TV and in movies

Lake Bell is the best-known face on this list, even if her name isn’t always as recognisable. She’d carved out a great career so far with a blend of comedy and drama on TV (including Childrens Hospital, Boston Legal and the short-lived Surface), as well as plenty of supporting roles in films such as What Happens In Vegas, It’s Complicated and No Strings Attached. This year, however, she put what she learned while calling the shots on shorts and episodes of Childrens Hospital to work on her feature directorial debut In A World... which explores the largely male-dominated work of voiceover gigs in general and trailer narration in particular. “I'm interested in fallible characters,” she told Tribeca Film. “Writing comes from what you know and what you observe, and so to have these people taking on these fantasy voices and being so discombobulated in their own lives is great fodder for comedy. At the end of the day, voiceover is fantasy-driven for the listener as well as the doer.” The result has launched her as a writer-director to watch.

What’s next? She’ll be seen in Million Dollar Arm and heard in Mr. Peabody & Sherman. She’s also just signed on for a rom-com called Man Up opposite Simon Pegg.


Film: Captain Phillips
Age: 28
Have I seen him before? No

A literal unknown, Abdi was born in Mogadishu before moving with his family to Minneapolis at the age of 14. He’d been working as a chauffeur when he spotted an open casting call for actors of Somali descent in his local paper. “Barkhad Abdi’s life was torn apart by the civil war and he found himself living in America,” says director Paul Greengrass. “He not only adjusts to living in a diaspora; he becomes immersed in art and music and life in America. He talks about how he could have gone a very wrong way, but made a conscious decision not to go down a bad path.” He also improvised some dialogue, impressed Tom Hanks, and is now being talked about as a potential Oscar nominee. Not a bad job.

What’s next? Abdi is splitting time between publicity, helping the family business and trying to start directing.


Films: Short Term 12 (pictured), The Spectacular Now, Don Jon
Age: 24
Have I seen her before? She appeared in Greenberg, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and 21 Jump Street

Brie Larson had attracted attention before, particularly as snarktastic singer Envy Adams in Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim. But this year she’s really pushing ahead, starting with some solid supporting work in Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Don Jon and James Ponsoldt’s The Spectacular Now. The big success, however, is Short Term 12, where she plays the effortlessly charming yet also troubled den mother to a group of foster children, and which is seeing her talked about as a potential (and deserving) Oscar nominee. She, however, is really more concerned with the work. “The reality is that the best part of my job, and the thing I am constantly looking for, is to make film that transcends and causes these shared experiences,” she told Empire. “That, I am amazed by. The power that this film has held, across the board, with people of every shape size and colour, has been so life-affirming for me.”

What’s next? She’ll show up in Rupert Wyatt’s The Gambler, opposite Mark Wahlberg, and musical rom-com Basmati Blues.


Film: Blue Is The Warmest Colour
Age: 20
Have I seen her before? She had roles in Martha, Boxes, Turk’s Head and more

French actress Exarchopoulos is, as you’d expect, probably most recognisable to those with an affinity for European cinema. An inherent shyness prompted her parents to enrol her in acting classes, which led to films and regular TV work. She’s been appearing onscreen consistently since the age of 16, but at 20 her profile suddenly hit the stratosphere thanks to an emotional, controversial turn in Blue Is The Warmest Colour. Her performance was met with near-universal praise, although there were incendiary comments from director Abdellatif Kechiche, who has lashed out at remarks by his stars (Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux) about their treatment on set. Still, Exarchopoulos now says she found it rewarding. “For me, I was so exhausted that I think the emotions came out more freely,” she told The Daily Beast. “And there was no make-up artist, stylist, or costume designer. After a while, you can see that their faces are started to get more marked. We shot the film chronologically, so it helped that I grew up with the experiences my character had.”

What’s next? She will appear in Qui Vive next year.


Film: The Kings Of Summer
Age: 18
Have I seen him before? He’s appeared in Boardwalk Empire and TV comedy Melissa & Joey

Though Nick Robinson had no less than 60 episodes of Melissa & Joey under his belt before he landed indie coming of age pic The Kings Of Summer, he was a fresh face for UK audiences. But Kings, directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts and featuring Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally and young co-stars Gabriel Basso and Moises Arias, gave him the chance to really shine as the conflicted, headstrong Joe. Outside of the big and small screens, Robinson is also considering other options, such as education. “Right now my whole lived experience has been acting. It's taken up all my time, which I love, but I want to experience other stuff," he told the LA Times. "A worldly actor is a better actor. It sounds pretentious, but I think having these experiences can translate back into your work."

What’s next? College will likely have to wait – he recently scored a plum role in Jurassic World.


Film: What Maisie Knew
Age: Seven
Have I seen her before? She appears in indie film Yellow and an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

It’s tough being one of the lead roles in a movie at the best of times. Now imagine it at the tender age of six. That’s why Onata Aprile’s nuanced, natural, heart-capturing performance in divorce drama What Maisie Knew is so impressive. Playing a child whose parents’ marriage is tearing itself apart might call for mugging and crying, but there’s none of that from Aprile, just genuine feeling. She certainly impressed co-star Alexander Skarsgard. "When you shoot a film with Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan, just phenomenal, phenomenal actors, and then you get to work with Onata, and it's someone who hasn't been in the industry for 30 years and hasn't done plays and movies and has this amazing energy, and it's so real. There's not a single false note, and it makes my job really easy.”

What’s next? Aprile has worked on comedy drama Almost Family and is shooting indie drama Scout.