The Future Of Film: 21 Stars Of The Future

The people who will shape the cinema of tomorrow

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Keanu Reeves turned 50 this week, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that the actors we grew up with are getting on a bit and we're going to need, like Gremlins, a new batch. Who will lead the future of film? Well, here are the young up-and-comers that we think have their biggest hits and best work ahead of them. Some are absolute beginners; others have a string of hits behind them already, but all are on an upward curve...

The story so far: The Tree Of Life, Mud, Joe

Coming up: Dark Places, Last Days In The Desert, Scouts Vs. Zombies

The 17 year-old actor quotes James Dean on his Twitter profile and whisper it quietly, but there’s a little of Dean in the young Texan. Possessing a brooding intensity and focus that sets him apart from the Logan Lermans and Douglas Booths of the Hollywood firmament, he can fix you with a bruised defiance that’ll pin you to your seat. In his three films to date, he’s stood toe-to-toe with actors of the calibre of Brad Pitt, Nicolas Cage and Matthew McConaughey and never once looked out of his depth. Next up he’s a young Corey Stoll in Dark Places.

The story so far: For Those In Peril, Sunshine On Leith, How I Live Now, Private Peaceful

Coming up: Captain Fantastic, Pride

Such is the rapid progress of the Londoner (he only sounds Scottish) that he’s already starting to feel like a comforting screen presence, despite having only been nailing lead roles for a couple of years. "An old head on a young pair of shoulders” is how his Sunshine On Leith director Dexter Fletcher describes him, and he’s parlayed that worldly bearing into all his roles to date. The new Domhnall Gleeson? Maybe so. He’ll certainly sweep up those thoughful heartthrob roles.

The story so far: Ramona And Beezus, White House Down, Fargo (TV), Wish I Was Here

Coming up: The Sound And The Fury, Lockheed, Stonewall

The hardest-working 15 year-old in the business, Joey King has played the sassy daughter in White House Down, Crazy, Stupid, Love, Wish I Was Here and Fargo. If she maintains her current, Chloë Grace Moretz-like trajectory she should soon migrate from on-screen chores and groundings to more challenging terrain. She’s been acting since the age of six, so she’s no stranger to big movie sets (she popped up as a young Talia al Ghul in The Dark Knight Rises) and the demands of TV work, and should be a presence on both for years to come.

The story so far: Chained, The Killing (TV)

Coming up: Maps To The Stars

Sometimes a young actor seems to emerge from thin air to grab an audience by its collective collar and give it a serious shake. Dane DeHaan did it in Chronicle, Andrew Garfield did it with Boy A and now it’s Evan Bird’s turn with a shiver-inducingly chilly turn as Hollywood wunderkind Benjie Weiss in David Cronenberg’s Maps To The Stars. Playing him like the bastard grandson of Malcolm Tucker and Norma Desmond, he embues the foul-mouthed little tyke with vulnerability and somehow makes him nearly likeable. Hopefully he’ll be repeating the trick soon.

The story so far: The Guest, Labor Day

Coming up: The 5th Wave

Adam Wingard’s black comedy thriller The Guest will alert Hollywood talent scouts to Maika Monroe’s qualities. In it, she brings smarts and wit to the scream queen role, standing up to Dan Stevens' beefcake commando home invader. In fact, with YA still being where it’s at for up-and-comers, her presence in upcoming alien invasion The 5th Wave hints that she’s already on their radar. Her striking Chloë Sevigny-meets-Amber Heard looks should be adorning the cover of magazines near you soon.

The story so far: 42, Persons Unknown, The Kill Hole

Coming up: Get On Up, Draft Day, Gods Of Egypt

This guy may not be a household name in this country yet, given that his biggest hit so far was a baseball film that hardly anyone here saw, but look out for some serious change in that status soon. He dares step into the snazzy shoes, dazzling suits and velvet cloak of James Brown in Get On Up, and he’ll soon be playing Thoth, God Of Knowledge, Hieroglyphics and Wisdom in the Egyptian pantheon – which means he’d be really useful to have on your pub quiz team. Definitely one to watch.

The story so far: Game Of Thrones, The Olympic Ticket Scalper***

Coming up***: The Falling, Game Of Thrones

At 15 years old, Williams was the youngest person to ever win the Best Supporting Actress Portal Award for her performance in Game of Thrones. She shines as Arya Stark, increasingly one of the most powerful and compelling characters in the series, and, still only 17, is beginning to break into film too. She has the lead role in Carol “Dreams Of A Life” Morley’s next film, The Falling, and seems as determined as her Thrones character to make her own way in the world. Williams is a lot less murderous though, which is probably for the best.

The story so far: The Internship, Teen Wolf (TV)***

Coming up***: The Maze Runner

Dylan O'Brien provoked fan frenzy as Teen Wolf’s sass-filled Stiles, a high-schooler who just happens to be best mates with a werewolf (he even repeated the trick as the Evil Stiles character, despite skin tones that would look unhealthy on an anaemic goth), and he’s got Maze Runner (and potentially its sequels) upcoming, so his seat at the MTV Movie Awards should be assured for a few years yet. Make no mistake though: he’s a genuine talent who can trade on a lot more than those chiselled looks. Expect to see plenty of him. Especially if he gets out of that maze.

The story so far: That Awkward Moment, 21 & Over, The Spectacular Now***

Coming up***: Insurgent, The Fantastic Four, Two Night Stand, La La Land, Bleed For This

He launched himself with the underrated Rabbit Hole and stole scenes in Footloose, but it was The Spectacular Now that really put Teller on the map and helped us forgive him for Project X. Adept with comedy and drama, he made an interesting antagonist in Divergent (and soon its sequels) and is soon set to stretch himself (sorry) as Reed Richards / Mr Fantastic in The Fantastic Four.

The story so far: Mr Selfridge, Silent Witness***

Coming up***: The Inbetweeners 2, Star Wars: Episode VII, Scrawl (horror film)

Is it lazy to compare Ridley to Knightley just because she’s gorgeous, British and fitting in a Star Wars movie early in her career? Maybe, but the comparison is there. Her casting sent fans running to their TV box sets as the easiest way of seeing her work to date, but the best is definitely yet to come in this case. Hey, they’re planning another Pirates film, right? Someone call the casting agent and let’s make this comparison even stronger!

The story so far: Mad Men, Carriers, Flowers In The Attic***

Coming up***: The Legend Of Korra, Mad Men

Shipka, a child acting “prodigy” according to Mad Men creator Matt Weiner, is also a 14 year-old fashion genius judging by her unfailing style every time she leaves the house. With the end of Mad Men creeping nearer, it’ll be interesting to see where she takes her talents after growing up with the character she’s played unbelievably well on the AMC hit show.

The story so far: The Fault In Our Stars, Divergent, Carrie

Coming up***: Men, Women & Children, Insurgent

Elgort will have only four complete features under his belt by the end of the year, but he’s already received a good amount of attention for The Fault In Our Stars in particular, which saw him land the most interesting role in a rom-dram that proved a huge teen hit. Unless his quick rise to the big leagues goes catastrophically to his head (which seems unlikely), a role in Jason Reitman’s next film and a few more seriously conflicted appearances in the Divergent saga should give him a career to envy. Of course, that’s all assuming he doesn’t decide to run away and become a DJ instead.

The story so far: Divergent, Underworld: Awakening, The Inbetweeners Movie

Coming up***: London Fields, Franny, Insurgent

Having started acting professionally only four years ago, James has already made an impression in Downton Abbey (where he died suddenly while bonking Lady Mary) and broken into film in a big way. He has blogs dedicated to his eyebrows and just about every other part of his body, and now he’s trying to ensure the hype for his talent reaches the same level. His leading role in the Divergent franchise should help, but we’re most interested to see what he manages in London Fields and Franny.

The story so far: Attack The Block, Half Of A Yellow Sun, 24: Live Another Day

Coming up***: Star Wars: Episode VII

Boyega stood out among a talented young cast in Attack The Block, towering among them like, er, a tower block under attack by aliens. But the offers were slow to come in following that break, and it’s only with the recent news that he’s been cast in a certain sci-fi sequel that we really felt he’d landed the sort of role he deserves. At least, we’re assuming that’s what he now has given the rumours that he is a major character. But considering how close-mouthed the Star Wars people are, however, he might be playing Second Stormtrooper On The Left and we wouldn’t know it.

The story so far: Inspector Lewis, The Smoke

Coming up***: Kingsman: The Secret Service, Testament Of Youth, Legend

Sometimes it only takes one role, and if all goes to plan for Taron Egerton, Matthew Vaughn’s next film will be the one to catapult him to fame. Vaughn has a proven eye for talent – he gave Daniel Craig his first major lead, and spotted Chloe Grace Moretz and Aaron Taylor-Johnson – so we’re expecting great things of Egerton. On the evidence of the trailer, he’s comfortable sharing the screen with Oscar winner Colin Firth and adept at acting like he owns the place even when he’s out of his depth. Should be good training for Hollywood.

The story so far: This Must Be The Place, What Richard Did

Coming up: Monsters: Dark Continent, Heart Of The Sea, Chef, AfterDeath

Irish actor Keeley has stood out in small roles to date, but things are getting a lot bigger. He has larger roles in Monsters: Dark Continent and AfterDeath, but we’re most excited about two films that are a little further out. First, he’ll be one of the marooned sailors in Ron Howard’s Heart Of The Sea, and then he’s joined Bradley Cooper’s Chef (or whatever they end up calling it), presumably as one of his kitchen team. We like to think he’s watching Ratatouille right now to refine his skills.

The story so far: Short Term 12, The Spectacular Now, Justified

Coming up: Men, Women & Children, Grass Stains, The Greens Are Gone

Dever was a standout even by the high standards of Short Term 12, where she made an unlikely story about an octopus and a shark into one of the most moving scenes in the film, and she stole every scene in which she appeared in TV's Justified. We’ll soon see her in Jason Reitman’s next, and then she has a couple of interesting-sounding dramas, one starring Catherine Keener and Anton Yelchin.

The story so far: Eden Lake, Harry Brown, Skins, 300: Rise Of An Empire, Starred Up

Coming up: Unbroken, '71, Tulip Fever, Section 6

If a lot of British actors err on the posh side, look no further than Jack O’Connell to represent the rest of us. His breakthrough, Starred Up, saw him at the tough-guy end of the spectrum, snarling and wary in a hostile world. His world will get even more hostile in Angelina Jolie’s next directorial effort, Unbroken, where O’Connell landed the plum role of the late Louis Zamperini, and he’s set to follow that with Joe Cornish’s Section 6 and Justin Chadwick’s period piece Tulip Fever. Before that he's a squaddie on the run in Yann Demange's pulsing Troubles-era thriller '71. The Starred Up star is really seeing his star rise (sorry).

The story so far: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, Short Term 12, Don John

Coming up: The Gambler, Trainwreck, Room

She was good in Scott Pilgrim (where she did all her own singing too, folks) but it was Short Term 12 that established Brie Larson as an actress to watch. A masterpiece of understated, well-nigh invisible acting, she conveyed a whole heap of inner turmoil and genuine trauma with often barely a twitch of her muscles. She’s since been snapped up for a new Judd Apatow film, Rupert Wyatt’s The Gambler and literary adaptation Room, based on Emma Donoghue’s traumatising novel.

The story so far: uwantme2killhim, Snow White And The Huntsman, The Fifth Estate

Coming up: If I Stay, Kids In Love

Blackley’s been decent in sometimes shaky films thus far, but let’s not tar him with the Fifth Estate brush; after all, he’s horrendously young because he was born in 1991. If I Stay could, if it works, deliver swoony teen romance that falls somewhere between The Notebook and Twilight – and if it does, it should launch Blackley into the realm of the mop haired, dreamy-eyed heartthrobs that the kids seem to like these days.

More Future Of Film articles

The story so far: Short Term 12, The Purge: Anarchy

Coming up: Miles Ahead, Selma

One of several alumni here of the Class Of Short Term 12, Stanfield has landed a couple of seriously prestigious projects since breaking through in that film (he also appeared in the original short). Don Cheadle chose him for work on Miles Davis biopic Miles Ahead, which Cheadle is directing as well as starring in, and then he’s headed to civil rights drama Selma, opposite David Oyelowo’s Martin Luther King.

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