This weeks Shortlist may be numbered but the names descend alphabetically by surname, rather than by talent – I fear this would be impossible to rank. It was interesting to me that I came up with considerably more females than males (in fact, I whittled this list down considerably). The debate about good parts for women in Hollywood is still raging, but I may have found the answer: become 14.
7.) Elle Fanning [main picture]
Although her older sister Dakota is the bigger star Elle Fanning, at the tender age of 13, has proven herself as one of the most interesting young actresses working today, balancing the arthouse with blockbusters like very few movie stars can. I first saw her in The Door In The Floor (2004), a shockingly underrated marital drama where she already displayed a deeper understanding of acting than most pre-teens can muster onscreen. In 2006 she appeared, diversely, in Babel and Déjà Vu, before graduating to a leading role in 2008’s Phoebe In Wonderland, a charming drama about a young girl coming to grips with a terrifying world through the imagination gifted to her by an oddball drama teacher (played by Patricia Clarkson, who has strangely become the go-to actress for middle aged quirk). The same year she provided the best part of David Fincher’s snorefest The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button and then delivered her finest performance to date in Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere (2010); her sensitive and nuanced turn had extraordinary depth and humanistic understanding, played completely naturally and with no ego. She’s a performer who gets into the skin of a character, and will surely grow into one of the leading actresses of her generation. Up next is Super 8 (2011) and We Bought A Zoo (2011). I can’t wait.
6.) Josh Hutcherson
If I’d made this list a year ago you probably couldn’t have picked Hutcherson out from a line-up of one, despite being in several high profile movies. But in the wake of the Oscar nominated indie flick The Kids Are Alright (2010) he’s getting attention in all the right places. I first noticed him in the wonderful Little Manhattan (2005), a tender coming-of-age romance riffing on the cinema of Woody Allen. He’d previously been in the excellent American Splendor (2003), but I didn’t recognize him until years later, around the same time that I first saw Bridge To Terabithia (2007), a terribly marketed fantasy romance which is actually incredibly honest and mature, with a surprisingly dark denouement. He’s been in a lot of rubbish too – notably RV (2006) and Firehouse Dog (2007) – but is always watchable, no matter the material. 2008’s Fragments went straight to DVD in the UK but it’s a competent drama which sees him paired with Dakota Fanning. He busted some blocks with Journey To The Centre Of The Earth (2008) and Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant (2009), but neither really stretched his talents. He’ll next be seen in slasher movie Detention (2011) and 80s action remake Red Dawn (2011).
5.) Aaron Johnson
He wowed UK audiences with a stellar turn as John Lennon in 2009’s Nowhere Boy, but you’ll know Johnson best for Kick-Ass (2010), where he grabbed headlines and hero status in the title role. Over the past year he’s proven himself as an actor of considerable depth and range, but you might not have guessed it in his earlier days. He first gained attention playing a pick-pocketing Charlie Chaplin in the period kung fu sequel Shanghai Knights (2003), and in 2005 starred in the acclaimed TV series Feather Boy, based on the novel by Nicky Singer. He then landed the lead part in the admittedly lame family fantasy The Thief Lord (2006) but it secured enough of an audience to determine that he’d work again… in Angus, Thongs And Perfect Snogging (2008) after two years of TV work. He co-starred with Carey Mulligan (another 2009 breakout) in The Greatest (2009) before hitting the double-whammy of Lennon and Lizewski last year. I haven’t seen Chatroom (2010) yet but am looking forward to another solid performance from this exciting and versatile talent.
4.) Chloe Moretz
Although I’ve resisted the temptation to just include actors/actresses ‘of the moment’ (meaning they’ve been in a hit movie) there’s really no way this list could have any credibility without Hit Girl herself. Moretz graduated from precocious pre-teen quirkster (in 2009’s (500) Days Of Summer, in the undignified smarter-than-thou kid role) to international superstar in under a year with Matthew Vaughn’s dark superhero satire Kick-Ass, one of the most entertaining films in recent memory. She become an instant icon, attracting controversy and accolade in equal measure, and was far and away the highlight of that film. None of her previous roles hold much note (Big Momma’s House 2, 2006, anyone?) but she’s been acting since 2006, gaining confidence, smarts and the required acting chops to tackle the purple-wigged role originating in Mark Millar’s comic books. She voiced the young Penny in 2008’s animated smash Bolt and had a small appearance in the sub-John Hughes high school flick Diary Of A Wimpy Kid (2010), but challenged expectations once again in the unnecessary horror remake Let Me In (2010). She’ll next be seen in Martin Scorsese’s Hugo Cabaret (2011) and is going all indie for movies such as Hick (2012) and The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea (2012).
3.) Ellen Page
In the wake of 2005’s incendiary paedophile thriller Hard Candy, many wouldn’t have pegged Page – then a staple of controversy – as an emerging indie darling. Following up that film with tough roles in Mouth To Mouth (2005) and The Tracey Fragments (2007) – both brave but highly flawed works – the beautiful and immeasurably talented young actress wowed audiences and earned an Oscar nom for her turn as the spiky-mouthed teen Juno MacGuff in 2007’s Juno. Her obvious talent was honed into all the right places and the character has now become a pop culture icon and the easy definition of ‘hipster’ (for better or worse). Stardom landed on her doorstep and she answered with the overly precocious and smarmy drama Smart People (2008) but soon got back on track with Whip It (2009), Drew Barrymore’s entertaining directorial debut. In 2010 she busted blocks with Christopher Nolan’s wildly overrated Inception and landed a small role in the interesting identity drama Peacock, which has yet to find a distributor in the UK (a R1 DVD is available on Amazon). Staying true to her indie roots she’ll next be seen in Super (2010), a post Kick-Ass (2010) essay on amateur superheroics, also starring Rainn Wilson.
2.) Saoirse Ronan
She’s the star of the much hyped Hanna (2011), out in cinemas today, but Irish actress Ronan proved herself as a versatile actress, a master of accents and a performer of surprising depth years ago. She caught the public eye, and earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination, with 2007’s Atonement, based on the novel by Ian McEwan. Her spot-on British accent consumed most of the press coverage but the real performance existed behind her emotion-packed eyes. She was the best thing about the otherwise disappointing Houdini drama Death Defying Acts (2007) and stood out in romping retro adventure City Of Ember (2008), before landing a leading role in Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones (2009). As well as mastering another accent Ronan displayed a sadness and sincerity much deeper than the puppy dog performance a lesser actress would have delivered. She’s the emotional anchor of an otherwise sprawling and unfocused film, and gives gravity to her character even when she’s engaging in a cheesy celestial photoshoot (what were they thinking?) I haven’t seen The Way Back (2010) yet but am assured she turns in another sterling performance. Hanna sees her playing a teenage assassin miles away from the comic-book world of Hit Girl (many comparisons have been made) and the trailer hints towards an intensely focused and layered performance. Oh… and another accent!
1.) Juno Temple
Her name may not be instantly recognizable but if you’ve been to the cinema in the last five years then you’ve probably seen Juno Temple. Until recently she’s been restricted to small supporting roles, some of which barely qualify above extra work. Her first high profile film was Notes On A Scandal (2006), playing the daughter of Cate Blanchett’s adulterous teacher, and the next year she starred in critical darling Atonement (2007) and the awful St. Trinian’s (2007). Hollywood may have wasted her in forgettable ‘comedies’ like Wild Child (2008) and Year One (2009) but she reignited interest with prominent roles in Cracks (2009) and Glorious 39 (2009). Her finest role to date is in Kaboom (2010), released in the UK next month. It’s a gleefully silly film which sees Temple turning in a charismatic and mostly naked performance, and she’s by far the best thing about Gregg Araki’s latest orgiastic apocalypse flick. With upcoming indies Dirty Girl (2010) and Little Birds (2011) she’s likely to confirm herself as a hugely interesting and versatile actress capable of carrying a film, but her role in The Dark Knight Rises (2012), no matter how small, will likely bring her to the largest possible audience and ensure her staying power.