Five Breakout Stars of Summer 2010

You can’t always count on a summer to deliver the best blockbusters; that was the case with Summer 2010. You can, however, usually count on a small crop of actors to offer performances that will either put them on the map or jettison them into the big-time. Last year, I gave you a list that panned out pretty well as it was based on future projects. This included Zoe Saldana (“Star Trek”), Sam Worthington (hadn’t yet starred in “Avatar”), Zach Galifianakis (in just about every comedy project these days), Ken Jeong and Bradley Cooper.

This list was a bit harder to compile, but each of these talents is marquee-worthy after this summer if they weren’t already.

5. Mary Elizabeth Winstead (“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”)

She reminds me of Kate Winslet, but that’s probably because they’ve both played characters who dyed their hair numerous times in the same film.

When you star as the love interest in the summer’s most anticipated fanboy/comic geek film, you’re going to hit the radar. Winstead was catching and memorable as Ramona Flowers, the chill girl with a buried emotional past considering her exes have formed  legion bent on destroying Scott Pilgrim.

She’s virtually unrecognizable from her role as Lucy McClane in “Live Free or Die Hard,” where her wholesome beauty was surprisingly second to her believability. As Ramona, she got to show off her versatility a bit. She’s not a scene-stealer, but she’s the only one who gets to work in a truly dramatic range. She might be slow to rise as far as being universally recognized, but she’s secured the support of the movie geek community, which will be key for her future.

Next seen in: “The Thing” prequel (Apr. 29, 2011)

4. Tom Hardy (“Inception”)

Hardy was on the periphery of this summer’s most talked-about movie, “Inception,” so while it will still be awhile before anyone talks about him in terms of stardom, his resume and future projects indicate a good guarantee.

Hard played Eames, “The Forger,” in Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster, the one who was able to assume the appearance of others in dreams. He demonstrated a quick wit in his limited time, but if you’re from the UK, Hardy has nothing left to prove. He starred in Guy Ritchie’s “Rock n Rolla” and won a British Independent Film Award for Nicolas Winding Refn’s prison drama “Bronson,” for which he packed on pounds of muscle.

Still not sold on Hardy? He will replace Mel Gibson as Max Rockatansky in the upcoming “Mad Max: Fury Road.”

Next seen in: “Warrior” (2011)

3. Jaden Smith (“The Karate Kid”)

Yes, it helps when you’re “Will’s kid,” but daddy’s name was not connected in the promotion of this summer’s “The Karate Kid” remake and it currently ranks as the ninth biggest film of the year, fifth if you don’t count animated films. Right now, it’s Sony’s only claim in the top ten films of 2010 at the box office and has grossed more than $300 million worldwide.

Hollywood doesn’t just brush those numbers off. Certainly Jackie Chan had something to do with it, but “The Spy Next Door” didn’t help his cause back in January. You can bet that young Jaden, who burst onto the scene with his daddy in “The Pursuit of Happyness” will have quite a few more films written with him in mind as the child star.

Now that Jaden has proved himself with “The Karate Kid,” having the parents he has means he’ll likely find work one way or another and at the least be well-supported.

Next seen in: No projects currently in development.

2. Mia Wasikowska (“The Kids Are All Right”)

Sometimes you can chalk it up to luck when a young unknown actress is cast as the lead character in a big Disney project called “Alice in Wonderland” that earns over a billion dollars worldwide, but in “The Kids Are All Right,” Mia Wasikowska (vah-sih-kohv-ska) proves she’s not going anywhere but up. Despite “Alice” being received with mixed reaction, Wasikowska was given much credit as the innocent and doubting Alice. In “Kids,” she really shows off her dramatic strength for her age, which is 20.

Wasikowska is Australian despite the namesake coming from elsewhere, but she nails the typical naive American teenager who has stayed straight edge at her moms’ request. Despite showing poise and maturity, Joni has a few key moments where her fragility shines through and Wasikowska plays them perfectly.

When you nail a small dramatic role like that on the heels starring in one the twenty biggest films of all time, you say all you need to say. Expect to see her around for a long time.

Next seen in: Another adaptation of “Jane Eyre” (March 11, 2011)

1. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (“Inception”)

Considering his roles in “(500) Days of Summer” and “G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra,” JGL could have made my list last year, but the actor has really put himself back on the map with his strong performance as the quiet-but-poised Arthur. More and more people are aware that this is the same young guy who was “the kid on ‘3rd Rock from the Sun'” and he’s being rumored for bigger and bigger projects, such as Christopher Nolan’s third Batman film.

At age 29, Gordon-Levitt’s boyish looks will be his best asset and greatest challenge. He’s not closed off from playing younger roles, but he might have trouble landing more dramatic parts for a few years. At the moment, he’s got more dramedy, action and science fiction in his future.

JGL’s renaissance can be attributed to charm, talent and sticking to more independent projects where his talent and recognition made him appealing to directors such as Rian Johnson (“Brick”), Spike Lee (“Miracle at St. Anna”), Kimberly Peirce (“Stop-Loss”)  and Lee Daniels (“Shadowboxer”). The films themselves aren’t all terrific, but those directors have all made excellent films at one point or another, which speaks a lot to JGL’s talent. Peirce made “Boys Don’t Cry” and Daniels was nominated for an Oscar last year for “Precious.”

Next seen in: Cancer comedy “Live With It” alongside Seth Rogen up-and-comer Anna Kendrick.

Come back later for my Summer 2010  Superlatives


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