The Five Breakout Stars of Summer 2012

It’s the end of the summer, at that means other than my Best and Worst of the Summer,  it’s time for my fourth annual “Five Breakout Stars of the Summer” post. Last year was a knockout year, as many of those names have already become household, including “Bridesmaids” star Melissa McCarthy and Chris Hemsworth. This year it’s a bit more tricky. A couple of these choices were obvious (and you may have heard of them before this summer), but a couple are talents I suspect are on the rise.


5. Sam Claflin – “Snow White and the Huntsman”

Sam Claflin must be doing something right, as the 26-year-old Englishman came out of the middle of English TV no-man’s land to win the part of Philip in “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” those his role was a forgettable waste of time. He took another step up playing the prince in “Snow White” this summer and that has to count for something too, even if he wasn’t close to being the focus.

Earlier this month, Claflin landed the coveted role of Finnick Odair in “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” a former Hunger Games champion and total heartthrob who has something of a secret. It will surely elevate his profile and prove whether he’s more than just good looks.

Next seen in: “Overdrive” a movie about car thieves in Southern France, co-starring Karl Urban, due in 2013.


4. Quvenzhané Wallis – “Beasts of the Southern Wild”

Few child actors give a commanding leading performance like Quvenzhané Wallis did in Ben Zeitlin’s “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” It would not be a shock to see her name in Oscar contention given the lack of high-powered female performances on the radar this year.

I’m wont to label child actors annoying, especially girls for a reason I can’t really justify but that might have to do with Dakota Fanning. The character Hushpuppy, however, is so far from any character you’d ever expect to see played by someone under the age of 10. Parts like this just don’t get written hardly ever, and Wallis completely owns it. I’ve no doubt she’s already getting offers for all kinds of Hollywood projects, but based on her sophomore credit (mentioned below), she’s either got smart parents or a smart agent or both.

Next seen in: “Twelve Years a Slave” from “Hunger” and “Shame” director Steve McQueen, due Fall 2013.


3. Zoe Kazan – “Ruby Sparks”

Kazan has slowly climbed the indie ladder in projects that were either praised or high profile but failed to gain any traction with audiences: “In the Valley of Elah,” “Me and Orson Welles,” and “Happythankyoumoreplease” are a few examples. “Ruby Sparks,” however, was marketed to be the indie event of the latter half of the summer, earning a wide release, and Kazan wrote it too.

I had some issues with the movie, but not with Kazan. Her name alone will draw her comparisons to the queen of quirky herself, Zooey Deschanel, but she has her own bright and fun personality with equal dramatic prowess. Studios are all about strong, capable, young and funny leading actresses these days thanks to Deschanel and Emma Stone among others, and Kazan should be able to follow in their footsteps, even if she sticks to the indie scene exclusively.

Next seen in: ”In Your Eyes,” a sci-fi romance written by Joss Whedon, due in the next year


2. Andrew Garfield – “The Amazing Spider-Man”

I thought Garfield was a breakout star with his supporting role in “The Social Network,” for which he was snubbed out of an Oscar nomination. I was equally impressed by his performance in “Never Let Me Go.” What a jump, however, to get to play freaking Spider-Man.

Garfield definitely had what it takes to play Peter Parker based on his nerdy/scrawny physique, but it remained to be seen if he could bulk up and be an action hero. He did. He played the snarky Spidey especially well, and not only did he win over Gwen Stacy, but he won over Emma Stone. That’s pretty good. His connection to Stone and playing Spider-Man will assure him of the spotlight for a number of years to come.

Next seen in: ”The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is scheduled for May 2, 2014.


1. Noomi Rapace – “Prometheus”

After originating the role of Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish film versions of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” lots of folks pegged Noomi Rapace for a star. It’s a hell of a role to land (look what it did for Rooney Mara) and she’s kept getting bigger and better projects (and in Hollywood) ever since.

Last Christmas she got the opportunity to be overshadowed by Robert Downey Jr. in “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” but in “Prometheus,” she slowly took control of the film, much like Sigourney Weaver did as Ripley in the original “Alien” movies. Her child-like sense of wonder and confidence in her work slowly turned to fear and then self-determination and strength as the movie progressed.

Next seen in: Brian De Palma’s “Passion,” which premieres at the Venice Film Festival beginning Sep. 7.


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