Who Matters Now: A Handful of Rising Stars of the Screen

A handful of rising stars of the screen

Amber Heard. (Photo: Michael Buckner / Getty Images)

Amber Heard
The Rum Diary and The Playboy Club
It can’t be easy to be Amber Heard. The 25-year-old actress is in possession of the sort of smashing beauty that gets one featured on Maxim lists and offered parts in the likes of The Playboy Club, and charisma that goes unnoticed. The upcoming NBC drama, in which Ms. Heard is to play the most valuable Bunny at one of Hugh Hefner’s sex-and-Scotch nightspots, will create the sort of sensation Ms. Heard (previously best known for a string of near-mute girlfriend parts in films like Pineapple Express and The Stepfather) has thus far not experienced, but the part still demands more from her appearance than her thespianic skills. Thankfully, Ms. Heard’s talents are to be tested in the Hunter S. Thompson adaptation The Rum Diary, in which she plays the object of obsession for Johnny Depp’s alcoholic journalist character. Sure, it’s another girlfriend part, of sorts, but based on the epically terrible shoot and the evident artistic ambitions of Mr. Depp and director Bruce Robinson, Ms. Heard might soon be able to add line items to her resume that don’t include Maxim or Playboy.


Jean Dujardin
The Artist
Cannes’s Best Actor winner can finally be seen stateside once The Artist makes its big, Weinstein-backed bow in October; the silent film depicts the change in fortunes of a silent-cinema star upon the advent of the “talkies.” Per Sunset Boulevard, it’s the pictures that got small, as everything about Jean Dujardin’s performance is said to be big—with an inborn star quality not requiring speech to communicate both swashbuckling in films-within-the-film and deep pathos once the last swash has been buckled. If enough of us are able to appreciate the virtue of a wordless performance, Mr. Dujardin could well be the next European unknown to land at the Oscar ceremony—an unusual next step for a French comedian.

Elizabeth Olsen and Sean Durkin
Martha Marcy May Marlene
The lead actress in Martha Marcy May Marlene and her director both got the kind of reviews, when their film played Sundance, about which an emerging star dreams. Ms. Olsen plays a young woman who leaves behind her cult compound to join her family, despite carrying with her untold emotional scars. The performance has a high degree of difficulty, which might be perceived to be compounded by Ms. Olsen’s youth and relative inexperience. (Her biggest previous screen credits were two cameos in mid-1990s films starring her sisters, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, who went on to name their fashion line Elizabeth and James after her.) But it was her low profile that attracted Mr. Durkin, who told The Observer: “I auditioned every unknown actress that I could in New York and L.A.—and she came in and there was just something happening that wasn’t happening with anyone else. There was a quiet intensity, an intelligence, and some real turmoil quietly going on in her head.”

Ms. Olsen has already begun making fashion-icon-ish appearances on red carpets to promote the film, but on set she was just one of the guys. This was perhaps aided by Mr. Durkin’s laissez-faire policy: “It’s always good vibes, and good people… and everyone becomes friends, and we hang out at the bars.”

As for the more formal gathering ahead, as Oscar season looms and its star prepares to go the way of ingenues past: “We’ve got a long fall of events and things. We’re ready for it!”

Ezra Miller
We Need to Talk About Kevin
Tilda Swinton soaked up the oxygen at Cannes, and director Lynne Ramsay is both beloved and given to long absences (her last film, Morvern Callar, came out in 2002). But the star of We Need to Talk About Kevin may well be Kevin, as played by Ezra Miller. Kevin is a sociopathic bad-seed whose parents struggle to understand his brutal actions. Early reviews from Cannes indicated that Mr. Miller, all of 18, struck the note of inscrutable evil that the script required: the purpose of the film is to indicate that, while his parents need to talk, they know not what to say about their violent son.  Mr. Miller, who previously portrayed a disaffected teen nasty beyond his years in the sleeper Afterschool, has a future ahead of him playing young men in the thrall of vaguely sinister, obscurely-motivated desires—he’s next portraying a corrupted high school senior in the sure-to-be-teen-smash The Perks of Being a Wallflower.


Who Matters Now: A Handful of Rising Stars of the Screen