The Top 20 Actresses Under 30
This is the fourth time we’ve put together the Girl Power list, and we’ve made some changes this year. Crucially, we’ve followed the pattern established by our similar list of up–and-coming actors and pushed the age limit up from 25 to 30. That way, we reckon, we’re not boosting starlets and discriminating against actresses just when they’ve found a foothold and put together a solid body of work.
Inevitably, the cut-off means we miss out on several important rising stars, including Katherine Heigl (born 24 November, 1978), Rachel McAdams (also born in November 78), Michelle Rodriguez (July of that same year), and Malin Ackerman (May).
Bear in mind, the list is no more than a snapshot, a glance at the names producers and casting directors will be considering over the next couple of years when (hopefully) roles more interesting than the girlfriend and the love interest present themselves.
It’s not a definitive list of actresses in this age-bracket either. Several well known actresses don’t figure this year, or have dropped down the rankings, because they’ve done little or nothing of note over the last 12 months. By the same token, the rankings reflect those stars who are on a tear right now – and who seem, on paper, to have promising commercial and critical work coming out over the next six months or so. In other words, no Julia Stiles this time, no Kirsten Dunst and no Lindsay Lohan, but say hello to Saoirse Ronan: the girl from Atonement, who is 15 now, and has much to gain with the forthcoming release of Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Lovely Bones.
By the way, before you point out the obvious, our apologies for the whitebread nature of this list… and yes, we did consider Vanessa Hudgeons. Enjoy!
Girl Power 2009
1. Anne Hathaway
Hathaway has gone from strength to strength over the last 12 months. She got terrific reviews for the chain smoking recovering addict in Rachel Getting Married and was the only actress under 30 to get an Oscar nomination this year. Get Smart was a hit and she proved an elegant, plucky comedienne. Hathaway also earned rave reviews for her performance in ‘Twelfth Night’ in New York. Such acclaim has propelled her to the top of our list this year. Next from Hathaway, she’s the White Queen in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, and costarring in an ensemble romantic comedy with Julia Roberts, Valentine’s Day.
2. Keira Knightley
My Fair Lady was indefinitely postponed, and the hoped for Oscar-nomination did not materialize for Knightley’s performance as Georgina, The Duchess of Devonshire. But still, our sense is that people are beginning to cut Keira some slack. She was well reviewed for The Edge of Love, and she has a couple of very promising movies coming in 2010: William Monahan’s intriguing London Boulevard, with David Thewlis, Ray Winstone and Colin Farrell, and Mark Romanek’s film of the Ishuguro novel Never Let Me Go, with Charlotte Rampling, Sally Hawkins and Carey Mulligan (of whom, more anon). As for Last Night, we’ll have to wait and see.
3. Michelle Williams
Hathaway’s Brokeback Mountain costar should have been nominated this year for the neo-realist US indie Wendy and Lucy, but wasn’t. Williams is certainly one of the most talented and versatile actresses of her age group, and she has a nose for interesting projects like Synecdoche New York and Lukas Moodysson’s Mammoth. Unfortunately she has made several missteps when she’s tried more commercial fare (Deception; Incendiary). Still, she has a potentially juicy role in Scorsese’s Shutter Island out later this year, and then costars with Ryan Gosling in the intriguing Blue Valentine.
4. Emily Blunt
Blunt had the misfortune to lose out on Iron Man 2 this year because she was already committed to Gulliver’s Travels (Scarlett Johansson was Jon Favreau’s second choice). She accrued respect but not much excitement as The Young Victoria. But she wiped the floor with Amy Adams in Sunshine Cleaning, and should be fun flirting with Bill Nighy in the remake Wild Target. The Wolf Man is also in the can, and then there’s Philip K Dick’s The Adjustment Bureau to look forward to (with Matt Damon). Hot!
5. Natalie Portman
Debits: Star Wars I, II, III; V for Vendetta
Portman has been a movie star for longer than anyone on this list, and there’s little doubt she will maintain her high profile career over the next decade. However her recent efforts haven’t turned out as well as they might have: My Blueberry Nights, Mr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, The Other Boleyn Girl, V for Vendetta… Nothing to be ashamed of, but box office and reviews have been so-so. On paper, Jim Sheridan’s Brothers should put her back on track (Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire costar in the remake of the Susanne Bier film); there are comedies lined up with Don Roos and David Gordon Greene, and then maybe a film with Darren Aronofsky.
6. Ellen Page
Last year we wrote that Page is in a position to do just about anything, it only remains to be seen how far she can extend her range. Since then we’ve seen neither hide nor hair of her. Drew Barrymore’s rollergirl comedy Whip It could be empowering or embarrassing, who knows? Peacock is another unsafe choice (first time director, odd story) but she’s currently filming Christopher Nolan’s sf Inception, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon Leavitt, and on the horizon there’s Jane Eyre. So things are definitely looking up for Page.
7. Abbie Cornish
The Australian star hasn’t done much this year, but she received dazzling reviews at Cannes for her portrait of Fanny Brawne in Jane Campion’s love story Bright Star (with Ben Whishaw as John Keats). That title could be prophetic: an Oscar nomination next year seems probable. She was also, incidentally, by far the best thing about Stop-Loss.
8. Scarlett Johansson
Scarlett’s brilliant career continues to falter. The Spirit was dreadful and she had to endure some of the worst of it. Her homewrecker role in He’s Just Not That Into You seemed altogether too obvious and for better or worse Woody Allen has moved on to another muse. Her album of Tom Waits covers met with iffy reviews. And she owes her role as Black Widow in Iron Man 2 to Emily Blunt’s over-crowded schedule. On the other hand, that film could well put her right back on track, commercially speaking, and she has been busy enjoying married life with Ryan Reynolds, so it’s not all bad by any means.
9. Kristen Stewart
As we noted last year, Stewart has played Jodie Foster’s daughter in Panic Room, Meg Ryan’s daughter in In The Land Of Women, and Robert De Niro’s daughter in What Just Happened? Since then, of course, she’s also played Billy Burke’s daughter, Bella Swan, in Twilight – the kind of role recurring role in a hit franchise that you could build a career on. If she didn’t seem entirely comfortable in the part, nobody’s about to take it away from her. Stewart is more impressive in the well observed youth comedy Adventureland, but the one we’re looking forward to is The Runaways, in which she plays the young Joan Jett. How cool is that?
10. Sienna Miller
Debits: The Mysteries of Pittsburgh
Despite the scurrilous attentions of the paps, Miller is a fine actress who has routinely eclipsed her not-so-great movies. She proved her depth and range as It Girl Edie Sedgwick in Factory Girl. She will likely have her work cut out to impress in GI Joe. On the other hand, if it’s a hit, she stands to gain plenty of attention. Could the Baroness be her Lara Croft? We’ll know soon enough.
11. Evan Rachel Wood
Debits: Simone, The Life Before Her Eyes
Wood held her own as Mickey Rourke’s aggrieved daughter in The Wrestler (not the film’s best-written scenes admittedly). But she’s stuck with a condescending dumb girl role in Woody Allen’s latest, Whatever Works, and that’s about it for now. Wood is rumoured to have the title role in Jodie Foster’s long-gestating Flora Plum.
12. Zooey Deschanel
Debits: The Happening, Gigantic, Flakes, Raving
Soulful eyed Zooey Deschanel has graduated from best friend roles in romantic comedies like Failure to Launch to romantic leads in Yes Man and US indie sleeper (500) Days of Summer (she plays Summer). A quirky actress with an offbeat style, she’s something refreshingly different in a world that tends to favour bland blondes like the Jessicas Alba and Biel.
13. Megan Fox
Credits: Transformers 1 + 2, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People
The Transformers babe hasn’t shown us much more than a bod and an attitude yet, but she’s impressed in a series of outspoken, smart interviews, and we’re looking forward to her next move, a psycho cheerleader in Jennifer’s Body, the second movie penned by Diablo Cody. Just look what Diablo did for Ellen Page. If she has the acting ability to round out the package, this girl could be huge.
14. Bryce Dallas Howard
Credits: Spider-Man 3, Terminator: Salvation, Manderlay, The Village
Debits: Lady in the Water
Red-headed woman Howard hasn’t convinced us yet, but if M Night Shyamalan, Lars von Trier, and Sam Raimi see something in her, then you can be sure it’s not her family connections that are working for her here (Ron is her dad). Plus, she just nabbed the role of Victoria in Twilight: Eclipse.
15. Alice Braga
Debits: Crossing Over
Brazilian star Alice Braga is the niece of Sonia Braga, who briefly found international fame in Kiss of The Spiderwoman. City of God and Lower City did the trick for Alice, and for a while she looked like the last woman on earth in I Am Legend. If she stays tight with directors like Walter Salles (City of God) and Fernando Meirelles (Blindness) her career will only prosper. Upcoming: Repo Men! is a an organ translant thriller with Jude Law and Forest Whitaker, then the steamy 11 Minutes, with Mickey Rourke and Vincent Cassel.
Preview of Coming Attractions
16. Saoirse Ronan
The Atonement head-turner plays the lead in Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Lovely Bones, which may be as plum a role as there is for a teenager this Christmas.
17. Carey Mulligan
The pert English actress has mostly done TV up to now (Mrs Pritchard, Bleak House, Northanger Abbey) but her starring role in Nick Hornby’s original screenplay An Education had Cannes critics reaching for the Audrey Hepburn comparisons. She’s also in Brothers and Never Let Me Go, as well as a small role in Public Enemies. This time next year Mulligan could be near the top of this list.
18. Mia Wasikowska
Given how spot on the casting seems to be in Tim Burton’s forthcoming Alice in Wonderland (Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, Crispin Glover as The Knave of Hearts, Michael Sheen as the White Rabbit, Noah Taylor as the March Hare…) it’s seems a fair bet that Alice herself will be worth watching. Australian actress Wasikowska has already garnered good notices for TV’s In Treatment. Up next, Amelia, with Hilary Swank.
19. Dakota Fanning
The prodigious and prolific child actress seemed to be growing old gracefully enough in The Secret Life Of Bees, and she also had a success supplying the voice of Coraline. She plays Jane in the next Twilight episode, New Moon.
20. Katie Jarvis
Newcomer Katie Jarvis was an unemployed school drop out and having a very public row with her boyfriend when Andrea Arnold (Red Road) spotted her and offered her an audition for Fish Tank. Who knows if she can do anything else, but she’s electrifying in this film.
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