2010 Top 20 Actresses Under 30
We’ve been running this list for six years now – originally it was top ten under 25, a definition we realised was too narrow as our favourite stars got older. Funnily enough this year the youngsters are back in force – only three of our top ten, and one of the top five, are over 25.
What does that mean? Well, obviously we’re not claiming that Mia Wasikowska (ranked 3 in our chart) is as big a movie star as Natalie Portman (ranked 14). And frankly I would be surprised if Carey Mulligan (ranked 5) can command a paycheque comparable with, say, Scarlett Johansson’s (15). Rather, the list is a spot-check, a snapshot of how these talented actresses have fared over the past year or so. The fact is, while Natalie Portman has a large and enthusiastic fan-base, her recent work has been relatively disappointing, and while Scarlett did show some mettle in Iron Man 2 this season, she’s been taking some down time otherwise.
Similarly, in terms of box office numbers, Megan Fox would take some beating because of her Transformers roles – but it is debatable that those films would have performed any less impressively if, say, Emma Stone, had been cast instead. But Jennifer’s Body was box office poison, and Megan was front and centre in that marketing campaign.
To arrive at our rankings, we do look at the box office, and also at awards and critical reception – but also, less scientifically, we try to take the measure of career momentum by looking at the calibre of these actresses projects and collaborators, the kind of roles that they are playing and the buzz they are generating. So while Michelle Williams (our number 2 pick) may not be rolling in the big bucks, her high showing can be explained by the residual impact of her superb performance in Wendy And Lucy (among others); her exceptional work this year in Martin Scorsese’s hit Shutter Island; and the excitement around the Sundance drama Blue Valentine, costarring Ryan Gosling. All that, plus her recent casting as Marilyn Monroe – the very definition of hot, surely?
Girl Power List 2010
1. Kristen Stewart
Debits: Jumper; What Just Happened
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 recurring role in a hit franchise that you could build a career on, assuming you have what it takes to capitalize. Her impressive, gritty performance as Joan Jett in The Runaways suggests that she does – it’s enough to make even Bella-beaters reassess - and Sundance reviews for her turn as a lap dancer in Welcome to the Rileys were equally convincing. With Walter Salles’ On The Road coming up (and more Twilights, of course), Stewart is pulling ahead of the pack.
2. Michelle Williams
Debits: Deception; Incendiary
Great to see one of our most adventurous and eclectic actresses hit a winning streak. Williams had a couple of missteps a few years ago, but stuck to her guns, making independent films with directors who interested her, and she has been rewarded with Blue Valentine, described by one critic as the best film he’d seen at Sundance after 17 years of festival-going. Ryan Gosling is her costar. Williams was excellent in some of the most affecting scenes of Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island. Coming up, she is collaborating again with Wendy and Lucy director Kelly Reichard on Meek’s Cutoff, and she landed the enviable role of Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn.
3. Mia Wasikowska
Credits: Tim Burton’s Alice-in-Denial was an entrancing, novel interpretation of a beloved character, and Wasikowska navigated it with skill and subtlety. The Australian actress had impressed as Sophie in the first season of the TV series In Treatment, and as Chaya in Defiance. Next we’ll see her in Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right (with Julianne Moore and Annette Bening), in Gus Van Sant’s Restless, and as Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre (with Michael Fassbender as Rochester).
4. Carey Mulligan
Mulligan is hot right now: her work as the precocious schoolgirl Jenny in An Education garnered a nomination for Best Actress and a BAFTA win. Oliver Stone rushed her into his Wall Street sequel (not necessarily a good thing) and there were small but telling spots in Public Enemies and Brothers. Her work on British TV (Mrs Pritchard, Bleak House, Northanger Abbey) shows she has what it takes to last. Then there’s Never Let Me Go, with Keira Knightley and Charlotte Rampling, and tantalizing rumours that she could be Lisbeth Salander in the projected English language remake of Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (even if our Swedish sister-site voted for Natalie Portman instead).
5. Amanda Seyfried
What a difference a year makes! A pale blonde with big eyes, Seyfried has gone from jobbing actress to movie star almost overnight. Her gig as Meryl Streep’s daughter in Mamma Mia! was probably the single biggest break (though her long-running role in Big Love has also helped). The reviews for Jennifer’s Body were horrible, but most agreed Seyfried was the picture’s best asset, and a more intriguing prospect than Megan Fox. She ascended to top-line status in two drippy love stories, Dear John and Letters to Juliet, and asserted her erotic longings in Atom Egoyan’s campy Chloe. Never mind the quality, feel the width!
6. Emily Blunt
Debits: The Wolfman
Blunt had the misfortune to lose out on Iron Man 2 this year because she was already committed to Gulliver’s Travels. She accrued respect but not much excitement as The Young Victoria. She should be fun flirting with Bill Nighy in the remake Wild Target. And then there’s Philip K Dick’s The Adjustment Bureau to look forward to (with Matt Damon).
7. Abbie Cornish
The Australian star received dazzling reviews for her portrait of Fanny Brawne in Jane Campion’s love story Bright Star, but the much talked about Oscar nominations didn’t materialise. Cornish went into something completely different – Zack Snyder’s green-screen thriller Sucker Punch (tag line: “Alice in Wonderland with machine guns”), though the lead goes to her fellow Aussie up and comer, 21-year-old Emily Browning. Currently, she’s playing Wally Simpson for Madonna.
8. Ellen Page
Two years ago we wrote that Page was in a position to do just about anything, it only remains to be seen how far she can extend her range. Since then she’s been unexpectedly quiet. Drew Barrymore’s rollergirl comedy Whip It was a good choice in theory, but it didn’t generate much at the box office. Peacock went straight to DVD in the US. Christopher Nolan’s Inception, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon Levitt is the most hotly anticipated blockbuster of the year, but it remains to be seen if it will hold up, and if it does, whether Page will get a chance to compete with the guys. She lost out on Jane Eyre to Mia Wasikowska, but next year’s Freeheld sounds like it could be Oscar-bait.
9. Gemma Arterton
‘Bond girl’ hasn’t traditionally been a route to success, but Arterton – Strawberry Fields in Quantum of Solace – has made it clear she’s not about to be defined in that way. Of course her TV role as Tess of the D’Urbervilles didn’t hurt either. Neither Clash of the Titans nor Prince of Persia lived up to box office expectations, but still, by most standards these were seen by an awful lot of eyes, the exposure has been immense. She had more chance to show her depth as the kidnap victim in The Disappearance Of Alice Creed, and produced a brave, gutsy performance. The title role in Stephen Frears’ contemporary comedy Tamara Drewe tops off an exceptional year.
10. Freida Pinto
Probably the biggest winner in Slumdog Millionaire, Pinto has gone on to work with Woody Allen, Julian Schnabel (she has the lead in Miral), and Tarsem (as Phaedra in The Immortals). Of course, none of these has come out yet, but if talent like that wants to work with you, you’ve already arrived.
11. Saoirse Ronan
Debits: The Lovely Bones
The Atonement head-turner played the lead in Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Lovely Bones, which may be as plum a role as there is for a teenager. Too bad about the movie, but Ronan was appropriately haunting in the role. In the can, she has a WWII drama with Peter Weir (The Way Back), and she plays a hit-girl for Joe Wright (Atonement) in Hanna, costarring Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett.
12. Anna Kendrick
With her sophisticated look and subtle, self-effacing comic skills, it’s a mystery how Anna missed the cut last year. This year she already has an Oscar-nomination (supporting) to brag about, for her standout turn as the over-confident college grad in Up in the Air. That joins the Tony nomination she picked up for the Broadway production of High Society way back in 1998. She’s familiar to a whole other crowd of moviegoers for her recurring role as Jessica Stanley in the Twilight series. But we love her for the debate team queen bitch Ginny Ryerson in Rocket Science. Oh, and there’s also the thing she has coming up with Joseph Gordon Levitt and Seth Rogen – possibly called I’m With Cancer. Did I mention Anna’s also playing Scott’s sister, Stacy Pilgrim? (But Mary Elizabeth Winstead is Ramona Flowers.)
13. Keira Knightley
There’s been a lull on the KK career front. My Fair Lady was indefinitely postponed, and the hoped for Oscar-nomination did not materialise for Knightley’s performance as Georgina, The Duchess of Devonshire. But she has a stack of promising movies arriving shortly: 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. Looking further ahead, she’s playing opposite Viggo Mortensen and Michael Fassbender as Freud and Jung respectively, for David Cronenberg, no less. Knightley topped this last two years ago, and judging by that list she may be back on top of the heap this time next year.
14. 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. Jim Sheridan’s Brothers and the indie Hesher both add to this long list of also-rans. There are comedies lined up with Don Roos and David Gordon Greene, the female lead in Kenneth Branagh’s Thor. More potently, there is the prospect of Black Swan, a thriller about warring ballerinas from Darren Aronofsky (Mila Kunis costars).
15. Scarlett Johansson
Scarlett’s brilliant career faltered last year when she dropped from 3rd to 8th in our ranking (The Spirit, He’s Just Not That Into You and The Island would explain that). She owes her role in Iron Man 2 to Emily Blunt’s over-crowded schedule, but it was enough to remind people why she matters – and if it left audiences gagging for more, then you can be sure we’ll get that opportunity in Nick Fury and The Avengers.
16. Megan Fox
Credits: Transformers 1 + 2
Debits: Jennifer’s Body, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People
Somehow the outspoken Fox seems to have alienated her base – girls hate her because of her looks; boys hate her because she disses Michael Bay and the Transformers movies that made her a pin-up. The result: she became a whipping girl for the Jennifer’s Body backlash. Course, she could turn it all around, but vamping in Jonah Hex doesn’t seem like the way to do it. Passion Play, a comedy with Bill Murray and Mickey Rourke, could go either way.
17. Kirsten Dunst
Debits: Elizabethtown; Levity
Kirsten Dunst dropped out of sight for a while, which got tabloid tongues wagging, and her ‘comeback’, if that’s what it was, in How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, was a bit of a non-event. But Dunst has a trio of intriguing, ambitious films coming out soon, including On the Road and Andrew Jarecki’s first dramatic feature All Good Things. She has also, bravely, signed up for the next Lars von Trier film, Melancholia. All of which suggests this former child star is coming of age.
18. Emma Stone
‘Jules’ in Superbad, Emma Stone has established her bone-fides in a string of comedies, good, bad and indifferent. There was The Rocker, The House Bunny, and Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past – and (the good), there was Zombieland, the best showcase yet for her sardonic, spunky shtick. Incidentally, word is she’s really a blonde, Judd Apatow suggested she go red for Superbad and the look stuck.
19. Anne Hathaway
Hathaway scaled to number one last year on the back of Rachel Getting Married and Get Smart, but the past 12 months have been ho-hum: two much maligned rom-coms (Bride Wars and Valentine’s Day) with only her White Queen in Alice in Wonderland on the credit side of the equation. Coming soon: a comedy with Brokeback costar Jake Gyllenhaal as a Viagra salesman.
20. Alia Shawkat
Alia doesn’t get enough to do in The Runaways, the Joan Jett movie is carved up between Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning, but she impressed as Ellen Page’s bf Pash in Whip It, and she’s terrific in the indie movie Amreeka, where she was able to play up the Iraqi side of her heritage. She’ll shortly be reprising her TV role as Maeby in the big screen version of cult comedy series Arrested Development.
Titles related to this article