Next Gen 2011: Hollywood's Fastest-Rising Stars

1:00 PM 11/7/2011

by THR staff

Get your coffee? Get it yourself. Meet THR's 18th annual 35 under 35, the industry's next big superstars poised to lead a town's uncertain future.

Joe Pugliese

This story appears in the Nov. 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter.

What is talent?

For some, in the ever-evolving business world of Hollywood, it's the ability to see potential before anyone else does. For others, it's a knack for negotiating a deal through complex industry channels. Sometimes, says Fox co-chairman Jim Gianopulos, it's "coming up with the right answer. More often, it's coming up with the right questions. … And if you're smart enough to already have the answer, that's talent."

PHOTOS: THR's Next Gen Class of 2011

The men and women chosen for THR's 18th annual Next Gen issue demonstrate both talent and success. Their ambition and perseverance have taken them into leadership roles at an age when most others are just getting their start. The 35 on the following pages represent some of the industry's brightest talent and highest-profile projects; likely, they themselves will be the ones running Hollywood in years to come. (Stacey Snider, Ari Emanuel and Mike De Luca are among the notable earlier honorees.) Behind the scenes, their success is measured by drive, commitment and passion: weekends spent reading scripts, time away from families, holidays celebrated with BlackBerry in hand.

"Working in Hollywood is like that old analogy: You don't have to outrun the bear, you just have to outrun the person next to you," says Paramount's David Waldman, a 2011 Next Gen honoree. "You're around a lot of type-A people who are going to work extremely hard. When you're starting out in the business, you need to totally immerse yourself in this town."

THR is proud to recognize the young professionals who stand out from the crowd: the Next Gen Class of 2011.

Next Gen 2011: Hollywood's Fastest-Rising Stars: full list
  • Agents
  • Digital
  • TV
  • Film
  • Legal
  • Management
  • Publicity
  • Writers and Directors
  • Actresses
  • Actors
  • Mike Berkowitz

    Partner/Comedy Department Head, APA

    Joe Pugliese

    Berkowitz, 33, has worked in the comedy trenches for more than a decade and counts Louis C.K., Craig Ferguson, John Mulaney, Mike Birbiglia, Aziz Ansari, Bill Burr and Kevin Hart among his clients. But his early passion was music. The Bronx native enrolled at Berklee College of Music to study guitar, piano and songwriting with the idea of starting a band. Once he realized his talent for booking gigs exceeded his musical skills, Berkowitz built a music-repping business out of his Boston apartment. "I wanted to be David Geffen," he admits. Moving back to New York in 2001, Berkowitz began a five-year stint at Rick Dorfman Entertainment that brought him into the world of comedy. He built his own list and began developing his clients' stand-up careers across a variety of platforms, eventually taking his business to APA in early 2006. "Marketability is the first thing I look for, a unique voice," says Berkowitz. "You can really tell, if you're out there enough, who's doing something different. The nature of comedy is very cyclical, and I try to stay ahead of the trends." The newly promoted partner still jams with friends on his favorite Fender Telecaster, but his own gigs are behind him. Instead, he gets gratification from seeing a client like Hart, whose concert film Laugh at My Pain has grossed $7.6 million, blow up. Says Berkowitz, "His next tour, we're going to be jumping into arenas."

  • Steve Gersh

    Talent Agent, Gersh Agency

    Joe Pugliese

    Agenting runs thick in Gersh's blood -- his grandfather Phil started the Gersh Agency in 1949, and his father, David, and uncle Bob are now in charge. And though Steve, 28, initially had his sights set on a journalism career, the siren call of the family business proved too hard to resist. After graduating from Duke, a college he chose to broaden his horizons away from Hollywood, he was an assistant at the agency for several years before becoming an agent. Now he works on Kristen Stewart's team and has a stable of young up-and-comers, mostly in the under-25 range, including Max Thieriot (Disconnect), Nico Tortorella (Odd Thomas), Josh Bowman (ABC's Revenge) and Bridgit Mendler (Disney Channel's Good Luck Charlie). "Every career decision is important when you're that young," says Gersh of steering his charges. "If you send them on a wrong path, they're not going to get to where they or you want them to get to." In his downtime, the newly married Gersh plays softball with his high school buddies. But boxing is one of his true passions. "I try to take a calm approach in the office, so it's a good outlet," he says.

  • Mark Gordon

    TV Agent, ICM

    Joe Pugliese

    As a middle school student in Pasadena, Gordon kept a binder with the ratings for his favorite TV shows. "I remember graphing out with pencil and ruler the week-to-week ratings of Seinfeld and The Simpsons and trying to figure out what caused the fluctuations," he admits of a passion that began early. The decision to take the agency path came later, when he listened to then-BWCS partner Chris Silbermann address his show-business seminar at Northwestern. Inspired, Gordon reached out and landed a gig with the agency in 2002; four years later, he followed mentors Silbermann and Ted Chervin to ICM. More recently, the newly engaged Gordon has played an instrumental role in bringing James Spader to NBC's The Office, actor-producer Samuel L. Jackson to CBS Paramount and Hell on Wheels showrunner John Shiban to AMC. Hanging on a wall in Gordon's Century City office is a Breaking Bad poster featuring a gun-wielding, pants-less Bryan Cranston standing in front of his character's meth lab, with a note from another Gordon client, Bad creator Vince Gilligan: "To Mark Gordon, soon to be known as THE Mark Gordon. Would this guy be standing here in his underpants if not for you? I THINK NOT."

  • Doug Lucterhand

    Agent, WME

    Joe Pugliese

    For Lucterhand, 32, it was only a few short years after working as a camp counselor in the north woods of Wisconsin that he became a harried assistant to Ari Emanuel in the Beverly Hills offices of Endeavor in 2002. Bookended by gigs on the desks of Tom Strickler and Patrick Whitesell, the Chicago native says his 18 months with Emanuel were "life-changing." "I had the entire business pouring into my left ear every day. It was a pretty remarkable education at 23 years old. I grew up very quickly." As an integral part of WME's comedy group, Lucterhand helps steer the careers of clients Joel McHale, Charlie Day, Ellie Kemper, Rob Corddry and Nick Kroll, as well as those of several Saturday Night Live writers and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter star Ben Walker. "I've sought out clients to work with who are ambitious and curious and want to do things on their own terms," says Lucterhand. "Comedy lends itself to that." In his off-hours, the University of Wisconsin alum likes to travel with old friends and consume sports by the steinful, especially college basketball. "I'm a die-hard Bears fan and a die-hard Bulls fan as well," he says. "At the company, a lot of people see me as 'the Chicago guy.' "

  • Jenny Maryasis

    Motion Picture Literary Agent, UTA

    Joe Pugliese

    Maryasis, 29, has been with UTA since graduating from Pennsylvania's Haverford College in 2004 despite her Russian immigrant parents' disappointment that she was passing up a career in law. ("They thought 'agent' sounded like a fake job," she says.) She had enjoyed a summer internship at Gersh after her junior year, so the Brooklyn-born Maryasis moved to L.A. and worked on the desks of UTA's Jeremy Zimmer and Andrew Cannava. As an agent, she has signed new writing talent such as Lauren Miller & Katie Naylon (the upcoming comedy feature For a Good Time, Call …) and discovered the work of filmmaker Lena Dunham before her no-budget comedy Tiny Furniture brought her major buzz. "It's an example of sometimes you gotta take a chance and trust your gut," she says. Maryasis indulges her love of travel by taking two big trips a year. A recent jaunt to Iceland involved glacier lagoons, black-sand beaches and dining on fermented shark. "I love trying new foods -- the weirder, the better," she says. That eagerness and flexibility also inform Maryasis' approach to clients. "The most important thing is being open to different ways of making films," she says. "I find that the new changes are exciting, and it's made room for a lot of entrepreneurial writers and directors."

  • Ben Weiss

    Agent, Motion Picture Finance Group, Paradigm

    Joe Pugliese

    Weiss, 30, took the circular path to get to his position at Paradigm, where he plays a key role packaging films, repping financiers and selling completed films. He arrived at the company as an intern in 2002 and, after graduating from Hobart College in upstate New York, segued to an assistant position in the feature lit department a year later. He left in 2005 to try his hand as an independent producer but found, after a time, that the job wasn't for him. "I enjoyed a lot of aspects of producing, but when you look at the amount of projects you have to have in development compared to how many actually get made, it was really frustrating," he says. That's why, when he returned to Paradigm three years ago, he found his current job so rewarding. "Within the finance group here at Paradigm, I found that if you really believe in something, you have a leg up. You can pick and choose the right genre, the right budget, the right cast, because you know what it looks like on the other side, in terms of distribution." Last year, the newly married Weiss helped sell Sundance Audience Award winner Circumstance to Participant Media and Roadside Attractions, The Devil's Double to Lionsgate and the Michael Rapaport documentary Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest to Sony Pictures Classics. He also arranged financing for the Channing Tatum movie Ten Year. Not to stop there, Weiss was integral in sales of Andy Garcia's City Island and Toronto festival winner Beautiful Boy.

  • Tom Young

    TV Agent, CAA

    Joe Pugliese

    As a University of Miami law student, Young, 35, had worked on Al Gore's presidential campaign and was contemplating a career in politics when the 2000 Florida recount occurred. "Living through it, being inundated by it and getting frustrated by it soured me a bit," he says. Switching gears, the Sarasota, Fla., native moved to California, landing a gig in the UTA mailroom in spring 2001. "It's a humbling experience to have a law degree and push a mail cart," says Young with a laugh. Five weeks in, he was moved to the agency's TV lit department; four years later, he jumped to CAA. Since then, the married father of two has grown his portfolio of TV clients to include Steven Lilien and Bryan Wynbrandt, the co-creators of Fox's midseason drama Alcatraz, and Spartacus showrunner Steven S. DeKnight, for whom he recently struck Starz's first overall deal. During the WGA strike in 2007-08, the self-proclaimed neat freak and scuba diving enthusiast began to build his roster of sports broadcasting clients, working on scripted and unscripted projects as well as speaking engagements and broadcasting deals for talent such as former NBA stars Chris Webber and Kenny Smith. "The writers strike happened and we started to brainstorm about what we aren't doing that we could be doing," Young says. "That's where the sports broadcasting department came from. Since then, we've gone from a handful of clients to about 50." 

  • Chris Bruss

    President of Branded Entertainment, Funny or Die

    Joe Pugliese

    A few years ago, Bruss, 28, was a CAA business-development assistant helping to create a company that would monetize humorous video clips from Will Ferrell and others on the Internet. Obviously, he impressed the company he helped launch: Funny or Die. The Kenosha, Wis., native came aboard in July 2009 and now oversees branded entertainment, making him responsible for creating entertaining videos that are actually subtle commercials for major brands, like one starring Snoop Dogg, LL Cool J, Zachary Levi and Wayne Newton called "Ultimate Halo Smackdown" that promotes Xbox (it won this year's Webby Award for best branded entertainment video). "I probably work with CAA just as much now as I did when I worked there," the newly married Bruss says. That's because some CAA clients make FOD videos, and the agency remains a stakeholder in the fast-growing company. Since Bruss joined, FOD has doubled its ranks to 70 employees, and some of the new hires were culled from the radio, TV and film department at his alma mater, Northwestern University. "I work with some of my best friends. It's a dream environment," he says. "CAA was great, but nothing can top FOD."

  • Michelle Lee

    True Jack Productions, head of development

    Christopher Patey

    Lee got an early education in television production during her multi-year run with producer Mark Gordon.

    More recently, the Orange County native with degrees from UCLA and USC did a stint with Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, where she was integral in bringing Fox its fall breakout Sleepy Hollow via co-creator Phillip Iscove, before joining Jason Katims' True Jack Productions.

    The exec has been heavily involved with NBC's midseason comedy About a Boy -- half-hours have been a priority for Lee and the Parenthood showrunner -- and has three high-profile projects in development.

    IF I'M NOT WORKING: I'm practicing hot vinyasa yoga, which I do almost every day, or cooking, baking and trying new restaurants.

    FAVORITE MOVIE: Anything Cameron Crowe or Ang Lee, or the Chinese film In the Mood for Love. I love it so much I keep the poster, which I tracked down from Japan, in my office.

    MUST-SEE TV: My obsession right now is Orange Is the New Black. It's exemplary of what Jason and I would love to do in the cable space.


  • Jonathan Zepp

    Strategic Content Partnerships, Google/YouTube

    Joe Pugliese

    Zepp, 34, grew up in Kentucky, Florida, New York, New Jersey and West Virginia. So maybe it was preordained he'd move around a lot in his career. After a stint as a lawyer at Latham & Watkins, he joined Napster in 2004, then jumped to Paramount Digital Entertainment, then Sony Network Entertainment. In July, the Baruch College graduate came to YouTube to lead its worldwide content acquisitions arm, where he has helped license some of the 3,000 feature films users can rent. The married Zepp also has launched YouTube's movie-rental business in Canada and the U.K., and he and a team in Beverly Hills are "exploring" the same model for TV shows. When he's not licensing content, he's an amateur screenwriter who likes to watch baseball and play basketball. "We're at a pivotal, fundamental point in time," Zepp says. "Distribution opportunities increase through companies like ours."

  • Lauren Abrahams

    Director of Production, Columbia Pictures

    Joe Pugliese

    Even though she grew up in Malibu surrounded by film talk and loving movies -- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was a particular favorite -- Abrahams, 31, never really considered that there were careers to be had in the entertainment industry beyond obvious paths like acting or directing. That all changed, though, after she graduated from Wesleyan in 2003 and scored an internship with production-management firm Benderspink. After just a year, Abrahams found employment as an assistant at Michael De Luca's production company, which brought her to the Sony lot in Culver City, where she has thrived ever since. Two years later, in 2006, she found a new gig as an assistant to Matt Tolmach, then co-president of Columbia Pictures, and within another two years she was promoted to her current position. In her experience, the movie business is a meritocracy. "It doesn't always have to be about nepotism or education," she says. "The people who succeed have common sense and know how to tell a commercial story." Abrahams has demonstrated that knack by shepherding such high-profile projects as The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and the Total Recall remake. "Working with the director and editor has been my favorite part of the process," says Abrahams, who, when not focused on upcoming releases, is planning her July 28 wedding to writer-director David Posamentier.

  • Jesse Ehrman

    VP Production, Warner Bros. Pictures

    Joe Pugliese

    It was a pivotal moment in the late 1990s when Ehrman, 35, then an intern at Davis Entertainment on the Fox lot, was sent to the studio's library to look through magazines in search of possible movie ideas. The UC Berkeley student was intrigued by the concept that anything could be a film. "After that," he says, "anything and everything I read, I began running that filter: 'Is this a movie? Is that a movie?' " In the ensuing years, Ehrman, who grew up in Malibu, did locations work on an indie film, started a website, worked a mailroom job at AMG and eventually landed, in 2004, as assistant to a producer with a deal at Warner Bros., which opened doors at the studio. In 2008, he became a junior executive on The Hangover, graduating to executive on The Hangover Part II. He oversaw the upcoming Todd Phillips-produced comedy Project X and is about to start production on Dogfight, a Will Ferrell-Zach Galifianakis political satire. Projects such as Tarzan and an untitled drama that Matt Damon will direct demonstrate that while he has an affinity for them, he's not just focused on comedies. "We're all encouraged and expected to speak many languages, genre-wise," he says. "There are some that I happen to be more fluent in than others."

  • Jonathan Eirich

    VP Production, DreamWorks

    Joe Pugliese

    A wide variety of college internships -- Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, research for Errol Morris' The Fog of War, Gold Circle Films -- led Boston native and Harvard grad Eirich, 30, to Los Angeles in 2004 with writing aspirations. That is, until his friends urged him to "get a real job," which he did, working for CAA's Jay Baker for a year in 2005. He landed an assistant's gig with then-Universal Pictures chairman Stacey Snider in 2006 and has been with her ever since, following her to DreamWorks as her creative assistant and subsequently earning promotions up the development ranks. "She still acts like she's a 23-year-old assistant trying to get promoted, and it's amazing that she doesn't take anything for granted," Eirich says. "She always wants to be up on everything, and that's inspiring." Since early 2008, Eirich has worked on Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and "DreamWorks 2.0" projects Cowboys & Aliens, The Help and I Am Number Four, which he championed early in book form at the studio. And he's always looking for more. Eirich's Saturday mornings are spent playing a round of golf before heading to the local Coffee Bean for hours of script reading. "You can never get lazy," he says. "You can never get complacent about finding new material, finding new writers."

  • Maradith Frenkel

    Director, Development, Universal Pictures

    Joe Pugliese

    As a young girl growing up in Miami, Frenkel, 32, thought she wanted to be an astronaut. But she dropped that idea after a couple of summers at space camp, where she discovered science wasn't her forte. Instead, she headed to New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. After graduating in 2001, she served a stint at the WME mailroom in Manhattan before getting a call in 2003 to become an assistant to Donna Langley, then a rising production exec at Universal. Within 24 hours, Frenkel relocated to Los Angeles and has been at Universal ever since, moving up the ranks until taking on her current job in 2009. Having helped develop such hits as Mamma Mia! and Bridesmaids, she bristles when anyone calls them chick flicks. "I don't like that term," says Frenkel, who has four younger brothers. "I wouldn't even classify myself as someone who likes chick flicks; I feel it suggests a formulaic romantic comedy. What I do love are movies with strong female characters." That should serve her well as she oversees her current assignment, Universal's big-budget Snow White and the Huntsman, a revisionist version of the Grimm tale starring Kristen Stewart.

  • David Neustadter

    Production Executive, New Line Cinema

    Joe Pugliese

    In 2003, Neustadter, 32, quit grad school, worked at a brewhouse in Bloomington, Ind., and had dreams of becoming a screenwriter. A chance encounter with a customer led him to meet then-New Line story editor Luke Ryan, in town for a cousin's graduation. That connection set Neustadter on a twisty road that saw him move to Los Angeles and land an internship at New Line. In 2004, he became an assistant to the company's Richard Brener. Now, the single Neustadter, who survived the downsizing of the company and its absorption into Warner Bros., helps keep New Line's comedy and horror roots alive. He oversaw Nightmare on Elm Street and Final Destination, and is shepherding the Steve Carell magician comedy Burt Wonderstone, the ensemble comedy We're the Millers and The Conjuring, a horror thriller to be directed by James Wan. The most important business lesson Neustadter learned came from Brener. "To quote my mentor, 'Never burn bridges, always hold grudges, and never in writing.' Especially in e-mails," he says. "Everyone forwards everything!"

  • David Ready

    VP, Di Bonaventura Pictures

    Joe Pugliese

    Boston native Ready, 32, was just two weeks into his mailroom job at Industry Entertainment in Los Angeles when the events of Sept. 11 occurred. "Driving around town, people didn't know what was coming next," recalls the grad of Washington University in St. Louis. "It was a weird way to start a new life in this city." But start it he did, learning the ropes at Industry, then in the office of Warners' Greg Silverman and later at Jerry Weintraub Productions. He segued to Di Bonaventura Pictures in 2006 as vp just as producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura was going into production on Transformers, 1408 and two other films. As a key member of the team, Ready was instrumental in putting together last year's surprise Bruce Willis hit Red -- which could be Summit's next franchise -- as well as bringing the upcoming thriller Man on a Ledge to the screen after a 10-year journey. According to Ready, the most important facets to production are passion and inspiration. "If you can be passionate and can inspire passion in other people, then you have an enterprise of very talented people working toward one goal," he says. "If you can't do that, you can't produce. We're not writing checks. We're selling a vision."

  • Lis Rowinski

    VP Features, Fake Empire Productions

    Joe Pugliese

    Rowinski, 33, grew up in a little town (Plaistow, N.H.) and went to a tiny liberal arts college (Amherst) -- but all things small ended there when she took a big chance and moved on a whim to Los Angeles in 2000. She caught a break when a friend of a friend sent her resume to Endeavor, where she was soon pushing a mail cart. She became an agent in 2004 and left the company, now WME, in 2010 to head up the feature film division of Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage's Fake Empire Productions. The company is in postproduction on its first feature, Fun Size, and has 12 projects in development. "In the first year of our deal [at Paramount], to have something that is actually going, was really exciting. And very lucky -- let's not kid ourselves," she says. In her short tenure, Rowinski has brought to the company projects based on young adult novels The Luxe and Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick and the short-story anthology Let It Snow. She says she's more than pleased with her decision to leave her small-town East Coast life behind: "I think part of moving out here was just seeing if I could figure it out."

  • Ramon Wilson

    Executive VP Business Development, Relativity Media

    Joe Pugliese

    A homegrown talent (he grew up in View Park, Calif.), Wilson, 33, parlayed his political science degree from Yale into several years working in the financial sector in New York as an investment banker, financial consultant and music video producer. In mid-2006, he joined Relativity back in Los Angeles and immediately began helping the growing company transform into a full-fledged studio, brokering big deals to bring in Rogue Pictures, establish a home video outlet and migrate Overture's marketing and distribution teams into Relativity. "Setting up a studio infrastructure during a major transition as far as the way that content is delivered has been a very interesting learning experience," he says. "It's been great to set up a studio that is positioned to take advantage of what's to come." Colleagues may spot Wilson hugging curves along Mulholland Highway on the back of his Triumph Bonneville T100 or at concerts (he recently shot out to Vegas to see Jay-Z perform). But during work hours, he's focused on playing an integral part in the company's expansion. "Relativity is still a relatively small organization," he says, "and what's great is being able to explore ideas and execute them quickly without a lot of red tape."

  • Bianca Levin

    Partner, Gang Tyre Ramer & Brown

    Joe Pugliese

    Levin, 34, starred in a few commercials when she was a kid in New York. "But the truth was, I didn't have the acting gene," she admits. So at 14 she decided she'd become an entertainment lawyer instead. After attending Yale for both undergrad and law school, Levin left a cushy corporate law job at Sullivan and Cromwell for Los Angeles' venerable Gang Tyre talent firm, home of such legends as Steven Spielberg and Clint Eastwood, among others. Now she handles deals for Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, prolific producer Tony Krantz and Twilight star Ashley Greene, whom Levin signed before she landed a role in the blockbuster franchise. After making partner at 29, the unmarried travel buff (she explored St. Tropez this summer) is focused on signing more emerging stars. "People take on entertainment lawyers very early in their careers now, so it's super competitive," she says. "You've got to always be on the lookout for great talent."

  • Ben Mauceri

    VP Business and Legal Affairs, Comedy Central

    Joe Pugliese

    Before Charlie Sheen could take his licks at the Comedy Central Roast, he had to pass muster with Mauceri, 34, whose duties include talent deals for all the infamous roasts. "Charlie's team was actually wonderful," says the New York native, who lives in the same Chelsea neighborhood where he grew up. "Very few people do the roasts for money. People do it because they really want to do it." After graduating from Syracuse Law, Mauceri moved to Los Angeles without a job and landed as an assistant to the head of business affairs for Universal Television. After stints at William Morris and as a production lawyer on Blind Date, he joined Comedy Central in 2005, moving back to New York five years later. An avid motorcyclist (he just bought a rare 1972 Moto Guzzi), the single Mauceri also handles the network's South Park franchise, which includes fielding odd requests like helping procure guinea pigs that could be dressed up and photographed for an episode. "I did a complicated animal wrangler deal and I told my mom about it," he recalls. "And now she tells her friends I get guinea pigs for South Park for a living."

  • Aaron Rosenberg

    Partner, Myman Greenspan Fineman Fox Rosenberg & Light

    Joe Pugliese

    There's a reason Rosenberg, 34, chose to focus on music once he decided to pursue a career in entertainment law. "I was a shitty piano player and a shittier singer," he cracks. "But I knew I wanted to be among creative professionals and around music." Growing up in Kansas City, Mo., Rosenberg immersed himself in Motown and R&B, and then carried his love for the genre through seven years at Harvard (where he attended undergrad and law school). It would help him land an internship at Arista Records, a clerkship at Greenberg Traurig  and then his first major client, John Legend, in 2002. Today, as his firm's youngest partner ever, he represents some of the biggest names in music, including Jennifer Lopez, Justin Bieber and songwriter Diane Warren. He has also made a concerted effort to recruit top executives as clients, including Lady Gaga manager Troy Carter. Says Rosenberg: "It takes a certain type of person to bring the needs of commerce and art together. It's a talent not a lot of executives have, and the ones that do, they're rock stars, too. Think about it: How do you get in a room and tell Lauryn Hill that her nine-minute song needs to be down to three?" Rosenberg credits his negotiating skills to being the middle of three brothers and the indispensable advice of his mom and mentor: Never take no for an answer. "She got her Ph.D. in chutzpah, which she most certainly passed on to me."

  • Scott "Scooter" Braun

    Founder, Silent Media Group

    Mike Lerner

    "Whoever says you're too young, tell them to f-- off." In the great tradition of mouthy music managers, Braun, 30, can spew these words because he's lived them. Graduating from in-demand Atlanta party promoter to successful marketing executive at Jermaine Dupri's So So Def Records, he quickly rose up the hip-hop ranks but at age 26 was itching for more. The Greenwich, Conn.-raised Braun found it in 13-year-old Canadian Justin Bieber, whom he discovered on YouTube. Although 1,000 miles apart, the two had one thing in common: "People kept saying, 'He's too young,' " recalls Braun, who partnered with Usher to sign Bieber. "It resonated. I'd heard it before; one executive even told me to sign him over because I was too young to make it happen." Bieber's rise to superstardom is now the stuff of legend, thanks in large part to the film Never Say Never, Braun's brainchild and co-production (with Paramount) that was a $98 million hit in 2010. Throw in Bieber's endorsement deals, sold-out concerts, U.S. album sales of 4 million and the undying devotion of countless teenage girls, and you have the makings of a music mogul in Braun, who is single and has a girlfriend. His process? "I ask a lot of questions, and I study failure," says the L.A. transplant, "but my gut is my No. 1 asset."

  • Adam Kossack

    Manager, Anonymous Content

    Joe Pugliese

    No, he isn't friends with Justin Timberlake, but Kossack's first job after graduating from the University of Arizona was as a production coordinator for 'N Sync. "I was essentially a white-collar roadie," Kossack, 33, notes of his job duties, which included hauling equipment, finding obscure items for his boss like a pony or a game of horseshoes -- and, of course, corralling groupies. ("Not too difficult," he says.) After reading superstar manager-producer Bernie Brillstein's memoir, the Scottsdale, Ariz., native bailed on plans for law school and instead answered phones for manager and Next Gen Class of 2006 alum Michael Sugar. When Sugar joined Anonymous, Kossack followed, and he has been building a roster of writer-director clients since being promoted in 2007. His work for Kevin Tancharoen helped the Fame director land New Line's upcoming Mortal Kombat reboot after putting together a short film as a proof-of-concept, while clients Leah Rachel is writing pilots for HBO and ABC and Max Borenstein is scripting Godzilla for Warner Bros. and Legendary. The unmarried, self-professed gym rat says there are valuable lessons to be learned on the road with a boy band. "It's very detail-oriented," he says. "You do that, you can do anything in Hollywood."

  • Tucker Voorhees

    Manager, Principato Young Management

    Joe Pugliese

    In 1999, right after he moved to L.A. from Chapel Hill, N.C., where he graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill, golf fanatic Voorhees, 34, rather appropriately had one of his first internships with Robert Redford's Wildwood Enterprises as the company was prepping The Legend of Bagger Vance. Positions with manager Tom Parziale and 3 Arts Entertainment followed, the latter of which moved Voorhees to Manhattan in 2003 with the mandate to "go out and sign funny people." During the next two years, Voorhees, who is married, scouted such fresh talent as Ed Helms, Stephen Colbert, Zach Galifianakis and Paul Scheer. He compares his time there to "the sweet spot of Second City" in Chicago. He eventually returned to L.A., joining Principato Young in 2007. Along with Helms, Scheer and Will Arnett, Voorhees reps actor-writers Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (The Descendants) and director David Wain (Wanderlust). He sees the key to managing comedy talent in 2011 as "understanding the different marketplaces, sitting down with clients and figuring out the best platform for the idea to succeed." Voorhees' passion for golf has infiltrated his work again in one way: In his office hangs a vintage sign that reads "No Mulligans." "It's very apropos for our business," he says. "There are no take-backs."

  • Dana Archer

    Executive VP, DDA Public Relations

    Joe Pugliese

    Archer, 35, was one year into Southwestern Law School when the Los Angeles native decided against becoming the fifth lawyer in her family. Instead, she went into entertainment PR. After gigs with Warren Cowan, BWR and Weber Shadwick, she joined international PR firm DDA and rapidly rose through the ranks, being put in charge of the L.A. office and representing international film companies at a time when the foreign box office is the fastest-growing part of the business. Her client roster includes Alliance Films (The King's Speech), FilmNation and Crime Scene Pictures (Gambit), and she's a force at every important film market and festival. "There really aren't a lot of firms that do what we do," she explains. The single Archer spends about a quarter of the year out of the country (then bouncing from Laos to Tuscany for fun). She's now helping to craft the international campaign for Zhang Yimou's The Flowers of War, starring Christian Bale, and which FilmNation is repping. Archer is fascinated by cross-cultural marketing: "We're concerned with domestic, but also we have to make it work for the rest of the world."

  • Christian Muirhead

    Head of Corporate Communications, WME Entertainment

    Joe Pugliese

    As the top publicity executive at one of the town's busiest talent agencies, Muirhead, 33, walks several tightropes: He manages how WME and its 275 agents are portrayed in the often-ruthless industry press (THR included) and is the strategic voice for larger-than-life WME boss Ari Emanuel, whose profile extends far beyond Hollywood. Muirhead and his staff of 13 also plan the agency's lavish Emmys bash and put out daily media fires for hundreds of clients in outlets as diverse as Financial Times and TMZ. The married, Brussels-born father of a young girl spent his childhood in London, Toronto, Buffalo and Baltimore, courtesy of his father's job as a management specialist. "It taught me how to deal with different kinds of people," says Muirhead. After graduating from Boston University, he took an assistant gig in Warner Bros.' international PR department before joining William Morris in 2004 and thriving after its 2009 merger with Endeavor. He heads the philanthropic efforts of the agency's clients, including Usher's New Look Foundation. The agency also is involved with Foster Elementary School in Compton, Calif. Says Muirhead, "In the two and a half years we've been working with them, their test scores have gone up."

  • Paul Roeder

    VP Global Communications, Walt Disney Studios

    Joe Pugliese

    Growing up in a 600-person, no-stoplight town in northwest Iowa, the closest Roeder, 35, came to Hollywood was flipping through his monthly Us magazine. "It was the popcorn capital of the world," he says of Schaller, where his graduating class consisted of 23 people. After his time at DePauw University in Indiana, the pop-culture junkie headed to New York, where he landed a gig in the William Morris mailroom. By 2000, Roeder had picked up again, this time moving to Los Angeles and taking a job as assistant to Zenia Mucha, then heading communications at ABC and now an executive vp at Disney. "I interviewed with her [during] the day and started working for her that night at the ABC press tour," he says of the whirlwind hire. A decade or so later, Roeder has ascended to head of global communications at sister company Disney Studios, where he manages media coverage of global blockbusters such as the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and the upcoming Muppets reboot. Earning a reputation for responding to requests at all hours, Roeder handled the turmoil surrounding budget battles on The Lone Ranger and will work overtime promoting the $250 million spring 2012 action epic John Carter.

  • David Waldman

    Senior VP National Publicity, Paramount Pictures

    Joe Pugliese

    "Whether a movie is great or terrible, there's always one idea that can make it pop," says Waldman, 35, who has positioned films as diverse as Dreamgirls and Mission: Impossible 3. The youngest son of two New Jersey teachers grew up loving Broadway shows before graduating from James Madison University, moving to Hollywood and leveraging connected family friends into volunteer gigs at lower-profile events like the Hollywood Christmas Parade. His first paying job landed Waldman with PMK publicist Catherine Olim, whose clients included Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ed Harris. At Paramount for six years, the married father of a young boy (with another on the way) is leading the charge on creative campaigns for Like Crazy and The Adventures of Tintin. "There's no job description for publicity," he says. "I've done everything and anything from buying someone shoes to launching a giant premiere in Russia for Transformers."

  • Charlie Andrews

    VP Drama Development, Fox Broadcasting Co.

    Joe Pugliese

    As many of Andrews' Georgetown classmates were pursuing careers in political circles and legal work, Andrews, 29, a government major and theology/Spanish double minor, found himself poring over the Hollywood trades and any relevant industry books he could scrounge up at Barnes & Noble. "I discovered The Hollywood Reporter and Variety online my sophomore year and began to read them every day to try to understand ratings and what shows were doing well," he recalls of a passion few at his college shared. Andrews landed an internship on the first major D.C.-area TV project he could find: America's Most Wanted. While neither the genre nor the subject matter appealed to him, he fell in love with the creative process. After college, the Chicago native and frequent hiker moved to Hollywood, where he landed a gig in NBC's page program and worked his way up the studio ranks. Along the way, he added series (Friday Night Lights, Heroes) and mentors (Katherine Pope, Kevin Reilly), ultimately deciding to jump to Fox in May after 6½ years at NBC. During the five months since, Andrews, who calls working with showrunner Jason Katims on FNL the "best working experience" of his career, has been involved in such shows as the upcoming drama Touch from Tim Kring (Heroes) and development projects from friends Silvio Horta of Ugly Betty and Josh Berman of Drop Dead Diva.

  • Marci Cooperstein

    Executive Director, Programming & Development, ABC Family

    Joe Pugliese

    The New Jersey native, 31, was already set on a career in television when she arrived at UCLA in 1998. During Cooperstein's four-year tenure as a communications studies major, the former editor-in-chief of her high school newspaper co-founded an undergraduate TV station, executive produced its newsmagazine show and landed a series of industry internships. "I was an internship-aholic," says Cooperstein with a laugh, ticking off gigs at DreamWorks, Comedy Central and E!, among others. In the years since, the married foodie, who spent time in ABC's unscripted department before moving to its sister cable network in 2004, has been busy putting interns to work through ABC Family's "Fambassadors" program. ("We've turned college interns into brand ambassadors on their campuses," she says.) In the early years, Cooperstein played an integral role as the younger-skewing cable network looked to stake its claim in the scripted space, working on shows like Kyle XY. These days, she is focused on development projects including the comedy Baby Daddy and the drama Bunheads from Gilmore Girls' Amy Sherman-Palladino, along with a slate of highly rated series that includes Switched at Birth and The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Her other mandate: Spearhead ABC Family's push into unscripted programming, a genre with which Cooperstein grew familiar working on such highly rated series as The Bachelor and Extreme Makeover at ABC.

  • Nick Hall

    VP Comedy Development, HBO

    Joe Pugliese

    Hall, 32, likes to say Nicole Kidman is to blame for his love affair with the entertainment industry. "I probably watched To Die For 100 times throughout high school," says the self-proclaimed movie buff from Michigan, noting that he was particularly struck by one of Kidman's famous lines in the film: "You're no one in America unless you're on TV." Fortunately, quips Hall, "I grew up to be a TV executive, not a murderous woman." After studying film at the University of Michigan, he was hired by then-agent Sue Naegle to work in UTA's mailroom, where Hall got a crash course in the inner workings of Hollywood. From there, he moved into comedy development at Warner Bros. TV before following Naegle to HBO. During his three years there, Hall has been tasked with amping up the network's comedy output, developing more niche series such as Enlightened. He also has been intimately involved in the production of Curb Your Enthusiasm, which recently wrapped a well-received eighth season. The irony is that while Hall has made a career in comedy, traditionally he is drawn to drama on the bigger screen. "As odd as it is, the movies that I always find myself really loving are the ones that kind of make me nauseous for 48 hours afterward," he says, citing Black Swan and Lars von Trier's Melancholia as examples.

  • Joe Hipps

    VP Television Production and Creative Affairs, Media Rights Capital

    Joe Pugliese

    It took Hipps, 34, a few years of art school to figure out which parts of the entertainment industry he wasn't interested in pursuing. "Everything leading up to the movie getting made and then everything after was always great, but I learned that watching the actual production can be a bit slow and boring," says the Bay Area native. Armed with that knowledge, Hipps moved to Los Angeles and took a string of executive-track gigs, first at the Innovative Artists talent agency and then at Michael Ovitz's entertainment company AMG. About three years ago, the TV and film junkie -- who spent the years between those jobs working on such TV projects as the Fox hit Prison Break -- landed at MRC. There, he has played an integral role in putting together the groundbreaking 26-episode Netflix deal for the upcoming series House of Cards, a David Fincher-produced political thriller starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright. Other projects include a Chris Carter mystery drama being pitched to networks and a collection of niche comedies, including The Ricky Gervais Show, on HBO. The highlight for Hipps is the roster of talent with whom he has been able to work at the independent studio. "It makes my job 10 times easier when I can call someone up and say, 'We've got David Fincher or Chris Carter,' because then it doesn't really matter who Joe Hipps is," he says, laughing.

  • Brandon Riegg

    VP Alternative Programming and Development, NBCUniversal

    Joe Pugliese

    Having spent much of his upbringing abroad in Taiwan, England, China and Sri Lanka with his family (his father was a State Department employee), Riegg, 34, used U.S. TV shows as his connection to home. In fact, stateside friends made a habit of recording his favorites -- The Simpsons, America's Funniest Home Videos, Saved by the Bell, In Living Color, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air -- and sending VHS tapes. "They were these six- or eight-hour tapes, and they would send them two or three at a time," he recalls of the regular care packages, which he believes made him a bigger TV fan than he otherwise might have been. Although Riegg briefly toyed with a career in journalism and a more traditional finance path during college, the University of Pennsylvania grad and fitness fanatic ultimately decided to make TV shows as a profession. After a college internship at the TV Academy in Los Angeles followed by stints at Fox TV Studios, VH1 and ABC, where he oversaw Wipeout and Dancing With the Stars, he was recruited to NBC in July 2010. During the last year-plus, Riegg has divided his time between new projects (a rebooted Fear Factor) and programming on the air (America's Got Talent, The Biggest Loser). What's the appeal of unscripted? "It's a lot quicker," he says, noting that he enjoys how reactive and responsive he's able to be in the reality space. "And unlike asking a writer to make a scene more emotional or giving another note [as one would in scripted], here you work in the trenches and are brainstorming and collaborating with them."

  • Lisa Roos

    VP Drama Development, Warner Bros. Television

    Joe Pugliese

    Roos, 33, has been prepping for a career in entertainment since she was a child in Avon, Conn. At 9 or 10, she began hosting her own version of Good Morning America, moving from room to room with her family's video camera filming segments on the weather, current events and interviews with family and friends. "I modeled myself after Joan London," recalls Roos. But a college internship at GMA helped her come to the conclusion that she was interested more in the entertainment business than the news business. Upon graduating from the University of Arizona, Roos moved to Hollywood and accepted the first gig on offer: extra work on Ryan Murphy's short-lived WB drama Popular. From there, she landed briefly at Innovative Artists before moving into an assistant role in drama development at Warner Bros. TV in 2001. A decade or so later, the avid runner and frequent traveler -- recent trips include visits to Australia and Thailand -- is still there, hard at work on a range of series including CBS pair Person of Interest and The Mentalist and the CW's The Secret Circle.

  • Richard Schwartz

    Senior VP TV, Olive Bridge Entertainment

    Joe Pugliese

    One could argue Schwartz, 35, has Stephen Colbert to thank for his career in comedy television. The Colbert Report host, after all, was the Chicago native's first instructor when he enrolled in classes at Second City as teenager. "I didn't have an interest in performing; I wanted to be around comedy and see how everything worked behind the scenes," Schwartz says. He moved west after college and landed his first industry gig as David Lynch's assistant, working on Mulholland Drive, which was being developed as an ABC pilot at the time. Then, as the first web boom was in full swing, he took a job at a startup that produced websites for pro athletes. For the better part of a year, Schwartz was on tour with tennis beauty Anna Kournikova. "It wasn't a bad place to end up when you're a 23-year-old," he says, "but it was a bit odd to be ghost writing for a 16-year-old Russian sex symbol." From there, he moved to an interactive-producer gig at Fox Sports and then on to more traditional roles at Warner Bros. TV and Conan O'Brien's production company, Conaco. In between, the married father of two found a way to monetize his encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture by winning $18,000 on VH1's Rock & Roll Jeopardy. Since joining Olive Bridge, the recently launched shingle from Easy A director Will Gluck, Schwartz has sold seven projects to networks, including a highly sought-after mockumentary-style series from Megamind writers Alan Schoolcraft and Brent Simons.

  • Dee Rees

    Writer-Director, Pariah

    Henry Garfunkel/Sessions/Retna

    Inevitably, many who see Rees' Brooklyn-set debut feature Pariah will assume the film's heavy subject matter was drawn from the her life. But the similarities end quickly. "Yes, I'm also gay, but I'm from Nashville, I'm a nerd, I grew up in the suburbs, and I came out when I was 27 -- not 17," says Rees, 34. "That's not to say I haven't transposed my experience into the character." In 2000, she left Florida A&M with a masters in business-administration and soon found herself living in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn and at a crossroads. "I got laid off at Procter & Gamble selling panty-liners in 2001 and then got a job at Dr. Scholl's selling bunion pads and wart removers," she recalls, laughing. "I went on a commercial shoot and asked one of the execs, 'How do you get a job like this, directing?' and he said, 'Film school.' So I quit and went to NYU." Today, Rees says she hopes the Sundance darling Pariah can tap into the legacy created by her idol, John Cassavetes. "You don't hear a script when you're watching his films," she says. "You're just watching life unfold. That is my goal as a director."

  • Drake Doremus

    Director, "Like Crazy"

    Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

    Though Doremus, 28, attended AFI and learned a "more structured style of filmmaking," it's his improv roots -- he taught at the Orange County Crazies after studying at the Groundlings, where his mother was a founding member -- that are leading him to fame. When making his third film, the Sundance-winning Like Crazy, Doremus eschewed a script, opting instead for a 50-page outline that supplied direction for his actors (Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones), who, in turn, supplied the film's dialogue. It's a method he employed in 2010's Douchebag, which also made it to Sundance. "Once Anton and Felicity were in the moment, they would just lose themselves and the words would come to them," Doremus says. "You just go in the editing room and steal these little moments of romance." Doremus, who is single, hopes to make a movie a year; he's now working on a bigger improv drama with Jones, Guy Pearce, Amy Ryan and Kyle MacLachlan. "We had 600 extras on set, improvising every second," he says of the project, now in the editing phase. "It was kind of crazy."

  • Elizabeth Meriwether

    Writer-showrunner, "New Girl"

    Autumn de Wilde/Fox

    With New Girl re-upped for a second season, Meriwether's TV outing is one of the fall's few slam dunks. But the Michigan native admits she jumped into the comedy-series pool with lead feet. "I got here from New York with two bags and no driver's license," says Meriwether, 30. "People were asking me which production designer I wanted to hire. And I was like, 'I don't even know what that means." Meriwether didn't arrive at her passion for writing until college. "I wanted to be an actress, but I like to eat -- and I hate face-to-face rejection," she says. After she graduated from Yale in 2004, she moved to New York and tried to parlay a knack for storytelling into a livelihood. A "last minute" gig as producer and screenwriter on last spring's No Strings Attached led to her crafting a pilot for Fox. Today, she's riding a diverse wave of fandom -- "My mom likes the show, and I got an e-mail saying Jennifer Grey likes it, too!" -- while maintaining a little skepticism about Hollywood. "I've been really lucky, but I'm always a negative Nelly, waiting-for-the-next-shoe-to-drop kind of person," Meriwether says. "It's weird because I'm not Jewish, but I should be."

  • Adam F. Goldberg

    Writer-Showrunner, "Breaking In"

    Courtesy of Subject

    He's that rare talent adept at writing for film (Fanboys), TV (Still Standing) and animation (the forthcoming short-film sequel to How to Train Your Dragon on DVD), but it's Goldberg's first show-business foray that fills him with a more esteemed pride. "I invited Stephen King and Steven Spielberg to my bar mitzvah," says the Philadelphia native, 35. "Naturally, being a kid, I assumed these letters would go straight to their front door. But King wrote me back. He said, 'Keep writing,' and Steven sent me a photo that I think was from the set of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade." Goldberg's fearlessness has served him well: After his Fox series Breaking In debuted in April but was canceled a month later, it was announced in August that the series was being uncanceled and the network was ordering 13 more episodes. For Goldberg, who grew up idolizing the show's star, Christian Slater, and cut his teeth writing spec scripts for Everybody Loves Raymond, the turnaround has been exhilarating. "It's the most fun I've ever had," he says.

  • Lily Collins

    Untitled Snow White Project

    David Slijper/

    Going from episodes of 90210 to portraying an iconic fairy-tale figure is a little mind-blowing for Collins, 22, who plays Snow White in Relativity's untitled adventure movie. Although she comes from a family of performers -- her father, Phil, got his start in theater before making a name in music, and her grandmother founded a theater school in London -- all she got were audition rejections while living in Los Angeles as a teenager until she landed a role in 2009's The Blind Side. A small part in the vampire actioner Priest and a romantic lead opposite Taylor Lautner in Abduction followed, but the Snow White project, which chronicles Snow's growth from sheltered girl to young woman, has taken Collins to the next level. And like something out of a fairy tale, it all happened in 24 hours. One day in March, Collins had her Snow White audition at 3:30 p.m., met with director Tarsem Singh at 6:30 p.m., then flew to San Francisco to promote Priest at WonderCon. While checking into her hotel, she received a call: The part was hers. "I feel like I literally grew as Snow grew in the movie, that our experiences paralleled," she says. "It wasn't a movie shoot for me; it was a life experience."

  • Felicity Jones

    "Like Crazy"

    Sarah Dunn/Contour by Getty Images

    "English literature is about understanding character," says Jones, 27, a 2006 Oxford honors graduate, "so it's fed into the way I now approach scripts." It's a bit ironic then, that her wordless audition for Drake Doremus' star-crossed-lovers film Like Crazy -- a scene that took place in a shower -- won Jones the part opposite Star Trek's Anton Yelchin. Later, the actors helped write the film's dialogue. "[Doremus'] script has stage directions and tells what happens, information we had to deliver when we're improvising," she says. "The key is to relax and just let the scene happen. The first few times it felt very contrived and very forced, but by the 15th take, it becomes a lot more naturalistic. You sort of relax into it, and you find the right words to say." Jones, who lives in London and starred in the 2007 TV film Northanger Abbey with her friend Carey Mulligan and won kudos as Shakespeare's Miranda in 2010's The Tempest, loves Doremus' spontaneity. "I didn't know you could actually improvise a whole film straight onto camera," she says. Now Jones, who won Sundance's special jury prize for her performance in Like Crazy, is an awards contender alongside Mulligan (Shame) and another former co-star, Keira Knightley (A Dangerous Method). "The main thing was just to create something as honest as we could," says Jones. "From then on, it's just been crazy."

  • Adepero Oduye


    Henry Garfunkel/Sessions/Retna

    For Oduye, 33, it was a tragic loss that thrust her on a path to acting. The Brooklyn native, born to Nigerian parents, was a pre-med junior at Cornell ("For Nigerians, it's either medicine or engineering," she says) when her father suddenly passed away. "It was a wake-up call," says Oduye. "I already had doubts about that career path, and I was mostly doing it for my father. I thought: 'Life is too short. What else can I do?' It was a little voice that said, 'Acting.' " Oduye took an acting class and felt the challenge was something she couldn't deny herself after graduation. She hit the audition circuit in New York City, landing parts in Half Nelson and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. In 2006, she connected with writer-director Dee Rees, who was casting her short film Pariah, about a black teenager coming to terms with her homosexuality. Producers were adamant that Oduye reprise the role in Rees' feature adaptation, which won the cinematography award at Sundance and Oduye acclaim as the year's breakout indie talent. "It's so cool to be part of a story that hasn't been told yet," says Oduye. "Many people have told me they've finally seen something similar to their lives shown on the screen. It's a very special thing."

  • Elizabeth Olsen

    "Martha Marcy May Marlene"

    Andrew MacPherson

    Olsen, 22, admits she still gets a little "weirded out" when encountering evidence of her newly minted fame in unexpected places. "I'll be reading The New York Times online, and I'll see that little ad with my face on it," says the actress of promo materials for her role in the drama Martha Marcy May Marlene. Olsen better get used to the exposure. Since Martha debuted at Sundance to great buzz, the younger sibling of multimillionaire entrepreneurs Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen has spent the past year balancing newly opened industry doors with a commitment to academia as an NYU senior. Sean Durkin's indie, which opened wide Oct. 21, has garnered rave reviews and three Gotham Award nominations, including one for Olsen. While admitting that the hoopla feels "very unrealistic," Olsen says she has been moved by personal stories that Martha has evoked among audiences. "We did a national press tour, and at least a few people in each city told me, 'I was in a cult,' or, 'My sister was in a cult,' " says Olsen, who next appears in the horror film Silent House. "I never made Martha thinking we were making a statement about cults. But for someone to say, 'You really depicted what it feels like to lose your voice,' that's really rewarding."

  • Shailene Woodley

    "The Descendants"

    Jeff Vespa/Contour for Getty Images

    Woodley, 19, is often asked how she got her first name. "When my mom was 18, she saw the word 'shai' on a license plate," says Woodley. "When I was born, she asked my dad, 'What do you think of 'Shai-lene?' " She broke out on the series The O.C. and Crossing Jordan and in 2008 got the lead in ABC Family's The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Eighteen months ago, her character "went to New York" so Woodley could film The Descendants with George Clooney in Hawaii. The film was the hit of Telluride and Woodley was the festival's breakout star. The process was all new to her. "With Secret Life, we do eight or nine scenes a day," says Woodley. "With a movie, you do one scene a day, maybe two." Everything was slower in Hawaii. "They have a 45 miles per hour minimum because people go too slow. Back in L.A., I was like, 'Slow down, you guys!' " Woodley takes her own advice. "I don't have a plan," she says. "I'm not strategizing my next move until a movie comes along that really fuels my soul."

  • Henry Cavill

    "Immortals," "Man of Steel"

    Todd Pitt/Contour by Getty Images

    An original Jersey boy (as in, the U.K.'s Jersey, Channel Islands), Cavill, 28, is streaking faster than a speeding bullet right now. Though he had made strides in movies before -- his feature debut was in The Count of Monte Cristo in 2002 -- he was, until recently, known in Hollywood for film roles he didn't nab, such as the leads in Superman Returns and Casino Royale. In 2007, he did win the role of Charles Brandon in Showtime's period melodrama The Tudors, garnering an international fan base in the process. These days, Cavill's rugged image can be seen on countless billboards and bus shelters across the country for Immortals, Relativity's entre into the visual effects-heavy tentpole business that opens Nov. 11. Next year, audiences will watch him opposite Bruce Willis in the thriller Cold Light of Day. And, in true Hollywood-ending style, Cavill has gotten a second shot at Superman, becoming the first non-American to portray the Man of Steel. The Zack Snyder-directed movie is now in production.

  • Armie Hammer

    "J. Edgar," Untitled Snow White Project, "The Lone Ranger"

    Kevin Winter/Getty Images

    "The best compliment I receive is when people ask me, 'Hey, where's your brother?' " says Hammer, 25. "I think, 'That's awesome! We tricked you.' " The actor is, of course, referring to his breakout role -- well, roles -- as the twin brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss in The Social Network. The cachet of his first major film role ("Being directed by David Fincher was grueling, in the best way," he says) not only landed the actor critical acclaim but three of young Hollywood's most sought-after roles: He can next be seen playing J. Edgar Hoover's lover in Clint Eastwood's biopic of the FBI director; Prince Albert Alcott in Tarsem Singh's Snow White project; and the title role in The Lone Ranger alongside Johnny Depp. For someone who could have rested on his family's haughty pedigree for an automatic Hollywood "in" (his paternal great-grandfather was oil tycoon and philanthropist Armand Hammer), the Dallas-and-L.A.-raised Hammer considers himself a "self-taught" actor. "I studied every method and read a ton of books -- all on my own," he says. Hammer, who's married to TV journalist Elizabeth Chambers, says he trying to stay grounded. "What can I say? I love my wife. Looking 10 years ahead, I have no idea what I'll be doing professionally, but I know who I'm going to be with. That's very comforting."

  • Jeremy Irvine

    "War Horse"

    David Hogan/Getty Images

    Before Irvine, 21, was cast as the equestrian World War I soldier in Spielberg's War Horse, he was just a kid from tiny Gamlingay, England (pop. 3,535) who trained at the National Youth Theatre and London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. He won limited fame for an MTV commercial, a British Disney Channel show and a role in the Royal Shakespeare Company's Dunsinane, "literally playing a tree," as he puts it. Good thing he fell into the hands of Steven Spielberg, who has launched little-known actors to fame before -- Christian Bale in Empire of the Sun and Liam Neeson in Schindler's List. "I virtually went from having no lines in a theater show to playing the lead in a Spielberg film," says Irvine. Never a horse lover, he had to act alongside 130 of them, including one that stepped on his foot during a shot. He has just finished Now Is Good with Dakota Fanning and is filming Mike Newell's Great Expectations with Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham Carter, due in theaters next year.

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