Next Gen Actors at Sundance: 10 Festival Breakouts

10:08 AM 1/20/2015

by Rebecca Sun and Rebecca Ford

These onscreen up-and-comers will be toasted in Park City at an exclusive party thrown by The Hollywood Reporter and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association as THR expands its signature franchise identifying future industry leaders.

  • Gail Bean, 22

    Tout Talent Agency

    The Atlanta native makes her Sundance debut in director Kris Swanberg's Unexpected as a student who bonds with her teacher over their surprise pregnancies.

    Most memorable moment: "It was our first day of shooting; I was sitting in the makeup chair looking over my lines. Cobie [Smulders, who plays the teacher] comes and greets me and the MUA and sits behind me. I wanted to run lines with her but wasn't sure how to ask without coming off annoying and unprofessional, so I'm just going over the lines under my breath and in my head. My makeup is finished, and just before I walk off she goes, 'Hey, Gail Bean, you want to run lines?' From that moment on, I knew filming would go great."

    Most "Hollywood" moment: "Sitting at the table with Kris and Andy [producer Andrea Roa] when they offered me the role. I excused myself and went to the bathroom to freak out. I wanted to jump outside of my body to make sure it was really me in that moment."

    Most "pinch me" moment: "When I found out we got into Sundance. I was like, 'OK now, this is absurd.' Not only was I fortunate enough to land the role and complete the entire film without getting fired — don't laugh, every day I was so happy to be filming with them that I just thought, 'This can't be real. One day somebody is going to come say, "Gail, we've replaced you." ' Thank God that never happened."

    Worst audition: "I prepared a very dramatic piece for a comedy casting director."

    Industry role model: Anne Hathaway

    I'd get starstruck around: "George Clooney, because he's so effortlessly brilliant."

    Best advice: " 'Move to L.A. If it doesn't work out, you're young enough to move back,' " from comedian Rodney Perry.

    When I'm not working: "I'm binge-watching on my Apple TV while working on a script and on FaceTime."

    If I weren't an actor: "I'd be in law school. I like to think I'd win a case or two."

    I never miss an episode of: Agents of SHIELD

    Career goals: "I would love to do action films. I heart Marvel. I like to laugh, so I hope to get some more comedic projects under my belt. If I ever did a romance film, I'd want it to be something unforgettable like The Notebook. I'd want people to watch it and say, 'That's genuine love.' "

  • Asa Butterfield, 17

    CAA, the U.K.'s Independent, Felker Toczek

    After leads in Hugo and Ender's Game, the Londoner undertook a darker turn as a drug-using teen who moves in with his father (Ethan Hawke) in the fest title Ten Thousand Saints. He's also on board for Tim Burton's Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, due in 2016.

    Most memorable moment: "Living in New York for seven weeks in the ice and snow was an amazing experience. It has secured its place as my favorite city in the U.S.A."

    Most "Hollywood" moment: "I was at an awards ceremony in L.A. and Leonardo DiCaprio congratulated me on my performance in Hugo."

    Most memorable audition: "Flying out to New York to meet and read for the role of Hugo with Martin Scorsese. It was my first time to the U.S.A. and I spent the majority of the trip gawping at the enormous buildings."

    Industry role model: "Leonardo made a personal impression. He started young and he was brilliant in What's Eating Gilbert Grape. I've also been lucky enough to work with Sir Ben Kingsley [in Hugo and Ender's Game]; watching him portray two completely different characters in such depth is incredible."

    I'd get star struck around: "Ian McKellen. Gandalf is an all-time hero of mine, and I don't think anyone else could pull it off."

    Best advice: "Emma Thompson, when I was filming Nanny McPhee Returns: 'Don't stand up if you can sit down, and don't sit down if you can lie down.' "

    When I'm not working: "Mostly I'm at school, hanging out with friends, taking photographs or playing video games."

    If I weren't an actor: "I'd probably be applying for university to study natural science."

    I never miss an episode of: Avatar, the animated series

    Next career goals: "I'm really looking forward to finishing school this summer so that I can focus on acting. I'm really interested in filmmaking as well as acting, but that's down the line. For now, I've got some great projects lined up and will be working with yet more amazing people."

  • Olivia Cooke, 21

    Gersh, the U.K.'s Shepherd Management, Luber Roklin

    Six months ago, Cooke shaved off her luscious auburn locks to play a teen with cancer in the film adaptation of Me & Earl & the Dying Girl. "While I was in the bubble of the film, it didn't feel like a huge thing, but when I came out of the film, that's when it was more difficult," says the English actress, who lives at home with her mom in Manchester when she's not on set in Canada shooting A&E's Bates Motel (she plays Emma, a teen with cystic fibrosis). Cooke, who starred in Universal's horror film Ouija, has also nabbed a coveted role in Paramount's big Ben-Hur remake, slated to shoot early this year.

    Memorable moment shooting the movie: "There were a few. I'd just shaved my head and there's a scene when I'm in the bed when Greg [Thomas Mann] comes to visit me and tries to make light of the situation. It was really difficult."

    Memorable audition: "There was an audition for a remake of a Disney film, a live-action adaptation. I think I was the first person in the room, and the director kept saying, 'Be more magical! Be magical!' and I didn't know how to be magical. I was trying to widen my eyes more, but it was just not working."

    Role models: "I love Kate Winslet. I think as far as role models go, she and Carey Mulligan; they're so wonderful and understated. It seems effortless."

    Best advice: "On my first film, The Quiet Ones, I had to do this quite taxing scene and it involved nudity, and I told Jared Harris I was so afraid. And he told me, 'Don't let anyone take advantage of you.' And I think that applies to anything. Don't let anyone take advantage of you, or make you feel extremely uncomfortable."

    If you weren't an actor, what would you be doing? "Probably a jewelry maker. I've just started trying my hand at making jewelry. Just really delicate rings and necklaces. I'm saying this — but I've only made one ring."

    TV show you can't miss: "Peaky Blinders. And Broadchurch."

    Immediate career goal: "I'd like to not play a girl with an ailment again. (Laughs.) I'm being typecast — I think I must really look really sick. It's always a challenge and I'm really happy to get those characters, but I'd like to maybe play someone healthy. Maybe an athlete!"

  • Julia Garner, 20

    UTA, Anonymous Content

    Garner has been in some indie darling films in the past few years including Martha Marcy May Marlene and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, but she’s primed for a breakout performance in the lead role in Paul Weitz’s Grandma opposite Lily Tomlin. The NYC native, who will next be seen on FX’s The Americans, plays Tomlin’s character’s granddaughter who unexpectedly shows up and takes her misanthropic grandma on a road trip.

    Industry role model: "Lily Tomlin. I admired her long before Grandma, but working with her showed me why she’s such a great artist. She respects herself and I admire the honesty in her work."

    Best advice: "To try to have a stable relationship because being an actress is not the most stable of professions!"

    Worst audition: "I went out to L.A. the first time for a callback with a well-known director. On my flight out, I developed a pretty bad eye infection, making me a little self-conscious about the audition. When I arrived, I was caught off guard to learn I would be reading with the well-known star of the movie as well as the director. I was pretty new to the business at the time so it seemed like a true nightmare."

    If I weren't acting: "I would probably be a therapist or a life coach because I like to understand people and try to help them improve their lives."

    Immediate career goals: "I would like to continue getting really interesting parts that challenge me professionally and personally. I feel very fortunate to be working with wonderful people who have helped me achieve these goals thus far. I know I have to keep working hard to make the best of any opportunities that come my way."

  • Lola Kirke, 23

    ICM, One Entertainment

    The younger Kirke (Girls star Jemima is her older sibling) is on a hot streak. She had a memorable turn as a thief in Fox's hit Gone Girl and recently debuted as an ambitious oboist in Amazon's series Mozart in the Jungle. (She plays the instrument in real life too.) Fox Searchlight picked up Mistress America in advance of the fest; Kirke stars opposite Greta Gerwig in the Noah Baumbach-directed film.

    Most memorable day on set: "We did a lot of takes, which is the rumor that floats around about Noah's films. On this day we were shooting a scene where I was eating mozzarella sticks and I didn't know yet that you were meant to spit out the food between takes. I believe I ate about 50 to 60 mozzarella sticks this one evening. Noah didn't correct me until later. I think he was teaching me how to fish, you know. And I learned."

    Worst audition: "I auditioned for Fifty Shades of Grey, which was pretty hilarious. I was on the plane flying to L.A. for the audition and they had given us this scene from [Ingmar Bergman's] Persona where the nurse is telling the actress about this really eye-opening erotic sexual experience. I was rehearsing my audition in the middle seat on an airplane. I was in a weird way at that point in my life, and I start doing the audition where I'm describing all this, and I just burst into tears in the middle of the audition. And then they were like, "That was awesome. Come back tomorrow." And then I went back the next day and totally didn't get the part, probably because I couldn't cry again."

    Industry role model: "I really love Debra Winger, she's my favorite. And I like Denis Lavant because he commits himself so much to every part that he plays and transforms himself."

    If I weren't acting: "I literally have no skills. So anything that involves no skills."

    TV show you can't miss: "I'm really bad with TV. I'm such a fair-weather friend. I get really obsessed, and then I just abandon it. I don't think there's a single TV show that I've finished, but I love Breaking Bad and I love The Wire and I love Mad Men."

    When I'm not working I'm usually: "Trying to understand space and time. I don't know — I'm a great hobbyist. I like to try a lot of things, even if I'm not really good at it. Like I'm a terrible watercolorist, but I really like watercolor. I'm pretty mediocre at guitar, but I'll continue playing the same three chords over and over until I create a great a song."

    Career goals: "I just want to continue working with people I admire, and making something new."

  • Thomas Mann, 23

    Innovative, Industry Entertainment, Hansen Jacobson

    Mann appeared in teen-party feature Project X and YA film Beautiful Creatures, but it's his lead role in the Sundance cancer drama Me & Earl & the Dying Girl that could be his big break. The Dallas-raised actor also has a slew of upcoming projects, including Barely Lethal with Hailee Steinfeld, Blood Father with Mel Gibson and Amityville: The Awakening. Mann is doing double duty at Sundance, also starring in The Stanford Prison Experiment with Ezra Miller and Tye Sheridan.

    Role model: "I really like Paul Dano's career. He's had a nice little arc and I can't wait to see what he does next because now he's sort of transitioning into older roles. And he's able to be a star in some smaller indie movie and then also have a supporting role in a bigger movie, and I just like actors who can do anything and he seems like one of those people."

    Worst audition: "It was for the Maze Runner. Sometimes you just don't get enough time to prepare. Maybe I was just tired or not on top of my game, but I go in there and I finish the scene and the director goes, 'OK, how do you think that went?' And I just thought, 'Oh no, did I just phone it in and not even try?' That's a terrible thing to say to somebody. But you can't beat yourself up about it. I audition all the time. You go through it enough and you're bound to have a bad day or two."

    Favorite "Hollywood" moment: "About a year after I shot Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, I was having dinner with the cast of Beautiful Creatures at the Chateau Marmont, and I saw Jeremy Renner outside. I just decided to say hi and we just chatted for a bit. I thought, 'Wow, I must look so cool sitting here with Jeremy Renner outside the Chateau Marmont.' I don't know why that moment sticks out to me; I think because my friends pointed it out to me."

    Anyone you'd get starstruck around? "If I met [Martin] Scorsese or Paul Thomas Anderson, I wouldn't know what to say. I don't think anything I would say would ever be interesting enough to them. But also I'd like to work with them, so I'll have to get over that. Anyone I really respect as an artist that I'd think it would be challenging to talk to would make me nervous."

    If I weren't an actor: "I would probably end up doing something in film. I just love movies. I thought about going to film school before acting started panning out for me. I'd like to try directing down the road."

    When I'm not working: "I love music, and there's so much live music in L.A. so I do that. And I have a good group of friends here. We're always making stuff like short films. And I go camping a lot."

    Career goals: "I have a lot of stuff I'd like to do. It all depends on the script. Something that doesn't take place in high school, preferably. I feel like you'll read a lot of the same type of scripts for people my age, so I'm looking for something that will challenge me — something more grown up or something weird."

  • Ezra Miller, 22

    Paradigm, the U.K.'s Hamilton Hodell, Peikoff Mahan

    The bohemian actor — also in the hot fest title The Stanford Prison Experiment — stunned as Tilda Swinton's disturbed son in 2011's We Need to Talk About Kevin. He's making the leap to tentpole fare as the lead in Warner Bros./DC's The Flash, slated for 2018.

    Most memorable moment: "The most unshakably memorable moment would be watching Johnny Simmons get hog-tied. There's just no way to fake a hog-tying and by the third time it had to happen, it really just felt abusive. He's a brave champion and did it with no complaint, but he looked so sad and it's hard to watch a friend in so much discomfort. It's interesting how our brains best retain horrible memories."

    Most "pinch me" moment so far: "Zack Snyder told me on the phone that he wanted me to play the Flash while I was eating a tilapia in a small Central American village. That was definitely a moment that prompted me to question the fabric of my reality."

    Worst audition: "I went in for some low-grade tweenish movie when I was first auditioning for film. The casting director insisted on throwing water in my face to emulate a beat in the scene. At first, I just thought it was unnecessary — usually in an audition all props and interactions are pantomimed, but by the third or fourth time I couldn't help but notice the almost violent force with which this maniacal character kept chucking this water at me. Then I started observing him as he was doing it, and there was this sadistic glint in his eye. We must have done that scene seven times; by the end of it I was wet and cold and feeling increasingly indignant. Then this villain told me that at the end of the second scene, I was supposed to dance with an imaginary partner — to a notable lack of music! So there I was, wet as a dog, dancing like a fool, feeling like a helpless victim at the hands of this horrible man. I walked out of that audition with a lot of compassion for the naive folks who routinely get trapped in the darker corners of this 'Hollywood' business."

    Industry role model: "Probably people who are not principally considered actors. I mean, we all say Patti these days, right? I think to young artists, Patti Smith symbolizes the possibility that a performer who swims into the mainstream might both maintain their integrity and remain alive. So she's one. David Bowie is another. Did you know he once performed an exorcism on his swimming pool? I'd like to emulate that!"

    Best/worst advice: "If an electric plug isn't fitting in an outlet, put a butter knife in the outlet to straighten it out a little."

    When I'm not working, I'm: "Spending time with my family and my darling, Erin. Listening to audio books. Donkey Kong. That sort of stuff. Lots of protesting lately, but that's a kind of work in my mind. And painting. I've recently discovered a love of painting."

  • Bel Powley, 22

    UTA, the U.K.'s BWH Agency, Schachter/Brown

    In the fest's The Diary of a Teenage Girl, the Brit plays a teen in 1970s San Francisco who has an affair with her mother's (Kristen Wiig) boyfriend (Alexander Skarsgard). The rising star also plays Princess Margaret in Girls' Night Out opposite Jack Reynor; just wrapped director Drake Doremus' science fiction drama Equals with Nicholas Hoult and Kristen Stewart; and signed on to play a prostitute in psychological thriller Detour.

    Most memorable day: "Shooting the whole thing was just utterly incredible. Because I'm literally in every scene of the movie, the whole thing was a real journey for me. It was really intimidating. I had finished a play in London and because I have a theater background, I decided to treat it more like a play in my approach in it. So I took those six weeks before shooting to learn the whole script from start to finish so when I got there it was a lot less daunting to me."

    A "pinch me" moment: "Doing Dairy of a Teenage Girl and playing opposite Kristen Wiig and Alexander Skarsgard was one of those moments. I auditioned for that movie off of tape and so many English actors do tape after tape after tape. I've probably done 300 tapes over my lifetime and not heard back from any of them, and it was the first script that I read that I thought, 'Oh my God, I have to be in this film.' Doing tapes from England, you never think that this would actually happen."

    Memorable worst audition: "Any audition where I've had to sing. I had one with Joe Wright, he was doing a musical in London, and I went in and I was so excited to meet Joe Wright. The acting part was going amazing, and then suddenly we're in this big room, and there's a grand piano and sheet music. The whole audition fell apart, it was just awful. It was that song 'Danny Boy,' it was too high for me."

    I got starstuck when: "I did a play with Tamsin Greig and she was in Episodes with Matt LeBlanc, and I was pretty freaked out when I met him because I grew up watching Friends every day after school. To me, he's just Joey but I'm pretty sure he'd be upset to hear me say that."

    Best advice: "I probably get my best advice from my parents. That's probably them trying to keep my feet firmly on the ground, and just make sure I stay a kind and grounded person. Just to be nice to people and be kind to everyone."

    If I weren't an actor: "I would have gone to university and studied history and politics. I used to say that I wanted to be prime minister but I think that time for me might have passed, but I'd love to be a teacher."

    Favorite TV show: "There's a show in London called Made in Chelsea. It's kind of like The Hills. It's ridiculous. And I'm addicted to Homeland."

    Career goals: "I definitely want to do more film. I want to just continue to play super different parts from what I've already done."

  • Tony Revolori, 18

    UTA, Circle of Confusion

    The Anaheim native broke out as the lobby boy in Oscar nominee The Grand Budapest Hotel. At Sundance, he's promoting Umrika and Dope; he also recently shot the YA adaptation The Fifth Wave with Chloe Grace Moretz.

    Most memorable moment: "Probably the last day I was there. We wrapped at one o'clock, and I immediately got in my car and moved to New York to shoot another film [The Fifth Wave]. It was kinda strange to end the film process in that way."

    Most "Hollywood" moment: "It keeps getting updated, but right now my most Hollywood moment was the Berlinale with Grand Budapest Hotel. That was my first time, and it was incredible."

    Most memorable audition: "This is an embarrassing one, but I'll give it to you. My parents to this day remember what happened. It was for an Eminem video, 'Just Lose It.' They asked all the kids, 'What do you want for Christmas?' Walking down the line, each kid would say a PlayStation, Xbox. Then they got to me. I don't know what demon possessed me to say, 'I want hair on my back.' I was maybe 8? And I hadn't actually heard any of his music then, but I got the part."

    Industry role model: "I love Dustin Hoffman. I think he's a fantastic actor and I appreciate what he's done with his career. Same with Oscar Isaac. I'd love to have a career similar to his. But my favorite actor, without a doubt, is Richard Harris. His acting style was absolutely wondrous."

    I'd get starstruck around: "Oscar Isaac would be one, for sure. I met him, and I did get a little starstruck, but the one I got the most starstruck around was Marcus Mumford from Mumford & Sons. It was at the Budapest New York premiere afterparty. I'm not sure what happened, but I fanned really hard. He was nothing but sweet, a kind gentleman, and we found out he and I were born in the same hospital."

    Best advice: "Ralph Fiennes gave me a lot of sound, great advice, as well as Bill Murray. The best advice I've ever gotten was from Dick Smothers from The Smothers Brothers, who my dad was a fan of. We met randomly at a restaurant and he told my brother and I that no matter what, just remember that everyone is important. It doesn't matter who you are, what you do, you are important to this world."

    When I'm not working: "My mother would say I'd be sitting down at my computer not doing anything. I also enjoy going outside and playing soccer, playing music with my brother. I play the guitar, bass guitar, piano and I sing. We play lots of rock and roll, from Rolling Stones to Led Zeppelin to The Who. We jam for fun, mostly, but I would really like to get a band started sooner or later. The acting takes a lot of time."

    If I weren't an actor: "I'd try to find anything near it, a director or producer, maybe. A painter, for sure, or a photographer."

    I never miss an episode of: "I can name you 50. I'm on a New Girl kick. I love Modern Family, Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, which already ended. What else do I watch? Brooklyn Nine-Nine is fantastic. Andy Samberg, he's the man. All I can say is, I love watching TV."

    Next career goals: "The next immediate steps are to just keep working, and not let people forget about me in any way, and break some barriers as a Hispanic — break doors down and open some space."

  • Tye Sheridan, 18

    WME, Mosaic, Stone Meyer

    The Texas native has amassed an enviable résumé with films like Joe, Mud and The Tree of Life. He's in The Stanford Prison Experiment and Last Days in the Desert opposite Ewan McGregor, and is slated for upcoming projects with Jennifer Garner and Benedict Cumberbatch.

    Most memorable moment: "Probably playing 'what are the odds' with the rest of the guys, or maybe playing poker in the green room. We had a blast on that film."

    Most "Hollywood" moment: "When I went to the world premiere of Interstellar at the Chinese Theatre and then got to hang out and talk with some of the cast afterward. I had a chance to talk to Christopher Nolan, which was very cool."

    Worst audition: "There's definitely a worst audition story, but I don't have the courage to tell it. Let's just hope that the video is never leaked."

    Industry role models: "I am inspired by artists who are unique and brave, people who aren't afraid to do something that's never been done. A lot of people don't fall into this category. Luckily, I've been fortunate enough to work with some of my director role models such as Terrence Malick, Jeff Nichols, David Gordon Green. These guys, among many more, have taught me so much."

    Career you'd like to emulate: "A name that consistently pops into my head is Ben Affleck, because he doesn't just do one thing. He directs and he acts and does so very successfully."

    I get starstruck around: "Natalie Portman. Only because I have the biggest crush on her."

    When I'm not working: "I'm visiting family and friends, reading and writing. I like road trips, I watch movies, I go to a lot of sporting events and I play FIFA."

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