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Berlin Breakouts

Lea Seydoux

This year's festival could be the springboard to global success for these five.

Lea Seydoux
Actress, Farewell My Queen

The 26-year-old Frenchwoman has already racked up a list of impressive credits, including supporting roles in Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol and Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris. But her two headline roles in Berlin's competition lineup -- as the royal reader to Diane Kruger's Marie Antoinette in Benoit Jacquot's opening-night film Farewell, My Queen, and as the older sister of a young boy at a Swiss ski resort in Ursula Meier's drama Sister -- could put this Prada pitchwoman firmly on the Hollywood A-list. Says Jacquot: "Objectively, of course, she's never been better in a film. Never before has she reached this level of presence, acting, technique, possibility, versatility and truth."

Oskar Thor Axelsson
Director, Black's Game

For his debut feature, Icelandic director Axelsson delved into the underworld of Icelandic drug dealers circa 1994. "It was the coming-of-age for the Icelandic drug scene," Axelsson says. "Iceland had just joined the European economy, and the European drug mafia started moving in. Suddenly there was a lot more violence, it became really hard core." Axelsson's slick, hard-hitting script got the attention of Drive helmer Nicolas Winding Refn, who came on board to polish the dialogue for the Nordic noir. Refn's advice to Axelsson was to make the movie's violence "as brutal as possible."

Julia Garner
Actress, Electrick Children

A supporting player in last year's Sundance breakout Martha Marcy May Marlene, Garner is poised to take center stage this year with Berlin Generations opener Electrick Children. The native New Yorker plays Rebecca, a 15-year-old Mormon fundamentalist who believes listening to forbidden rock music might have made her pregnant. "Martha Marcy May Marlene was my first film ever and Electrick Children my first lead, so it was pretty scary," Garner says. "But when I read the script, I knew I could play this role. Rebecca may be a fundamentalist Mormon, which I'm definitely not, but she listens and trusts in her inner voice. And that's definitely what I do as an actress."

Ni Ni
Actress, The Flowers of War

Her debut performance as a haughty brothel girl in Zhang Yimou's Flowers of War turned heads on both sides of the Pacific and earned Ni Ni an Asian Film Awards nomination for best newcomer. Traditional Chinese audiences often have trouble embracing actresses who play prostitutes, but Ni Ni could prove to be the exception. Flowers of War has been a box-office smash back home -- it's closing in on $100 million, making it one of the most successful Chinese-made films ever. Flowers' European premiere in Berlin -- with its long tradition of celebrating Asian cinema -- could make Ni Ni the face of the festival.

Bill Skarsgard
Actor, Simon & the Oaks

The baby boy in a very talented Swedish family, Skarsgard -- son of Stellan (Thor), brother of Alexander (True Blood) and Gustof (The Way Back) -- used to worry about being the come-lately to the family dynasty. "I didn't like the idea of being the fourth Skarsgard in Sweden," he says. "I thought people would think I got a free ride and wasn't a proper actor." With four lead roles in one year -- including Berlin Generations film The Crown Jewels (a 1980s crime drama) and market title Simon & the Oaks (a coming-of-age story set in Sweden during World War II) -- those fears have been put to rest. In Berlin this year, the spotlight will shine on Skarsgard the youngest.

Zana Marjanovic
Actress, In the Land of Blood and Honey

The actress got plenty of attention stateside with her searing performance in Angelina Jolie's In the Land of Blood and Honey, which gets a special gala screening in Berlin. Born in Bosnia, trained in New York and living again in Sarajevo, Marjanovic slipped easily back and forth between her two native tongues for the film. "There isn't much difference between the two versions," she says, "though I am a kind of different person in English. I'm much more polite. In Bosnian, I'm more direct and full-on." Berlin audiences are accustomed to subtitled drama and well acquainted with the complicated history of the Yugoslav war, so the fest should be Marjanovic's place to shine.