Next Gen 2010: Talent
20, Winter's Bone, X-Men: First Class
"I never felt like I completely, 100 percent understood something so well as acting," says the star of the indie drama Winter's Bone. Growing up in Louisville, Ky., Hollywood seemed beyond Lawrence's reach, but after submitting her picture to agencies and landing an MTV: My Sweet 16 commercial, she moved to L.A. and has been a working actor since. Her performance as Ree Dolly in Bone has cemented her as this year's breakout actress — and got her a job with her idol, Jodie Foster, for whom she appears in next year's The Beaver. "She is the most brilliant person," Lawrence says of her director. One day she hopes to follow in Foster's directorial footsteps, but first she has to finish filming X-Men: First Class, now shooting in London.
21, It's Kind of a Funny Story, X-Men: First Class, Mad Max: Fury Road
When you're the progeny of entertainment icons, getting into showbiz isn't a given. "They were very wary," Kravitz says of her father, musician Lenny Kravitz, and mother, actress Lisa Bonet. "Once you step into the limelight, you can't take it back." With credits that include Twelve, It's Kind of a Funny Story and the forthcoming Mad Max: Fury Road, the native New Yorker is carving out a unique place in the industry while embracing a new life as a vagabond: She recently gave up her Brooklyn apartment and is living wherever she works, which right now is in London. "I got rid of half my stuff and put everything else in storage," she says. "Home is wherever I hang my hat."
25, The Social Network, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Sure, Mara has only one pivotal scene in David Fincher's hit drama The Social Network. But it was apparently enough to score the relatively unknown actress the role of the year in the director's forthcoming The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo; she reportedly beat out big names like Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman to star opposite Daniel Craig in the English-language adaptation of Stieg Larsson's trilogy. Before diving into her craft full time like her older sister Kate (127 Hours), Mara traveled the globe after high school and was inspired to start a charity, the Faces of Kibera, which provides aid to orphans in Nairobi, Kenya. She eventually enrolled at NYU and graduated just in time to reinvent herself as goth hacker Lisbeth Salander in Tattoo, which she's filming in Sweden. "I'm not funny at all," Mara admitted to Interview magazine last year. "I'm much darker." We wouldn't want her any other way.
22, Easy A, The Help, the Spider-Man reboot
Fresh off her breakout performance in last summer's hit comedy Easy A, Stone scored the much-coveted role of Gwen Stacy in Sony's untitled Spider-Man reboot with fellow Next Gen nominee Andrew Garfield. She called the experience she calls "mind-blowing." Add to that the role of society girl-turned-social rebel Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan in Disney's just-wrapped adaptation of best-seller The Help and Stone has come a long way since cutting her sketch-comedy teeth as a teenager at Valley Youth Theater in Phoenix. Her skills served her well when auditioning for her breakout role in the 2007 bawdy buddy comedy, Superbad and when realizing one of her lifelong dreams last month: hosting Saturday Night Live on Oct. 23.
27, Never Let Me Go, The Social Network, the Spider-Man reboot
Few actors have a bigger buzz factor in 2010 than Garfield, who was born to British-American parents in Los Angeles and moved to Epsom in Surrey at age 4. Trained at London's Center School of Speech and Drama, the actor has appeared this fall alongside Carey Mulligan and Keira Knightley in the dark coming-of-age drama Never Let Me Go, as Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin in The Social Network and is slipping on the Spidey suit as the titular hero of Sony's forthcoming franchise reboot under director Marc Webb, which begins shooting this winter. "It's an incredible honor," says Garfield of his latest gig.
Brandon T. Jackson
26, Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son
Growing up with seven siblings will make a character out of anyone. Just ask Jackson, who moved to Los Angeles from Detroit and was signed by CAA while doing stand-up comedy at the Laugh Factory. Just two auditions later, he landed a part in 2005's Roll Bounce and has maintained a crowded slate since. He appeared in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, The Tooth Fairy, Fast & Furious and his biggest commercial hit to date, 2008's Tropic Thunder. Jackson says he is "a student on the set" and owes his success to those who surround him. "Everything I've learned is from working with great people," he says.
26, Tron: Legacy, Country Strong
Hedlund says there wasn't much of an occasion for science fiction growing up on a farm in Minnesota. "Tron on the farm? No. But if you ask me about Episode 37 of Roseanne, I got you," he says. Only 10 days after moving to Hollywood after high school, Hedlund won the role of Patroclus in Troy, then landed a part in the feature-film version of Friday Night Lights. Eight years after leaving small-town life in his rearview mirror, Hedlund is headlining Disney's Tron: Legacy as Sam Flynn, the son of gaming genius Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) who vanishes through a portal into another world. Also in December, Hedlund appears alongside Gwyneth Paltrow as an aspiring country songwriter (doing all his own singing) in the indie drama Country Strong. "I really couldn't play guitar or sing at that point," Hedlund says, laughing, of jam sessions with Bridges. "I also found out that I couldn't harmonize, either."
20, Kick-Ass, Nowhere Boy
At only 20, Johnson is already engaged, a new father to a baby girl and an in-demand import from across the pond. The London-raised actor, who appeared in his first film (Tom & Thomas) at 10, says he never "chose" to become an actor. "I just knew I loved working," he says. Recent gigs have included the underdog-superhero comic book adaptation Kick-Ass. Neither compares to playing an angsty teenage John Lennon in the critically acclaimed Nowhere Boy, a performance Paul McCartney called "brilliant."
24, Writer-director, Tiny Furniture
The star, writer and director of this year's buzzed-about indie drama Tiny Furniture, Dunham has teamed with Judd Apatow for another triple-threat endeavor: a yet-unnamed comedy pilot for HBO about a group of twentysomething women. The pair began shooting the pilot this month.
33, Director, Safe House
Espinosa first experienced the arts in an acting program for troubled youth in his hometown of Stockholm. Today he's the acclaimed director of The Fighter (no, not the new Mark Wahlberg film), which made a splash on the foreign festival circuit and paved the way for his second feature as writer-director of Easy Money. A graduate of Denmark's prestigious National Film School, Espinosa will soon be at the helm of the action thriller Safe House, which begins filming in Cape Town in the spring with Ryan Reynolds and Denzel Washington. Has Espinosa has gone Hollywood? Nah. He still lives in Sweden with wife Nina, a doctor.
34, Writer-director, Country Strong
Being Tobey Maguire's nanny may not be the most conventional way to get into show business, but it helped Feste. The AFI grad also worked as an assistant at CAA and even sold Persian rugs -- but it was Maguire who produced her second film, Country Strong. The musical drama, inspired by summers Feste spent listening to country tunes with her father in Texas, features Gwyneth Paltrow as a down-and-out country star. Don't expect Feste to rest on the buzz of her sophomore effort: She has already completed a new script, The Outlaws, about a father-and-son team of bank robbers. "I wanted to write something I knew I would never get offered," Feste says.
34, Director, The Last Exorcism, The Night Chronicles Reincarnate
"In Germany it's frowned upon to do something that doesn't award you a [real] job," the Hamburg native says. "I used to say I was a journalist because it was more accepted." Stamm eventually went public with his love for cinema at the Baden-Wuerttemberg Film Academy in Ludwigsburg, where he studied for four years, after which he moved to Los Angeles to study directing at the American Film Institute. His first feature, A Necessary Death -- a dark mockumentary about a voyeuristic director and a suicidal man -- won the AFI Fest's top prize in 2008 and got Stamm hired to direct last summer's hit thriller The Last Exorcism, which grossed more than $41 million domestically. He's busy helming the second installment of M. Night Shyamalan's Night Chronicles.
Next Gen 2010 profiles written and reported by Randee Dawn, Leslie Bruce, Todd Longwell, Carita Rizzo, Lauren Schutte and Andrew Wallenstein