Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin Hart Among Hollywood’s Top A-List Quintet of Last 5 Years

8:30 AM 11/18/2015

by THR Staff

In revealing interviews for The Hollywood Reporter’s 5th anniversary issue, a movie star, executive, multihyphenate pair, comedian and activist reveal what it’s like to have gone from a name you barely knew in 2010 to the top of Tinseltown.

Typography by: Luke Lucas
  • Jennifer Lawrence

    The Movie Star

    Frank W. Ockenfels

    Just how un-famous was Jennifer Lawrence in early 2011? When she sat for a lunch interview with THR that January — eating bacon and eggs at the Snug Harbor diner in Santa Monica — not one person in the restaurant was hyperventilating. In fact, nobody gave her a second glance.

    At the time, Lawrence, then 20, already had built a promising résumé. The Kentucky native had played young Sylvia in The Burning Plain and before that spent three seasons as a family counselor's teenage daughter on TBS' The Bill Engvall Show. True, she'd been turned down for the role of Bella in Twilight, but she'd petitioned hard for the lead in Winter's Bone, a tiny indie about an Ozarks girl struggling to keep her family together, and the film became the darling of the 2010 festival circuit, winning the drama grand jury prize at Sundance. In hindsight, that modest movie would prove the launchpad for Lawrence's superstardom, landing her nominations for a Spirit Award, a Golden Globe and — only a few days after lunch with THR and her appearance on the magazine's Sundance Issue cover — her first Oscar nom.

    Still, there was nothing about the young actress nibbling bacon at Snug Harbor that hinted at the astonishing transformation to come. Between bites, she professed admiration for the careers of James Franco and Cate Blanchett (with whom she appears on this issue's cover), spoke excitedly about her upcoming role as Mel Gibson's daughter in The Beaver and described, with obvious trepidation, her first gentle brushes with fame. "I got recognized on the street," she timidly told THR. "Someone said, 'I loved Winter's Bone,' and I was like, 'You saw Winter's Bone?' "

    Today, she is the world's highest-paid actress, earning as much as $25 million a film (for tentpoles like The Hunger Games; the fourth installment, Mockingjay — Part 2, is set to open Nov. 20). During the past five years, she has added two more Oscar nominations to her list of triumphs — in 2014 for American Hustle (which earned her a Globe) and in 2013 for Silver Linings Playbook (for which she won an Oscar and a Globe) — and there is talk of another round of noms for her turn in David O. Russell's dynastic drama Joy (set to open Dec. 25).

    Read more Jennifer Lawrence: I Planned to Try Acting For 5 Years and Then Become a Nurse

  • Kevin Hart

    The Comedian

    Ramona Rosales

    Five years ago, Hart was an up-and-coming comedian trying to get out of the shadow of better-known comics like Chris Rock, whom he counts as a mentor. The Philadelphia native — whose social media footprint now includes 22.9 million Twitter followers and a profile that reads "My name is Kevin Hart and I WORK HARD!!!" — was making his name on the road but on the big screen was forced to content himself with playing backup roles in such movies as Little Fockers and The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

    The 36-year-old is the head of a comedic empire, with a 12-man company, HartBeat Productions; a proven ability to sell out venues such as Madison Square Garden (he was the sixth comedian ever to do so); and a résumé rife with major movie successes, including a string of No. 1 hits in Ride Along, Think Like a Man Too and About Last Night. His TV creation, BET reality spoof Real Husbands of Hollywood, now is in its fourth season, and his stand-up act has moved from theaters and clubs to arenas. Hart is the No. 2 top-earning comedian behind only Jerry Seinfeld, according to Forbes, raking in $28.5 million between June 2014 and June 2015. Next? "I want to be a mogul, like Oprah or Jay Z or Tyler Perry," he told The Hollywood Reporter earlier this year.

    Read more Kevin Hart Blasts the "False Reality" of Hollywood

  • Ava DuVernay

    The Activist

    Fabrizio Maltese

    "I was a publicist for other people's movies," she groans. Among the projects DuVernay was pushing at the time: Clint Eastwood's South African rugby drama Invictus and the Bruce Willis-Tracy Morgan buddy comedy Cop Out. Still, she carved out enough time to finish her feature helming debut I Will Follow, which led to her breakout project Middle of Nowhere. The latter won the best director prize at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, marking the first time an African-American woman nabbed the honor.

    The 43-year-old Compton native, who counts Oprah as a pal and frequent collaborator, saw her Martin Luther King Jr. biopic Selma land a best picture nomination and become one of the top-reviewed films of 2014. Buoyed by both her success and her 135,000 Twitter followers, DuVernay has morphed into one of the most forceful voices advocating for female filmmakers and stories about people of color. Instead of taking up Marvel on its offer to direct the superhero spinoff Black Panther, she's prepping an untitled, Participant-financed Hurricane Katrina project, which marks her next narrative feature. She simultaneously is readying Queen Sugar, her first TV series, which she wrote and will direct and produce for OWN and Warner Horizon. Additionally, she's finishing postproduction on an untitled feature documentary for Netflix that she directed, wrote and produced about the American prison system and its impact on American culture. And if that's not enough, she is expanding her distribution collective Array, doubling the number of films by underrepresented filmmakers that the company releases.

    Read more Ava DuVernay on Advocating for Female Directors, Her "Low" 'Selma’ Moment

  • Ted Sarandos

    The Executive

    Robyn Twomey

    Ask Netflix's chief content officer what has changed the most in the past five years, and his response is immediate and emphatic: "Everything!" he says, recalling a time in which his streaming service simply licensed other people's programming. In fact, the company only began streaming content in 2007. "Five years ago, we were barely international, and there was no original programming," he adds. "Now, my entire focus is international and original films and television."

    Since debuting its first original series, House of Cards, in 2013, Netflix has become a first stop for producers and stars, including Jenji Kohan (Orange Is the New Black), Aziz Ansari (Master of None) and Judd Apatow (Love). And why not? The famously hands-off service boasts more than 69 million global members and already has agreed to pour a jaw-dropping $5 billion into its 2016 programming budget. With his clout in the TV market firmly established, Sarandos, 51, has begun pushing aggressively into documentaries and feature films, too. His team has mounted an ambitious Oscar campaign for its first drama, Cary Fukunaga's Beasts of No Nation, just as it did for 2013 doc The Square and 2014 doc Virunga, both of which scored noms. He also has other film projects lined up with Adam Sandler, Angelina Jolie Pitt and Christopher Guest.

    Read more Ted Sarandos' Dream: To Have Someone on the Oscar Stage "Thank Netflix"

  • Phil Lord and Christopher Miller

    The Multihyphenates

    “Now, somehow, we’re 10 times busier than we were when I thought we were too busy and I was going to die,” jokes Christopher Miller (right). He and Phil Lord were first photographed for THR on May 30, 2014, for an interview ahead of 22 Jump Street at their 20th Century Fox Studios office.
    “Now, somehow, we’re 10 times busier than we were when I thought we were too busy and I was going to die,” jokes Christopher Miller (right). He and Phil Lord were first photographed for THR on May 30, 2014, for an interview ahead of 22 Jump Street at their 20th Century Fox Studios office.
    Christopher Patey

    Based on their success with the animated film Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs ($243 million worldwide), Lord and Miller had persuaded Sony to let them make the rare leap to live action with 2012's 21 Jump Street reboot. "We kept saying, 'Wouldn't it be funny if this movie was good?' " says Lord, who met Miller at Dartmouth College. "That was the joke of that movie: I think we can surprise people by making it not be terrible." Additionally, they had just turned in the first draft for their next animated adventure: The Lego Movie for Warner Bros., which would go on to earn $469 million worldwide.

    The duo's to-do list is a dizzying mix of franchises, for both film and TV. Lord and Miller, both 40 (Lord is in a long-term relationship with jewelry designer Irene Neuwirth; Miller is married with two young kids), are producing the next batch of Lego films, including The Lego Batman Movie, and future Jump Street movies, including a female-centered spinoff. They're writing and producing an animated Spider-Man movie for Sony, and they created the beloved Fox comedy series The Last Man on Earth, now in its second season. There's a Son of Zorn live-action/animation hybrid Fox comedy coming and a potential TV series based on the Serial podcast, too. But all those pale in comparison to the Han Solo Star Wars spinoff, which the pair has signed on to direct. Says Miller, "Now, somehow, we're 10 times busier than we were when I thought we were too busy and I was going to die."

    Read more Phil Lord, Chris Miller on 'Star Wars' Spinoff Pressure, Being "Stoney" Filmmakers

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