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This story first appeared in the April 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Zac Efron, 27
With the surprise hit Neighbors ($268 million worldwide), the High School Musical star finally busted out of the pretty-boy ghetto. He recently wrapped Lionsgate’s Dirty Grandpa opposite Robert De Niro and next shoots Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates for Fox. And a Neighbors sequel, in which Efron and Seth Rogen team up to battle a sorority, is set for May 13, 2016.
Dave Franco, 29
After a hilarious turn as the villain in 2012’s 21 Jump Street, James’ little brother has established himself as a reliable comedy fixture. He held his own opposite Rogen and Efron in Neighbors and with Vince Vaughn in the recent Unfinished Business. Execs say it’s only a matter of time before he lands a starring role. (He’s back for Summit’s Now You See Me sequel in June 2016.)
Josh Gad, 34
Frozen‘s Olaf has come a long way from Broadway’s The Book of Mormon. He’s deftly mixing studio pictures like January’s The Wedding Ringer ($75 million) and Sony’s Pixels (July 24) and Angry Birds (May 20, 2016) with such indie comedies as last year’s Wish I Was Here and even TV (FX’s The Comedians opposite Billy Crystal). And he’ll melt little girls’ hearts in Frozen 2.
Kevin Hart, 35
Hart has worked constantly since 2003’s Scary Movie 3 (blink and you’ll miss him in The 40-Year-Old Virgin). But he finally became a star in 2014 with Ride Along ($154 million). After Warner Bros.’ Get Hard (opposite Will Ferrell) opens March 27, he has two major films set: Universal’s Ride Along 2 (Jan. 15, 2016) and Warners’ Central Intelligence with Dwayne Johnson (June 17, 2016).
Rose Byrne, 35
Despite two Emmy nominations for her drama work on FX/DirecTV legal thriller Damages, agents say Byrne is at the top of the list for key supporting roles in comedies thanks to Neighbors, Bridesmaids and Get Him to the Greek as well as Sony’s Annie. And execs say she’s primed for her own starring turn. Like Efron, she will return for Neighbors 2 next summer.
Kate McKinnon, 31
The Saturday Night Live standout went from fringe to red-hot after landing a lead in Paul Feig‘s Ghostbusters, which Sony will release July 22, 2016. Agents say she already is being inundated with post-Ghostbusters projects, and with the 2016 election kicking into gear, expect more heat on McKinnon, who does a Hillary Clinton to rival Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin.
Amy Schumer, 33
Is Schumer the next Lena Dunham? Judd Apatow thinks so. The Comedy Central star (Inside Amy Schumer) with the bawdy sense of humor will get the big-screen test July 17 with Apatow’s Trainwreck (she wrote and stars), which killed at SXSW and led to renewed heat on her. If Trainwreck is a box-office hit, expect her to follow in the path of Fey and Amy Poehler.
Rebel Wilson, 29
The Aussie followed up her Bridesmaids breakout with another surprise hit for Universal, Pitch Perfect. She has an expanded role as Fat Amy in the sequel due May 15. She’s in Sacha Baron Cohen‘s Grimsby in early 2016, has a voice role in DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda 3 and is developing projects including a Private Benjamin remake.
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Robert De Niro