The top 25 performers who will be shaking up Hollywood


The Oscar Darlings

Abigail Breslin, 12
The past couple of years have been very good ones for Breslin. In the wake of her 2007 Oscar nod for "Little Miss Sunshine," she scored title roles in two well-received feature films in 2008 -- New Line's "Kit Kittredge: An American Girl" and Fox-Walden's "Nim's Island," opposite Jodie Foster -- and a scene-stealing role in a third, as romantic advisor to her character's single dad (Ryan Reynolds) in Universal's "Definitely, Maybe." Breslin has been shuttling between films for adults and young audiences since her 2002 debut in M. Night Shyamalan's "Signs," and with her next film, New Line's "My Sister's Keeper," directed by Nick Cassavetes, she faces her biggest acting challenge yet: She stars as a young girl who was conceived to be a bone marrow match for her leukemia-stricken sister. "I loved it," Breslin says of the intense drama. "It's hard to do a lot of crying scenes, but it's easy to be sad when the movie's so sad. It's taking on a challenge and trying something new."
Saoirse Ronan, 14
There's something in her eyes. As Briony Tallis in 2007's "Atonement," Ronan's ability to convey, with fierce simplicity, her character's jealousy, contempt and desperate confusion spooked audiences and garnered her an Academy Award nomination earlier this year. Not bad for the Irish actress's first American film role. Since that performance, she has shot to the fore of many directors' must-have lists. She'll be seen next month with Bill Murray in the Fox-Walden family fantasy "City of Ember" and will inhabit the lead role of the ill-fated Susie Salmon in Peter Jackson's adaptation of Alice Sebold's "The Lovely Bones," due in 2009. And while she's developing a reputation for playing eerily mature characters, she isn't in a hurry to grow up: She says she hasn't read either "Atonement" or "The Lovely Bones," as they both touch on topics for which she "might not be old enough."
The It Girls
Miley Cyrus, 15
To say this has been the year of Miley Cyrus is an understatement. Already a bona fide star in the tween world thanks to her title role in the hit Disney Channel series "Hannah Montana," Miley mania hit threshold capacity this year as a series of events put her almost constantly in the public eye. First, scalpers across the country capitalized on her popularity by scooping up thousands of tickets to her Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: The Best of Both Worlds tour -- shutting out genuine ticket buyers -- and selling them for many times their face value; then in April, images from a Vanity Fair photo shoot taken by photographer Annie Leibovitz leaked onto the Internet ahead of the magazine's June pub date and were instantly deemed scandalous. (Leibovitz and Cyrus were going for "artistic.") The subsequent 3-D film of her concert tour, in limited release, broke boxoffice records; and she scored her second No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 with the July release of "Breakout," her first solo CD unrelated to the "Hannah Montana" brand. Though some say that her cheeky "Miley and Mandy Show" YouTube videos with pal Mandy Jiroux show her in a less than flattering light, others chalk them up to be mere teenage shenanigans. Through it all, Cyrus has remained a celebrity most parents don't mind their kids emulating. She next lends her voice to Disney's animated "Bolt," due out in November, and the "Hannah Montana" wave continues next year, when "Hannah Montana: The Movie" is released in May 2009.
Miranda Cosgrove, 15
She was so good at being a mischievous little sister in Nickelodeon's "Drake & Josh" that the show's creator, Dan Schneider, just had to give Cosgrove a series of her own. In "iCarly," which launched last year, Cosgrove is a teenager who produces webcasts from a loft studio with her two best friends. The series has become the No. 1 live-action program among kids (6-11) on all of TV, catapulting Cosgrove into teen stardom and onto the covers of teen gossip rags. "Kids relate to it because YouTube is so popular," she says of her show's Web-savvy fan base. "So many kids are making Web shows." In addition to acting, Cosgrove has musical ambitions. She recorded four songs for the "iCarly" soundtrack, released in June, and plans to record her own album next year. She hasn't left "Drake & Josh" completely behind, however. The popular series, which wrapped production in 2006, lives on with two new features, "Merry Christmas, Drake & Josh" and "Drake & Josh in New York," in which she co-stars with Drake Bell and Josh Peck.
Selena Gomez, 16
When Disney Channel's first worldwide casting search rolled into Dallas in 2004, Gomez was ready to impress -- and she did. The Disney Channel team took her into the fold, and it wasn't too long before guest stints on "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody" and "Hannah Montana" led to her own hit series, "Wizards of Waverly Place," which has become Disney Channel's No. 1 show with kids 6-11 and tweens 9-14. Gomez has seen her star rise because of the show's success, and she, too, has become a teen fan rag and YouTube staple along with her best friend and fellow Disney alum Demi Lovato. During the half-year hiatus of "Wizards," which begins its second season next month, Gomez wrapped two films: Warner Home Video's "Another Cinderella Story" and the Disney Channel TV movie "Princess Protection Program," opposite Lovato.
Demi Lovato, 16
As any parent of a Disney Channel-watching kid can tell you, the buildup to the net's June premiere of its original movie "Camp Rock" was huge, with promos and sneak peeks punctuating the net's programming for months leading up to the premiere. And in the center of the campaign was Lovato, starring in her first lead film role opposite Joe Jonas, one-third of musical brother trio the Jonas Brothers. Kids clearly liked what they saw because the film snared 8.9 million viewers on premiere night, second only to the audience of Disney Channel's "High School Musical 2." That was just the start of what is proving to be a stellar year for Lovato. In July, she hit the road with the Jonas Brothers for their two-month "Burning Up" tour. Her Disney Channel movie "Princess Protection Program" is in postproduction; and this month, production begins on her first TV series, Disney's art-imitating-life sketch-comedy series "Welcome to Mollywood," starring Lovato as Molly, a small-town girl who joins the cast of a teen sketch-comedy series.
Emma Roberts, 17
She was one of four actresses featured on the cover of the August Vanity Fair -- a sure sign, if there ever was one, that she has arrived. Roberts, hailed by the magazine as a member of "Hollywood's New Wave," has been carving out her own identity, separate from that of her famous dad, Eric, and Aunt Julia, since the day she booked the role of Johnny Depp's daughter in 2001's "Blow." Named ShoWest's Female Star of Tomorrow in 2007, she became a household name and a role model for tweens with her lead role in the hit Nickelodeon series "Unfabulous." She parlayed that success into big-screen roles (2006's "Aquamarine," 2007's "Nancy Drew"). In addition to her upcoming role as a rebellious Malibu girl shipped off to an English boarding school in Universal's "Wild Child," Roberts will appear in DreamWorks/Paramount's "Hotel for Dogs," opposite Don Cheadle; in "Lymelife," opposite Alec Baldwin and Rory Culkin; and in an impending Nancy Drew sequel.
The Drama Queens
Dakota Fanning, 14
Of all the young actresses making a serious splash these days, Fanning is perhaps the most well-known. Her spectacular entrance into feature films at the age of 7 in 2001's "I Am Sam," opposite Sean Penn, earned her the distinction of being the youngest-ever individual SAG Award nominee. A flurry of parts -- in both serious dramas and kid-friendly fare -- have come her way ever since. Now, as she traverses adolescence, Fanning is accepting roles selectively and strategically to maintain access to prestige projects. She recently wrapped "Winged Creatures," director Rowan Woods' upcoming "Crash"-like ensemble film, co-starring Forest Whitaker, Guy Pearce and Kate Beckinsale; and next month, she'll be seen opposite Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson and Alicia Keys in Fox Searchlight's "The Secret Life of Bees," based on the Sue Monk Kidd best-seller.
Elle Fanning, 10
She may be following in her big sister's footsteps, but the younger Fanning has been making her own mark in Hollywood since she was 5, when producers of 2004's "The Door in the Floor" cast her opposite Jeff Bridges. Impressed with her professionalism, they scrapped plans to employ twins for the intense shooting schedule and hired her instead. A turn in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's ensemble film "Babel" (2006) led to her title-role debut opposite Felicity Huffman and Patricia Clarkson in ThinkFilm's "Phoebe in Wonderland," which premiered at this year's Sundance Film Festival and opens in limited release next week. In David Fincher's December release "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," Fanning plays Cate Blanchett's character at 6; and she stars opposite John Turturro and Nathan Lane in Andrei Konchalovsky's 1920s period piece, "The Nutcracker: The Untold Story," filmed in Budapest, Hungary, and set for a December 2009 release.
Keke Palmer, 15
The title of her latest film may be "The Longshots" (MGM), but the career of Palmer is anything but. Since making her feature film debut at the age of 11 in 2004's "Barbershop 2," Palmer has been carefully choosing roles that allow her to show off her quiet intensity -- and industry insiders have been taking note. She was nominated for a SAG Award for her TV performance in 2004's "The Wool Cap," opposite William H. Macy, and hit it big as the lead in the 2006 sleeper hit "Akeelah and the Bee." Disney snagged her to star opposite Corbin Bleu in last year's Disney Channel original movie "Jump In!" and in a subsequent music video. Now, Nickelodeon has entrusted her with her own series, "True Jackson, VP," in which she plays a high school student who heads a major fashion label. Next year, she reteams with Tyler Perry in "Madea Goes to Jail" (she appeared in 2006's "Madea's Family Reunion") and stars alongside Kevin Spacey and Robin Williams in "Shrink."
AnnaSophia Robb, 14
It's hard to believe that Robb has only been in the business since 2004. In that time, she has crammed nine films -- and eight leading roles -- onto her resume. Her first three were in kid-friendly fare: as Opal in 2005's "Because of Winn-Dixie," opposite Jeff Daniels; as gum-smacking Violet Beauregarde in Tim Burton's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" (2005); and as Leslie Burke in last year's "Bridge to Terabithia," for which she also sang on the soundtrack. More serious roles followed, including 2007's "The Reaping," with Hilary Swank, and "Have Dreams, Will Travel," with Val Kilmer; Overture Films' "Sleepwalking," with Charlize Theron; and Fox's "Jumper," with Hayden Christensen. Robb is grateful to have performed with such seasoned actors. "Knowing and working with those people was life-changing," says Robb, who recently optioned two books as star vehicles for herself. Next up: Disney's "Race to Witch Mountain," opposite Dwayne Johnson, an updated version of the beloved '70s classic.

The Method Actors

Freddie Highmore, 16
Highmore's sensitive portrayals have been pulling on audience heartstrings and moving critics since he made a splash in 2004's "Finding Neverland," opposite Johnny Depp, and again the following year in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." (Depp, impressed with his young co-star, suggested him for the title role in the colorful 2005 fantasy.) The Chicago Sun-Times' Roger Ebert called his performance in 2007's "August Rush" "open and winning," and the Boston Globe's Ty Burr praised his performance this year in Paramount's "The Spiderwick Chronicles" by noting that the film's "most special effect is probably Highmore." Highmore currently has a spate of animated films on his plate, including Fantastic Films' "A Fox's Tale" and Imagi Animation Studios' "Astro Boy," and a true rite of passage is planned for 2010: a starring role as a physicist's son in the fantasy-free, coming-of-age drama "The Beautiful Miscellaneous."
Josh Hutcherson, 15
When casting directors want a young teenage boy with acting chops, one who can handle an emotional moment or two, Hutcherson invariably comes to mind. What makes him even more valuable is the fact that he's just as comfortable in big studio fantasy adventures -- such as Warner Bros.' summer release "Journey to the Center of the Earth," with Brendan Fraser, and Universal's upcoming vampire film "Cirque du Freak," with John C. Reilly and Salma Hayek -- as he is with smaller, more thoughtful dramas that get the attention of critics -- such as 2007's "Bridge to Terabithia" and Sony's "Winged Creatures," with Dakota Fanning. "I'm not sucked into one genre," Hutcherson says. "I like to switch it up. There's different energy on different types of films."
Logan Lerman, 16
Lerman isn't playing around. Since his debut as Mel Gibson's youngest son in 2000's "The Patriot," he has focused his attention on landing roles in adult dramas, bypassing projects that are aimed at younger audiences. "I want to take it slow and find the work I really want to do rather than do roles I'm not passionate about," he says. "I'm not the kind of guy who got into this business to be famous fast and be on Disney and Nickelodeon. I do it because I fell in love with movies, and I want to be a part of the kind of things that make me love movies." It's a strategy that seems to be working. After a solid turn as the future president of the U.S. in the WB's short-lived but well-received "Jack & Bobby," he garnered stellar reviews last year as Christian Bale's son in the critically acclaimed "3:10 to Yuma." He'll next be seen in the Lionsgate thriller "Game," a futuristic film about power struggles and mass online gaming; look for him in 2009 playing Renee