5. Leslie Mann- Despite the fact actress Leslie Mann is married to Judd Apatow, giving her an exemption in pretty much all of his comedic efforts, I get the sense Mann could hold her own in the Hollywood universe. After years of bit roles in 90's Adam Sandler and Jim Carrey comedies, it was Mann's scene stealing performance as a drunk woman giving Steve Carrel a ride home in "The 40 Year Old Virgin" and subsequent starring role in "Knocked Up" that cemented her place in stardom. Yes, a majority of her roles have been comedic ones- and ones that she routinely knocks out of the park through her wry delivery and razor sharp reaction shots- but Mann has shown uncommon depth as an actress as well. Just watch the scene as she's shut out of a popular night club and the ramblings of a thirty-something come streaming out of her in "Knocked Up" And it's an understatement to say I'm excited for "This Is 40" when it hits theaters later this year. Mann co-starring, front and center, with Paul Rudd... taking a supporting role and spinning it into a lead role is a definite recipe for cult success.
4. Carice Van Houten- I suppose its downright flattery for an actress to become so encumbered in a role that one doesn't even recognize her... and that was the case with me and "Game of Thrones". Until recently, I had no idea she played the fiery goddess Melissandre in that series. Regardless, van Houten has an angelic face that would look at home in a silent film from the 20's. Just imagine her in a Murnau film! In 2006, van Houten's smash success came in Paul Verhoeven's brutal Resistance drama, "Black Book". At the time, I wrote the following of van Houten: even after being covered by a vat of human shit, stripped naked several times and one scene of pubic hair dying, actress Carice Van Houten manages to pull out of Paul Verhoeven's World War 2 thriller Black Book with finesse and grace. Not only does she carry herself like a true classic screen actress, but Houten has the emotional temperance to make her role as a German double agent highly accessible and believable.
3. Keira Knightley- A lot of pot shots have been hurled at British actress Knightley over the years... and admittedly, it's really hard when the term "beanpole" is one of the first adjectives awarded to you (courtesy of Aint It Cool News back in the day). By now, I would hope Knightley has shed the laments and proven she's more than a pretty statue. Probably the closest thing to a bonafide superstar on this list, Knightley continues to accept a wide variety of projects. Loyal readers may remember I flipped for her in this year's "Seeking A Friend For the End of the World"- a film that deserved so much better- and next we have a lushly mounted adaptation of "Anna Karenina" later this year. The intensity and sincerity she approaches each role is astounding. And my god just look at those eyes....
2. Emily Blunt- The photo here isn't the best, but I just love the contrast. From her young performance as a confused teenager in the excellent "My Summer of Love" (2004), I recognized something unique in her. Since then, she's surprised me with every new role. Her latest, in Rian Johnson's brilliant "Looper" sets a new standard for her as she slowly becomes the focus of the film and single-handedly takes control of it's swirling sci-fi universe. Blunt is on an exciting precipice, mounted to become the next big thing and dazzle us for years to come.
1. Vera Farmiga- I couldn't resist using at least one scandalous photo! Farmiga- chiseled face and intense eyes- is the total package. Intelligent, fierce and beautiful, Farmiga has already exceeded her actress expectations and turned in one terrific directorial effort as well, the under appreciated "Higher Ground" (2011). This double threat of a performer seems to own every scene. From the minute she walks into Scorsese's "The Departed", things get serious. Farmiga, like Blunt, is an untapped resource that will hopefully provide years of creativeenergies.