Hollywood royalty thanks to being the granddaughter of Tippi Hedren and daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson, Dakota Johnson has been cropping up for a few years now. Having modeled since 2006, she made a strong impression as Sean Parker's one-night-stand in "The Social Network," proving to be something of a natural with Aaron Sorkin's dialogue. She worked fairly consistently, mostly in the indie world with movies like "For Ellen" and "Goats," without quite turning heads, but had better luck with a pair of studio comedies, "21 Jump Street" and "Five-Year Engagement." Even so, we probably wouldn't have put Johnson on this list a year ago, but then came "Ben & Kate." The Fox show debuted to some fanfare alongside "New Girl" and "The Mindy Project," but never quite got a ratings foothold, and was cancelled before Christmas. However, in its few short months in the air, it was turning into one of the best new network comedies of the year. And much of the show's appeal was down to Johnson, playing one half of the central duo, a young single mother living with her errant brother (Nat Faxon), and showing she could be sweet, warm, awkward, moving and very funny. While the show has passed on (Kickstarter, anyone?), Hollywood definitely paid attention, with the actress landing a key supporting role in actioner "Need For Speed," opposite Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots and Michael Keaton. Frankly, someone needs to get her a romantic comedy, and stat, because she'd kill in one, but "Need For Speed" will do for now.
We've been on record before now, more than once, about what a spectacular cast Steve McQueen's "Twelve Years A Slave" has. It's led by one of our favorite working actors, Chiwetel Ejiofor, with Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Fassbender, Adepero Oduye, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Garret Dillahunt, Sarah Paulson, Michael K. Williams, Quvenzhane Wallis, Dwight Henry, Alfre Woodard and Scoot McNairy joining him. But one of the more head-turning parts might end up coming from an actress who you might not know right now, but should be more familiar by the end of the year -- 31-year-old Ethiopian-Irish actress Ruth Negga. Having trained at Trinity College, Dublin, Negga found some big roles quickly, leading local production "Capital Letters," and having a role specifically written for her in "Breakfast On Pluto" by director Neil Jordan. This then led to a few quiet years away from film, but with the actress busier than ever on TV in the UK and Ireland, with major roles in "Criminal Justice," "Misfits" and "Five Daughters," while also taking lead roles at the National Theatre in London, in "Phedre," opposite Dominic Cooper and Helen Mirren, and in "Hamlet," as Ophelia. But she probably got her most attention so far playing legendary chanteuse Shirley Bassey in a BBC biopic which won her an Royal Television Society Award nomination for Best Actress. Having conquered the small screen, Negga's now turning to the silver one. She co-starred alongside Samuel L. Jackson in thriller "The Samaritan," and has the Jimi Hendrix biopic "All Is By My Side" coming up. But it's "Twelve Years A Slave" that should be her biggest launching pad. She's got a key role as a runaway slave in the film, and so impressed producer Brad Pitt that he brought Negga in for the "World War Z" reshoots, playing a scientist. It's bound to not be the last time we see her in a blockbuster...
We've had our eye on British actress Tuppence Middleton for a few years now, but 2013 looks to be the year that she fulfills her promise, having already had a pretty great start to the year. The 26-year-old Bristol native trained at London drama school Arts Ed, before getting her first major role on a two-part U.K.-set episode of long-running procedural drama "Bones." This was followed soon after by the lead in horror-comedy "Tormented" -- like Connolly, she proved a winning scream queen, although the film came and went quickly. Smaller roles in Brit flicks "Skeletons" and "Chatroom" followed soon after, before a shift to TV with recurring roles on series "Friday Night Dinner," "Sirens" and "Sinbad." But things have really come to a head in the last few months. She played David Tennant's sister on BBC drama "Spies Of Warsaw," just led the remake of "The Lady Vanishes" (she's perhaps a little too modern for the role, but proved admirably unsympathetic in the part), and got her badass on in an episode of Charlie Brooker's "Black Mirror." Coming up, Middleton has no less than five high-profile movie roles. First up, there's a key part in Danny Boyle's "Trance" that we couldn't possibly give away here, along with dark comedy "Love Punch" with Emma Thompson and Pierce Brosnan. She'll appear alongside the latter, plus Imogen Poots, Aaron Paul and Toni Collette in the Nick Hornby adaptation of "A Long Way Down," followed by co-starring with Alexandra Roach in Iain Softley's "Trap For Cinderella." And perhaps most importantly, she's set to make her Hollywood debut shortly, joining fellow bright young things Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis and Eddie Redmayne in the Wachowskis' "Jupiter Ascending."
Of all the paths you could take into the movies, being a professional kiteboarder seems one of the least likely, not least because we had no idea that you could make a living out of kiteboarding, or that kiteboarding was really a thing. But that's how Maika Monroe got her start, and given how impressive her debut performance is, maybe casting directors should start hanging out with kickboarders more often. She got started in the sport as a teen, and had a small role in short-lived TV show "Eleventh Hour," but wasn't really on our radar before we saw Ramin Bahrani's "At Any Price" last year. Even among a cast full of surprising turns from the likes of Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron, the 18-year-old Monroe stands out as the latter's girlfriend. We called her "a real find' in our review, and she's exactly that, authentic and nuanced beyond her years. And though she's gone through the rite of passage of a ropey SyFy movie with "Flying Monkeys" (it's exactly what it sounds like...), Bahrani's melodrama seems to have brought her to the attention of some big names, with a part in the ensemble of Sofia Coppola's "Bling Ring" coming up, as well as the younger version of Josh Brolin's wife in Jason Reitman's "Labor Day." When we exclude "Flying Monkeys," it's about as impressive a trio of directors you could ask for when kicking off a career, and given the quality of that first performance, they're unlikely to be the last top-flight filmmakers wanting to work with Monroe.