After his tragic death in 2008, the family of the late Australian star Heath Ledger set up the Heath Ledger Scholarship, a fund intended to help his countrymen make it big in Hollywood. And boy, did it work in the case of Bella Heathcote, who won the prize in 2010. After a small role in Andrew Niccol's "In Time," Heathcote, who got her start like so many others on the Aussie soap "Neighbours," first came to the attention of many as a contender for the lead in "Snow White and the Huntsman." And while Kristen Stewart ended up with that part, Heathcote wasn't mourning too much as she was swiftly cast in key roles in both David Chase's '60s rock-and-roll tale "Not Fade Away" and in Andrew Dominik's "Killing Them Softly." But first up is something potentially even bigger, playing the dual role of both Johnny Depp's long dead love, and of the governess of the Collins family in Tim Burton's "Dark Shadows." With her enormous eyes and porcelain beauty, she's like a Burton drawing made flesh, so she should fit right at home there, and the film will provide her widest exposure to date. She's been up for a number of high-profile roles since, including the leads in both "A Winter's Tale" (which fellow pick Jessica Brown-Findlay landed), and "Carrie," which Chloe Moretz got, but we're sure there's plenty more auditions where those came from.
With a cast that included Alison Pill, Mark Webber, Johnny Simmons, Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, among many others, Edgar Wright's "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" is looking increasingly like one of those films that provided first looks at an entire generation of young actors, but perhaps none have shown such an impressive range since that film as Brie Larson, who played Scott's ex Envy Adams, a smoky-voiced rock frontwoman. Despite being only 23, Larson has been acting for over a decade, with several sitcom appearances and parts in kids' flicks "Sleepover" and "Hoot," among others. As she moved into her twenties, she landed the part of Toni Colette's daughter in Diablo Cody's Showtime series "United States of Tara," which in turn led to the part in 'Scott Pilgrim.' But it's the past few months that have suggested that what we saw before was only scratching the surface of her talent. Firstly, she played Woody Harrelson's daughter in "Rampart," and turned in a hugely impressive performance, both wise beyond her years and somewhat naive about the true nature of her father: it's one of the things that has lingered most about the film for us. And only a few months later, she was the female lead in "21 Jump Street," an entirely charming performance with far more depth than your average love interest. She keeps making smart, diverse choices -- next up is "Relanxious," a quirky comedy alongside Olivia Wilde, Jason Sudeikis and Fred Armisen -- and we're certain that she'll be carrying a movie herself before too long.
One of the most pleasant surprises of this past TV season has been "Suburgatory," a smart, often hilarious sitcom from "Parks and Recreation" writer Emily Kapnek that plays out like a small-screen take on "Mean Girls." And it's no surprise that 23-year-old Jane Levy, who plays the lead character Tessa on the show, already looks to be making some major inroads into the movie world. Levy, a Stella Adler grad from Marin County, first appeared in a recurring role on Showtime's "Shameless" before bagging the lead in the ABC show, and she's displayed a sharp wit and impressive range across the season. And big-screen casting directors have clearly been paying attention, as she's got three movies due for release across the next year or so. First up is Ry Russo-Young's acclaimed Sundance pic "Nobody Walks" (co-written by Lena Dunham), in which she stars alongside Olivia Thirlby and John Krasinski, and October will see her play the lead in "Fun Size," the feature debut of "O.C." mastermind Josh Schwartz, in which she'll play a wayward, troubled teen who loses her brother on Halloween night; if Schwartz's previous work is anything to go by, this could turn out to be an "Easy A"-style sleeper hit. But an even bigger chance at stardom comes next April, as Levy bagged the lead role in the "Evil Dead" remake after Lily Collins dropped out. The part, a recovering addict taken to a cabin for an intervention (only for the undead to interene), seems to be very different from the usual scream-queen kind of roles, and it's clear from "Suburgatory" that Levy's got the chops to pull that off, and much more besides.