If your film needs two young actors to feature alongside Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper, two of the hottest actors around right now, you're going to need to cast them exactly right. That was the challenge that Derek Cianfrance faced with "The Place Beyond The Pines," and luckily he managed to pull it off. He wisely chose Dane DeHaan, one of the most in demand actors out there right now (and one of our On The Rise picks in 2012) and Emory Cohen, who might have been something of an unknown quantity going into the film, but is one of the big talking points once the credits roll. The New York native made his debut, aged only 18, alongside Ezra Miller, in Antonio Campos' "Afterschool." Various indies followed (most recently "Four"), and he got some mainstream exposure as Debra Messing's son on the much-hyped TV series "Smash." The character was a controversial one, but that's more the fault of the writers than of Cohen, who gave a pretty strong performance. But it's in 'Pines,' that he really impressed. He’s a bit of a black sheep, both exceptionally sociable and deeply manipulative. As a party hearty teen, it’s the kind of role that could easily slip into caricature, but as the gravity of events begin to weigh in, Cohen finds the nuances of the part that make it work in the ambitious drama.. As yet, Cohen hasn't got any major gigs lined up: only indie "Blue Potato," with Aiden Gillen and Carrie Preston, is in the can. But we're sure once "The Place Beyond The Pines" becomes more widely seen, the gigs will start lining up.
Despite the title, it's actually the boys of "Girls" who've gotten the bigger boost when it comes to movies. None of the central quartet have really landed big movie roles since the show became such a cultural force, but Adam Driver has cropped up in "Lincoln" and has "The F Word" on the way, while co-star Christopher Abbott has become a familiar face in the indie world. And perhaps the most omnipresent of them all is Alex Karpovsky. The writer/director/actor (and Oxford University graduate) has been getting attention in the independent film world for almost a decade, with his low-budget debut "The Hole Story" premiering back in 2005. Since then, Karpovsky directed four further features, including "Woodpecker," "Trust Us, This Is All Made Up," and two on the festival circuit in 2012, "Rubberneck" and "Red Flag." But he's also become a go-to figure for other filmmakers in the not-quite-mumblecore scene, with parts in Lena Dunham's "Tiny Furniture," Andrew Bujalski's "Beeswax" and more recently, Mike Birbiglia's "Sleepwalk With Me." But it's "Girls" that's given him his widest exposure to date. Initially something of a small supporting character, mainly there for wisecracks, but he's become more and more central as it moved into the second season and his character started dating Shoshanna, showing that he's not just adept at the comedy, but also the more serious side of things. While things will quiet once the show wraps for the season (though he features in Sean Gallagher's "Good Night," which is just premiering at SXSW) , but he does have another major role coming up, joining "Girls" co-star Driver in the Coen Brothers' "Inside Llewyn Davis." And from there, it's easy to see him getting serious attention for his next directorial effort, whenever it might come.
Yes, we're not afraid to say we're a little stuck on "Downton Abbey,” a show that while careening towards full-blown soap opera with each progressing episode, is still filled with great characters and actors that inhabit them. Dan Stevens is the big male, breakout hit of the show -- he left already with Hollywood calling, but whether he turns out to be George Clooney or David Caruso remains to be seen -- but there’s lots of talent to chose from. Arguably, we could pick several members of the male cast: Rob James Collier is great as the devilish gay footman and Brendan Coyle was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for his role as John Bates, the valet, in "Downton Abbey" (though the show lately, is not doing his character any favors in the writing). Quietly, slipping out from the background into the foreground is Allen Leech, aka Tom Branson. With a show that’s cleanly divided between the aristocratic Crawley family and the servants who live downstairs, Branson, the former chauffeur, is the only character who has managed to successfully traverse both worlds. Initially a near-militant Irish Republican, Branson became would-be royalty when he scandalously surpassed class lines and married Lady Sybil (played by actress Jessica Brown-Findlay, who was on our actresses list in 2012). So in time, Leech has had to play two characters. An angry Irishman working for the English nobility and then the reluctant royal, a part of a family he’s completely alienated from. But over time, and gracefully, Branson’s grown and changed and Leech has shepherded that character quite effortlessly and nicely the entire way (which can’t be said for all the changes on the show). Leech isn't as poised to breakout compared to some of the men on this list, but he received good early notices in "Cowboys And Angels" playing a gay fashion student and "Man About Dog" a 2004 Irish comedy where he starred as of three working class youths in over their heads. He recently popped up in “The Sweeney” opposite Ray Winstone and also starred in "In Fear" a breakout horror that he led that received great word of mouth out of Sundance 2013. Up next is a supporting role in "Grand Piano" alongside John Cusak, Elijah Wood and Kerry Bishe and he's one to keep an eye on for sure.
Some young actors, including many on this list, find fame and success coming virtually overnight. Some take a little longer to really build up a head of steam, even years after featuring on one-sheets and DVD cases, and Will Poulter definitely qualifies in this latter category. The 20-year-old British actor first broke through six years ago as lonely film-obsessed bad boy Lee Carter in Garth Jennings' ace "Son Of Rambow," giving a lovely, textured and funny performance even while aged only 13 at the time of filming. Like co-star Bill Milner (who went on to appear in "Is Anybody There?" and "X-Men First Class"), Poulter stuck with acting, as part of the youthful stage and TV sketch show "School Of Comedy," before taking the most interesting part of "The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader." But it was the next year, at the tail end of 2011, that saw him showcase his real potential as an adult actor. At 18, he starred as the belligerent, prickly son of the title character in Dexter Fletcher's charming directorial debut "Wild Bill." And it looks to be this that provided him with his big break over to the U.S. -- he makes his studio debut this summer with a big role in pot-smuggling comedy "We're The Millers," alongside Jennifer Aniston, Jason Sudeikis and Emma Roberts. And only last week, he got a further break, as the first actor to sign on to Fox's post-apocalyptic young adult property "The Maze Runner," a project once linked to Taylor Lautner and Emma Watson. It's unclear as to exactly what role he's taking at this point, but the film has every chance of following "The Hunger Games" into becoming a phenomenon, and Poulter could go with it.