Part of the fun of compulsively following the film scene is getting a sense of which actors are right on the cusp of stardom. There are a certain amount of bragging rights associated with being able to correctly identify which Hollywood up-and-comer is poised to be the next big thing. But a breakout performance can take many forms, and it’s always interesting to see which direction they’ll come from.
Some actors have minor roles in a number of well-received films, or maybe did some work as a child actor on the Disney Channel, but have largely gone under the radar. Then out of nowhere they finally land a great white whale of a project that puts them front and center. Austin Butler, for example, caught Hollywood’s attention with his supporting role in “The Dead Don’t Die” and a more substantial performance as the malevolent Tex in “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood.” Then he bagged the role of the King himself in an upcoming Elvis Presley biopic from Baz Luhrmann.
The Legacy Hire
This isn’t intended to be an insult, OK? But sometimes there are actors who pop up and seem strangely familiar. That’s because you realize with a jolt that the reason you recognize them is because their parents are actors you crushed on hard in your youth. Consider Jack Quaid, star of romantic comedy “Plus One” and Amazon’s newest superhero show, “The Boys,” who also happens to be the very charming son of Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan. See also Margaret Qualley (daughter of Andie McDowell), who has a similar pedigree but is possibly too well-known at this point to be considered a “Next Big Thing,” following “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood” with an Emmy nomination for “Fosse/Verdon.”
The One-Two Punch
You also get actors like Kelvin Harrison Jr, who demands acknowledgement by breaking through in not one indie hit, but two. This year, we’ve seen powerful performances from him in “Luce,” and “Waves,” which have both received praise that singles out his work specifically. One great performance in an indie can be ignored by the industry. Two in one year is a pattern, and it makes people sit up and take notice.
But what about the actors who turn up for their very first feature film role and churn out pure gold? Sure, it’s nice to see consistency and proof that an actor can sustain quality over the course of several films. But there’s also something raw and wonderful about that first incredible performance. Look no further than Roman Griffin Davis in “Jojo Rabbit,” who provides the emotional heart in a satire where he could very easily be overpowered by the bigger performances on display.