Actors like Michael Fassbender, Elizabeth Olsen and Melissa McCarthy went from being relative unknowns to some of the biggest stars of 2011 over the past year. While it’s hard to predict beforehand which new or second-string actors will click with audiences in a given year, that doesn’t stop us from trying. For instance, we wouldn’t have guessed that McCarthy would have been the breakout star from “Bridesmaids,” but Fassbender was a bit of a given thanks to his roles in blockbusters like “X-Men: First Class” and big name indies like “Shame.”
So we tried our hand at rounding up the 10 up-and-coming names that we think will be household names by the end of next year. Some you might already be familiar with and some might be new to you, but either way, they’re in for some of the biggest years of their careers.
1. Andrew Garfield
Andrew Garfield has been a familiar face around Hollywood since his debut in 2007’s “Boy A,” but 2012 is truly his year to shine. His only major film coming out is “The Amazing Spider-Man,” Sony’s reboot of the blockbuster superhero franchise. But it’s one of the most hotly anticipated films of the new year, and with the Spider-Man series riding on his small British shoulders, the role could make or break Garfield’s career. Judging by the knockout performances he’s had in the past few years in films like “The Social Network,” “Never Let Me Go” and Spike Jonze’s short “I’m Here,” we’re guessing Garfield’s star is only beginning to shine.
2. Jennifer Lawrence
With “The Hunger Games” shaping up to be the next “Twilight” or “Harry Potter”-like film phenomenon, it should come as no surprise that Jennifer Lawrence has earned a spot on this list. After her breakout in 2010 with the indie darling “Winter’s Bone,” Lawrence has gone on to land roles in everything from “Like Crazy” to “X-Men: First Class.” Lawrence plays leading lady Katniss Everdeen in “The Hunger Games” in 2012, and also stars in the horror film “House at the End of the Street” which is due in theaters in April. Our guess is she’ll become a household name along the lines of Kristen Stewart or Emma Watson before the year is done.
3. Jeremy Renner
Like many of the other actors on this list, Jeremy Renner is someone who got his big break in the past few years. For him, it was in the Oscar-winning 2009 drama “The Hurt Locker.” Since then, he’s had major roles in “The Town,” “Thor” and “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol,” but none of those films are as big as the ones he has coming out in 2012. First up there’s “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters,” a dark, adult take on the classic fairy tale that places him opposite Gemma Arterton. Then there’s “The Avengers,” which is arguably the biggest superhero movie of 2012 (depending on whether you’re a DC or Marvel fan). He’ll finish off the year by picking up the “Bourne” franchise from Matt Damon in “The Bourne Legacy.” That’s not to mention his smaller roles in “Ice Age: Continental Drift” and “Low Life,” both of which are still in development. Talk about a busy year.
4. Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Probably the biggest name on the list in many circles, Joseph Gordon-Levitt shined in last year’s “50/50” but 2012 is shaping up to be the “Third Rock From The Sun” star’s biggest year yet. Gordon-Levitt has four major films coming out that team him up with the likes of Christopher Nolan, Rian Johnson and Steven Spielberg. Despite his small role in “The Dark Knight Rises” (which could end up being bigger than it seems), the film we’re most excited for Gordon-Levitt to star in is Johnson’s latest, “Looper.” Still, it will be nice to see him in “Lincoln” under the direction of Spielberg, as well as to see him at work in the action thriller “Premium Rush.”
5. Idris Elba
Superhero movie fans became acquainted with Idris Elba best this year when he played Heimdall in Kenneth Branagh’s Marvel flick “Thor,” but he is an actor who’s been around in the industry for some time now (television enthusiasts will always hold a place in their hearts for Elba’s performance as Stringer Bell in “The Wire”). He has two major genre releases in 2012: “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” and “Prometheus.” We’ll admit that we’re a little biased—we’re more excited for his role in “Prometheus”—but Elba should soon be a force to be reckoned with. It only helps that Guillermo Del Toro has cast him in his upcoming monster flick “Pacific Rim,” due out in 2013.