What makes someone an Actor to Watch? It can be any one factor or a number of them. Perhaps there's an actor we know of who has a prominent project on the horizon—as was the case with Rooney Mara, so solid in "The Social Network," who beat out many competitors for the coveted title role in "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." Maybe someone earned a glowing endorsement—such as Chastain, whom filmmaker Terrence Malick called "one of the greatest actresses I've ever worked with." Sometimes it can be the smallest of roles that proves an actor has something special to offer: Hemsworth did such terrific work in the opening minutes of "Star Trek," we knew the powers that be behind "Thor" hadn't just picked a pretty face. Then there are those who deliver a performance so blazing, they can't be ignored—Jennifer Lawrence in "Winter's Bone" springs to mind. Sometimes, it's that indefinable "it" that can't be neatly qualified, the quality that makes someone a movie star. Humphrey Bogart had it. Julia Roberts has it. And many of our actors in this year's issue have it.
Our guidelines were simple: We were looking for fresh faces who had one or several of the above qualities. Age wasn't an issue; 64-year-old Jonathan Banks has been a working actor for decades but fully came into our consciousness with this year's role on "Breaking Bad." At the other end of the spectrum, Elizabeth Olsen is making her movie debut in "Martha Marcy May Marlene," and her sublime performance earned her a spot on the list.
Then there are actors we know we're going to be seeing a lot of: Juno Temple is this year's Jessica Chastain, an actor with several high-profile projects set to come out in the next year. Sometimes we relied on a bit of faith: This issue features three lads whose films we have yet to see: Jeremy Irvine, Colin Ford, and Asa Butterfield. If they were good enough for Steven Spielberg ("War Horse"), Cameron Crowe ("We Bought a Zoo"), and Martin Scorsese ("Hugo"), who are we to quibble? Then there are those we just enjoy seeing onscreen, such as "Bridesmaids" scene-stealers Chris O'Dowd and Rebel Wilson.
In short, this is a completely subjective, incomplete, and at times arbitrary list. We hope you enjoy.
—Jenelle Riley, Film & TV Editor
Film/TV Actors to Watch
We set about choosing performers from film, TV, and stage we believed our readers should be watching out for in the next year.
Theater Actors to Watch 2011
What makes someone an Actor to Watch? It can be any one factor or a number of them. Sometimes, it's that indefinable "it" that can't be neatly qualified.
3 Actors in Pivotal Roles
If they were good enough for Steven Spielberg ("War Horse"), Cameron Crowe ("We Bought a Zoo"), and Martin Scorsese ("Hugo"), who are we to quibble?