The Goods: 16 Breakouts from 2013 in Film


2013 happened to be a very good year for film. Thankfully, whether or not a particular year has been graced with good titles usually doesn’t impact the number of stars that are born. This year, we’ve seen a number of filmmakers make striking debuts that announce grand new talents in screenwriting and directing. Some actors and actresses made their move behind the camera—with wonderful results. Plenty of this year’s new stars are fresh-faced young actors and actresses in their first major film roles. Sometimes, though, you can be in your eighties and just begin making waves in the industry.

From new filmmakers like Ryan Coogler and Destin Cretton to actors like Chadwick Boseman and Oscar Isaac and actresses such as Brie Larson, Lupita Nyong’o and June Squibb—there are plenty of breakouts worthy of celebration this year. We’ve compiled 16 of this year’s new stand-outs.

16. ELIZABETH DEBICKI, “The Great Gatsby”

However you may feel about Baz Luhrmann’s noisy, ostentatious adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”—and the general consensus seems to be ‘not great’—I think we can all agree that Elizabeth Debicki, who plays Jordan Baker, was a bright spot. Her striking looks and stoic screen presence together made her seem as much familiar as they did a breath of fresh air. I’m looking forward to following her burgeoning career. Next up: “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”

15. DANIEL PATRICK CARBONE, “Hide Your Smiling Faces”
Immediately after seeing Daniel Patrick Carbone’s feature debut “Hide Your Smiling Faces” at the Sidewalk Film Festival in Birmingham, I knew the film would remain near the top of my 2013 list for the rest of the year. Both wild and intimate, the portrait of two small town brothers amidst a neighborhood tragedy contains easily some of the most beautiful imagery of the year. Consider the fact that Carbone serves as director, writer, producer and editor, and you’ve got yourself quite a debut. Next up: I’m not sure, but I’m sure it will be good.

14. ANTJE TRAUE, “Man of Steel”
I loved literally everything about “Man of Steel.” I’ll admit to being a Superman fanboy from a very young age, but even so—Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot was as beautiful and stylish as it was faithful to detailed origins, injecting a ton of blood and passion into the brand. Everyone and everything was wonderful, but I was entranced by Antje Traue every moment she was on screen. Playing Zod’s sub-commander Faora-Ul, Traue may be small, but her persona is as perfectly icy as are her eyes. She could very well be the next big female action star—not to limit her to action movies, though. Next up: “Seventh Son”

13. SOPHIE NÉLISSE, “The Book Thief”
Though she made her debut in the Academy Award nominated “Monsieur Lazhar” back in 2011, Sophie Nélisse has really made an impact this year with her starring role in “The Book Thief.” Born this side of Y2K, the young star is only 13 years old but exudes such charisma and poise, I can’t help but expect her to build an incredible résumé in the coming years. Next up: I’m sure she has a stack of screenplays to read through.

12. MICHAEL B. JORDAN, “Fruitvale Station”
One breakout star that has made just about every list is Michael B. Jordan. Though he’s been working hard in film and television since he was young, his role in “Fruitvale Station” has made him the new Hollywood It-boy. Though “Fruitvale” shows off his dramatic chops, he looks to expand his repertoire with his next few roles. Next up: “That Awkward Moment,” “The Fantastic Four” reboot, “Creed” (with “Fruitvale Station” filmmaker Ryan Coogler)

11. JUNE SQUIBB, “Nebraska”
June Squibb just turned 84 years old and is considered a breakout star of 2013 by many. Her turn in “Nebraska” is as biting as it is hilarious, setting the screen ablaze alongside her more aloof costar, Bruce Dern. The actress has been working in theater since the 1950s, but only made her feature film debut in 1990. As sharp as can be, I doubt Ms. Squibb will disappear any time soon. Next up: A role on hit HBO show, “Girls”

10. LAKE BELL, “In a World…”
I’ve admired the beautiful, funny and talented Lake Bell for years, known both for her television and film roles. Bell is considered a breakout this year, however, for her feature debut as the writer and director of “In a World…”. She certainly made a splash with the film, but don’t think she’ll give up her time in front of the camera anytime soon. Next up: the Georgia-lensed “Million Dollar Arm,” “Mr. Peabody & Sherman,” “The Coup,” “Man Up”

9. TYE SHERIDAN, “Mud” and “Joe”
After his debut in (one of the best films of all time) “The Tree of Life,” Tye Sheridan didn’t make too much of a splash, considering he was the youngest of three child actors and didn’t have many lines. Flash-forward a couple of years and Sheridan has two high-profile leading roles, outshining stars like Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon in “Mud” and Nicholas Cage in “Joe.” I would say that Sheridan is ‘one to watch,’ but I’m thinking he’ll be big enough that you won’t have any other option. Next up: “The Forger,” “Grass Stains,” “Dark Places”

8. RYAN COOGLER, “Fruitvale Station”
We’ve already discussed the star of “Fruitvale Station” (Michael B. Jordan), but in my eyes, writer-director Ryan Coogler is the real stand-out. Forest Whitaker called him an auteur, Time Magazine said he was one of ’30 people under 30 who are changing the world’ and he won both the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and the Best First Film award at Cannes. At only 27 years old, this guy is on a roll. Next up: “Creed” (with “Fruitvale Station” star Michael B. Jordan)
Another actor who has worked hard in various television and small film roles for years, Chadwick Boseman made a name for himself earlier this year in the Georgia-filmed Jackie Robinson biopic, “42.” Not only was the film well-received, it was also a commercial success—only brightening Boseman’s new-found star. More high-profile roles are lined up already, including another biopic for another legendary Georgian—James Brown. Next up: “Draft Day,” “Get on Up”

Though she may be one of the lesser-known names on this list, anyone in doubt simply needs to watch “Lore” (it is on Netflix Instant). The strikingly beautiful young actress only has a few credits to her name, but has shown tremendous range already. Whether she wants to stay in her native Germany or move into American film roles, she is bound to be successful in whatever she chooses. Next up: “The Missionary”

5. MARGOT ROBBIE, “About Time” and “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Though I recognized her face from the short-lived but well executed TV series “Pan Am,” it wasn’t until “About Time” that I really became a fan of Australian actress Margot Robbie. I haven’t even seen her highly-buzzed turn in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” but the whole world is talking about Ms. Robbie—and rightly so. Next up: “Suite française,” “Focus,” “Violent Talent”

4. DESTIN CRETTON, “Short Term 12”
Destin Cretton’s film “Short Term 12” premiered at SXSW, where it went on to win both the Grand Jury and Audience Awards there and proceeded to burn up the festival circuit. I’ve yet to come across anyone who wasn’t won over by the film and its pitch-perfect cast (led by Brie Larson, whom you will see later). The native Hawaiian has already made the leap from indie writer-director to in-demand studio filmmaker. His next project features current Queen of the Universe—Jennifer Lawrence—as both star and producer. Next up: “The Glass Castle”

3. LUPITA NYONG’O, “12 Years a Slave”
Right off the bat, Lupita Nyong’o is incredibly interesting. Born in Mexico City, raised in Kenya and having graduated from both Hampshire College and Yale School of Drama, Nyong’o isn’t just another beautiful actress. In 2009, she directed, wrote and produced a documentary on albinos in Kenya. “12 Years a Slave” marks her feature debut as an actress—and boy, what a debut performance! Stealing the show from her more established co-stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender and Sarah Paulson, Nyong’o looks to be the frontrunner for the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award. Next up: “Non-Stop”

2. OSCAR ISAAC, “Inside Llewyn Davis”
Honestly, I feel a little silly calling Oscar Isaac a ‘breakout star’ in 2013. Trained at Juilliard and having appeared in a host of films—”The Nativity Story,” “Body of Lies,” “Agora,” “Robin Hood,” “Drive,” “The Bourne Legacy,” “Won’t Back Down” and more—this year does mark a change for Isaac. His work in “Inside Llewyn Davis” shows us that he isn’t just a supporting actor anymore. He not only leads the film, he manages to create a complicated relationship between himself and the audience—making it very hard to like him, but impossible not to wish him well. His ethnically ambiguous good looks are a compliment to his exceptional talent, and we will see a ton of him in the next few years. Next up: “In Secret,” “The Two Faces of January,” “Mojave,” “Ex Machina,” “A Most Violent Year”

1. BRIE LARSON, “Short Term 12,” “The Spectacular Now” and “Don Jon”
Before you saw her in “Short Term 12,” “The Spectacular Now” and “Don Jon,” you might have recognized Brie Larson from “21 Jump Street,” “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” or any number of other film and television roles since she has had since she was a teenager. This year has catapulted Larson into another realm, mostly thanks to her turn in “Short Term 12″—one of the year’s best films anchored by one of the year’s best performances, hers. The film might not have been seen by enough people to garner her what would be a well-deserved Oscar nomination, but a host of critics honors is nothing to scoff at. Larson is both edgy and soft, immediately infusing each of her characters with a depth that other actors and actresses have to work much harder for. I can’t wait to see where she goes from here. Next Up: “Basmati Blues,” “The Gambler”

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