From Ang Lee to Peter Jackson, some of Hollywood's top directors are making an unusual bet this fall: They're relying on a collection of largely unknown actors to reap success at the box office.
If the bets pay off, a bunch of relative unknowns — not all of them fresh-faced newbies — may find themselves household names thanks to show-stopping performances in some of this fall’s most heavily anticipated films.
Here’s a look at five performers whose days of toiling in semi-obscurity are about to end.
How He’ll Spend the Fall: Playing the son of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s cult leader in “The Master.”
Upcoming: A recurring role on AMC’s “Breaking Bad”
Why He’s Ready to Break Through: “Friday Night Lights” aficionados are already familiar with Plemons from his work as the slightly nerdy Landry Clarke. After a supporting role in last summer’s “Battleship,” Plemons is ready to show he has some acting chops by going toe-to-toe with such heavyweights as Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix. In director Paul Thomas Anderson, he has just the person to take him to some dark, but unforgettable, places.
How She’ll Spend the Fall: Breaking audiences' hearts as the lovelorn and ultimately heroic Eponine in “Les Miserables.”
Upcoming: Nothing announced.
Why She’s Ready to Break Through: The former BBC talent show contestant and star of a West End production of “Oliver” beat out higher profile names like Taylor Swift and Scarlett Johansson for the pivotal role in the big-screen version of the hit musical. Now the big question: With her soaring voice and stunning looks, can the classically trained Brit find success on this side of the pond?
How He’ll Spend the Fall: Stranded at sea with a tiger for 227 days in Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi.”
Upcoming: Nothing announced.
Why He’s Ready to Break Through: Lee has admitted he was despairing of even making the film until he discovered the 17-year-old newcomer. Rolling the dice on the novice was certainly a risk — Sharma spends the bulk of the film onscreen by himself, acting opposite a CGI tiger. It’s a daring performance that is bound to draw comparisons to Tom Hanks' similar work in “Cast Away.” Of course, Hanks earned an Oscar nomination for his troubles.
How He’ll Spend the Fall: Treasure hunting with Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.”
Upcoming: Two more sequels to “The Hobbit” and an untitled tornado thriller from New Line Cinema.
Why He’s Ready to Break Through: Another well-known name in England hoping for his U.S. breakthrough, the dashing British actor has starred in several hit BBC America series, including "Robin Hood" (he played the evil Guy of Gisborne) and "MI-5." His portrayal as dwarf leader Thorin Oakenshield in the upcoming trilogy could provide Armitage's career with the kind of boost enjoyed by “The Lord of the Rings” star Viggo Mortensen — another under appreciated supporting actor who became a major player thanks to his work on the J.R.R. Tolkien-inspired films.
How He’ll Spend his Fall: Taking down Osama bin Laden in Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty.”
Upcoming: Playing revolutionary hero Simon Bolivar in “Libertador” and starring as an Iraq war veteran in “Donnie Darko” director Richard Kelly’s “Corpus Christi.”
Why He’s Ready to Break Through: As fans of the mini-series “The Jackal” can attest, this guy is the real deal, and teaming up with Bigelow can do wonders to a career. (Just ask "The Hurt Locker's" Jeremy Renner) And with an explosive subject like the Osama bin Laden killing, “Zero Dark Thirty” is almost guaranteed to be one of this year’s most talked-about films.