2009’s Breakout Stars

The end of 2009 signals the official start of Awards Season, and all the hype you can handle associated with said time of year.

And sure, the Oscars and the Golden Globes get most of the attention, how about the unofficial awards, recognizing the unknowns or kinda-knowns that come into their own and achieve real stardom? We could call them the Shias!

Here, then, are the Shia-award winners for 2009:

Sam Worthington

Breakout stars Worthington

The designated “It” Man of 2009 is unquestionably Aussie actor Sam Worthington. After scoring the co-lead in this summer’s admittedly disappointing “Terminator Salvation” (and putting in an uneven performance that was at least partially hampered by director McG’s inability to recognize that scenes where an actor’s accent changes repeatedly is in most cases a bad thing for the movie), Worthington finished the year on a high note by scoring the lead in James Cameron’s blockbuster “Avatar,” (that means he’ll have, count ‘em, two different action figures in the same year) and he’ll play Perseus in next year’s remake of “Clash of the Titans.”

Sharlto Copley

Breakout Copley

This previously-unknown actor made his movie debut in this summer’s sleeper hit “District 9″ with an amazing performance as a government flunky in charge of forcibly moving the alien species stranded in South Africa. His transformation in that film is nothing short of spectacular, and Copley used that role to transform into a movie star, scoring a role as “Howling Mad” Murdock in Joe Carnahan’s upcoming big-screen “A-Team” adaptation co-starring Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper and UFC fighter Quentin “Rampage” Jackson.

Zoe Saldana

Breakout Saldana

While she’s already had large roles in films like 2005’s “Guess Who?” Saldana came into her own in ’09, first as Lt. Uhura in the spectacular “Star Trek” reboot (getting as much to do in this film as Nichelle Nichols got in all six of the original “Trek” films combined)  , then in a starring role in James Cameron’s “Avatar.”

Rachel Nichols

Breakout Nichols

This buxom redhead was only in two of the bigger hits of the summer, playing an Orion that Jim Kirk romances in “Star Trek,” then landing a role as Scarlett in “G. I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.” She’s not coming up for any Oscars any time soon, but man is she smoking hot, and that’s enough to land her a few more starring roles in the near future.

Anna Kendrick

Breakout Kendrick

Only the second actor to cross over from “Twilight” to actual stardom, Kendrick was a little more ambitious than co-star Kristen Stewart, who picked a relatively safe teen sex comedy (the wonderful “Adventureland”) to sidle up next to some heavyweights. Kendrick leapt next to George Clooney and Vera Farmiga in Jason Reitman’s incredible “Up in the Air,” playing Clooney’s tightly-wound understudy and had no problem holding her own against two critically-lauded performances (and garnering some attention of her own). In breaking out of the “teen hottie” role and taking on a meaty job, Kendrick planted herself in good position for a larger degree of success than most of her “Twilight” pals are likely to achieve.

Zack Galifianakis

Breakout Zack

Two words: The Hangover. Galifianakis’ manchild was easily the best thing about the movie, and we’re talking about a film where Ed Helms loses a tooth, three guys lose their best friend, a buck-naked Ken Jeong hops out of the trunk of a car, and the boys kidnap Mike Tyson’s tiger, pick up a baby, throw a mattress off the roof of a casino…See? I could go on all night. Comic stardom is next for this dude.

Carey Mulligan

Breakout Mulligan

Mulligan is drawing raves (and awards-season attention) for her performance as a teen having an affair with a much older man (Peter Sarsgaard) in “An Education.” She’s considered a front-runner for an Oscar nomination and may even have the inside track in winning. You’ll likely hear a bit more from Ms. Mulligan before all is said and done.

Aziz Ansari

Breakout Ansari

Ansari followed up a small but imminently memorable role in the Seth Rogen mall-cop movie “Observe and Report” (not to be confused with Kevin James’ mall-cop movie “Paul Blart”) with an equally small scene-stealing turn as a stand-up comic in Judd Apatow’s “Funny People,” (yes, also starring Rogen). In addition, he’s a standout on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” and does a stand-up act based on his character from “Funny People.” He’s funny and has a unique style, and will most certainly find himself on movie posters in the coming year or so.

Saorise Ronan

Breakout Ronan

Sure, Saorise Ronan impressed in last year’s “Atonement,” but it’ll be her portrayal of murdered Susie Salmon in Peter Jackson’s “The Lovely Bones” that will truly make her a star (and might just net her the little gold statue that evaded her last year). And at 15 she has upward mobility whether she wants to continue to chase Oscars, or cash in and hit up the “Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants” crowd.

Taylor Lautner

Breakout Lautner

Okay, here’s your requisite “Twilight” love. In the first glittery-vamps movie, Lautner was a just another gawky, long-haired, big-nosed teen, but after lobbying hard to return as Jacob Black for the second installment, “New Moon,” the 17-year-old made teen girls and their pervy moms swoon by hitting the weights and puberty at the same time. Consequently, he spent much of his screen time in “Moon” flaunting his beefcake, and, Bingo, a star is born.

Honorable Mention: Chris Pine, Gabourey Sidbe, Jeremy Renner, Bradley Cooper

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3 Responses to “2009’s Breakout Stars”

  1. Tiy says:


  2. Joe Shearer says:

    Right you are. I spaced that, and corrected it.

  3. Mwilson says:

    John Singleton’s upcoming big-screen “A-Team” adaptation?
    Joe Carnahan is directing.