While I like Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, and Michael Fassbender as much as the next girl, the current batch of rising stars in Hollywood are starting to look even more homogenous than usual. Put Sam Worthington, Chris Pine, and Andy Whitfield in a line, I’m not sure I could tell them apart. Let’s not even get started on Michael Cera and Jesse Eisenberg - their own mothers would confuse those two. We’ve heard that variety is the spice of life, but Hollywood doesn’t seem to be taking that lesson to heart. Here are some alternatives to the usual leading men of the big screen who we think could make the next great action stars.
1. Jason Momoa The native Hawaiin star of Conan The Barbarian might not be a household name yet, but he’s on his way. Despite being consigned to generic beefcake (not that we mind beefcake) roles in Stargate: Atlantis and Game Of Thrones, Jason Momoa’s natural charisma made those roles memorable. Plus, at the young age of 32, he’s already achieved the platonic ideal of beefcake masculinity by filling Arnold’s sandals in the Conan The Barbarian remake. Of course, Momoa is more than just a pretty face (and abs) - the actor is currently writing the script for a Conan sequel. Momoa’s a representative from an older, 1980’s school of movie stars, which makes him unique in a land filled with Michael Ceras. Since Sylvester Stallone isn’t getting any younger, and Dwayne Johnson seems to have gotten distracted by stuff like Tooth Fairy, Momoa could be the next big action star.
2. Idris Elba
You can’t talk about Idris Elba without talking about Stringer Bell. Elba was riveting as Bell, The Wire’s most complex criminal; a man who could order a beloved character's death without remorse but was still a model student in his Econ class at the local community college. Since his heralded Wire role, Elba has gotten more mainstream exposure, leading his own BBC cop drama Luther, appearing on The Office, and nabbing a supporting role in Marvel’s Thor film. Anyone who can wear Heimdall’s golden disco-suit and still look badass certainly has enough charisma to lead a film. Fortunately for Elba fans, he’s set to star in Guillermo Del Toro’s science fiction epic Pacific Rim. Stringer Bell working with genre legend Del Toro, fighting space aliens in a giant robot suit? Legendary Pictures, you can shut up and take my money. To make the wait for 2013 more bearable, he’ll also be appearing in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, due out next summer. While The Wire’s alumni have had mixed levels of success (ranging from solid lead roles to drug arrests), no one deserves mainstream success as much as Elba. Well, except Michael K. Williams.
3. Asano Tadanobu
Most Americans haven’t heard of Asano Tadanobu, but that’s likely to change over the next few years. The Japanese movie star has recently started to make international waves. His starring role in Mongol garnered critical praise in the west, showing that he can carry an epic (and one in a different language, to boot). Since then, he’s started taking smaller roles in Hollywood films, appearing in Thor and the upcoming Battleship. He’ll also star alongside Keanu Reeves in the American remake of the 47 Ronin. Plus, he’s already got his cult street cred down, from his role as scarred, blond badass Kakihara in Takashi Miike’s Ichi The Killer. It can be difficult to break into Hollywood as an international star, especially one who doesn’t speak English as his first language. But action films tend to level the playing field slightly, since dialogue isn’t as important as ability to look awesome with a sword in one hand and a blonde in the other. If Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jackie Chan can do it, why not Tadanobu?
4. and 5. Don Glover and Danny Pudi
We’re grouping this Community duo together because, honestly, we’re not sure if we could stand separating BFF’s Troy and Abed. While Community has one of the best ensembles on television at the moment, Danny PudI’s pop-culture fixated Abed and Donald Glover’s overenthusiastic Troy stand out as the funniest members of a painfully funny cast. Comedy and action cross over all the time - just look at Tropic Thunder or Pineapple Express - and either of these actors could make an ideal transition. (Community’s zombie outbreak and paintball showdowns already serve as mini action films in themselves.) Pudi’s already branching out a bit, taking a role in supernatural LARP comedy Knights of Badassdom, and appearing alongside genre-crosser Seth Rogen in My Mother’s Curse. Glover’s internet campaign to play Spider-Man in the new film didn’t make it off the ground, but that doesn’t mean that other action roles won’t swing his way.
6. Dev Patel
Poor Dev Patel didn’t get his action career off on the best foot. After gaining international attention for his role in Slumdog Millionaire, Patel appeared in the dismal M. Night Shyamalan adaptation The Last Airbender. While it may have been a bad career move, we can’t really hold his acting against him since Shyamalan has managed to make even established actors like Mark Wahlberg, Paul Giamatti and Joaquin Pheonix look silly. Patel’s got the charming everyman quality that Shia LeBeouf always seems to be trying for, but without the baggage of being involved in Transformers or Indiana Jones 4. His next major role, in English Oscar-bait flick The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel isn’t a step in the action direction, but should gain him back some critical cred after Airbender.
7. Gael Garcia Bernal
Go find a twentysomething year old woman. Go on, I’ll wait. Now ask her what she thinks of Gael Garcia Bernal. I’ll assume that you’re reading the next paragraph a couple of hours into the future, because I’ve yet to meet a woman who wouldn't talk for ages about this guy. Maybe it’s his homoerotic role in Y Tu Mama Tambien, or his passionate turn as a young Che Guevara in The Motorcycle Diaries. Or maybe it’s just his dreamy hazel eyes. But whatever it is, it makes him ideal as an action star. Women watch action flicks too, and it helps to have a hero who’s appealing to that demographic (think about Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean, or Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones, for instance). Bernal’s next few projects include starring with Al Pacino in Hands of Stone, and alongside Daniel Day Lewis in Martin Scorsese’s Silence - which is very impressive company for a young actor. It seems like Bernal is being groomed to join the Oscar-winning elite, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t slum it in an action film from time to time.
8. Chiwetel Ejiofor
Odds are, you’ve seen Chiwetel Ejiofor in something, be it as one of the five hundred characters in Love, Actually, the chilling Operative in Serenity, or the drag queen star of Kinky Boots. Ejiofor isn’t afraid to play outside the box, choosing roles diverse enough to rival Gary Oldman, and executing them all with flair. We know that he can pull off supporting action roles, from watching his thrilling turns in Serenity and Children Of Men, but Ejiofor has a unique, contained charisma that would make for an interesting action hero. He’s next appearing alongside James Caviezel in Savannah, and in historical drama Twelve Years A Slave, which should only improve Ejiofor’s exposure. Soon, he may stop being a “hey, it’s that guy” kind of actor and start being a “hey, it’s that awesome guy!” kind of actor.
With no new releases from Lars Von Trier, Werner Herzog, David Lynch, David Cronenberg or Richard Kelly, 2010 projected to be a down, if not disastrous year for the WTF Awards – our annual celebration of the most bizarre, baffling, head-scratching and cringe-worthy moments in cinema. Thankfully, the filmmaking community, as it has always done in times of crisis, rallied to fill the void left by the absence of these WTF titans, providing us with an abundance of examples worthy of honor with the Frank Trophy. The Frankie (so named for the beloved character from Donnie Darko) may not be the most prestigious award in Hollywood, but it is undoubtedly the tallest.
This year's winners:
Most Surprising Hit: Alice in Wonderland
That Tim Burton’s CGI confection was a hit is not a surprise; that it grossed over a billion dollars worldwide – enough to rank sixth all-time -- is. Goth and emo kids, it seems, have access to significantly more disposable income than anyone previously thought. And they appear to be multiplying. Time to start building that shelter – and buying Hot Topic stock.
Most Inexplicable Flop: The Tourist
Plenty of films disappointed at the box office last year – 2010’s total tally was the lowest in 12 years – but none boasted the star power (Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp!) and sexy, exotic locales (Paris! Venice!) of The Tourist. Then again, the same combination also failed Eat Pray Love. Perhaps directing and screenwriting still matter after all.
Best Inadvertent Horror Flick: Tie –
The Nutcracker 3D – A children’s movie that triggers instantaneous terror among most children who see it? Sounds pretty darn hilarious to me. Which is why I don’t have kids.
Sex and the City 2 – Four solipsistic ghouls marauding across the Middle East, leaving dignity, good taste and America’s reputation throughout the Islamic world in their gruesome menopausal wake. Eli Roth can only dream of this kind of revulsion.
Movie Whose Mere Existence May Prompt You to Consider Ending Yours: The Bounty Hunter
On the plus side, whenever someone at a party questions the difficulty of a job that entails watching movies for a living, I can now effectively silence them with just three words.
Most Superbly Crafted Film I Never Want to See Again: Black Swan
So prodigious are director-sadist Darren Aronofsky’s abilities to unnerve that even the presence of a Natalie Portman/Mila Kunis girl-on-girl sex scene fails to inspire repeat viewings of his critically-acclaimed camp freakout. Aronofsky achieved the same feat with his nails-on-blackboard brilliant Requiem for a Dream, in which even a fully nude Jennifer Connelly couldn’t ease the existential dread.
Movie That Could Only Have Come Out of Scandinavia: Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
Leave it to those freaky Fins to re-imagine Santa Claus as a child-abducting, reindeer-slaughtering monster served by a corps of naked, shriveled elves. Jalmari Helander’s coffee-black comedy is perfect entertainment for tots not sufficiently traumatized by The Nutcracker 3D.
Most Egregious Bait-and-Switch: The American
As much as I enjoyed Anton Corbijn’s avowedly minimalist take on the quintessential “one last job” tale, I couldn’t help but feel for moviegoers who, lured by the film’s somewhat misleading marketing, went to see it expecting a polished popcorn thriller more worthy of an A-lister like George Clooney. Instead they got a spare, melancholy art flick, albeit one with a surfeit of nudity.
Most Disturbing “Love” Scene: Splice
Adrian Brody’s mad genetic scientist enjoys a drunken dalliance with Dren, the androgynous (and uncomfortably hot) offspring of his unholy experiments, in a scene glazed with just enough sensuality by director Vincenzo Natali to make our discomfort visceral. That the creature’s jambalaya genome includes bits of his own DNA as well as that of several other animals, qualifying the act as both incest and bestiality, is the icing on the cringe-cake.
Most Dubious Marketing Tagline: “From the Mind of M. Night Shyamalan” – Devil
Best WTF Cameo: Ed Corbin (The Bear Man), True Grit
In one of the film’s most memorable scenes, Mattie Ross and Rooster Cogburn enjoy an awkward exchange with a hulking figure, clad in a bear suit and towing a corpse, who inquires in a creepy drawl as to whether either of them require medical attention. The scene wasn’t in Charles Portis’ source novel; it’s purely a creation of the Coen Brothers, whose yen for quirky peripheral characters is unmatched.
The George Lucas Award for Achievement in Legacy Dismantling: Kevin Smith
At first heralded as the voice of a generation and an inspiration to aspiring indie auteurs, the Clerks director has since degenerated into a just another Hollywood hack, reaching his creative nadir in 2010 with his buddy-cop flop, Cop Out. As a fan of his early work, I’m sad to see that he’s essentially become the Insane Clown Posse of filmmakers: amateurish, puerile, gimmicky, and a joke to everyone outside his army of inexplicably devoted followers.
Most Disconcerting Movie Trend: The Live-Action Comedy Famine
While animated comedies continued their profitable reign in 2010, their live-action counterparts were rejected en mass by moviegoers. Part of this can be explained by the dearth of quality titles; the rundown of rom-coms in particular -- Leap Year, The Bounty Hunter, Killers, When in Rome, The Switch, How Do You Know, et al -- reads like a to-do list at Guantanamo, and Little Fockers is now routinely invoked in pagan rituals to summon the fertility demon Naberus. But what’s more distressing is that the better comedies, like Easy A, Get Him to the Greek, MacGruber, and Hot Tub Time Machine, struggled to find audiences as well.
WTF Performer of the Year: James Franco
Let’s be honest: Any year in which Nicolas Cage makes a film is a year in which he wins this award. The man owns this category like Wilt Chamberlain owned the paint. As such, like Chamberlain, his dominance has inspired a rule change: In the interest of variety, the award will henceforth be known as the “Nicolas Cage Award for Achievement in WTF Performance.”
In 2010, no other actor dazzled, confused and, indeed, nauseated us as much as James Franco. His artistic output – from creative writing to cross-dressing photo shoots to Funny or Die shorts to big-budget cameos to his continued run on General Hospital -- was nothing short of baffling. And the strangest thing is, it all paid off. Among other accolades, he’s received his first Oscar nomination for his performance as arm-severing bicyclist Aron Ralston in Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours.
Whichever agents negotiated Franco’s pact with Satan have earned their 5%.
WTF Movie of the Year: Splice
Human Centipede’s grotesqueries, while numerous and undoubtedly WTF-worthy, were of a strictly intestinal variety. Splice’s approach was much more holistic: It not only churned your stomach; it skull-f*cked your id. This is the kind of boldly batsh*t filmmaking for which the WTF Awards were invented. Congratulations to director Vincenzo Natali; we hope this helps ease the disappointment of losing out at the Teen Choice Awards.