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12 Stars You Need to Know in 2012

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Dec 29, 2011 | 7:07pm EST

Each new year produces a handful of it-girls and men of the moment, and we here at Hollywood.com like to get ahead of the game by letting you, our loyal readers, know who’s going to be a big deal. 2012 sees a gaggle of films big and small hit theaters, and with them an army of actors working hard to make the most of their packed schedules. Some are big-screen veterans, others are relatively new to showbiz, but all of them are must-know names.

*This list was compiled based on the amount of films/projects each actor is a part of that will release in 2012, factoring in the size of the film(s) and their overall celebrity status.

Bradley CooperBradley Cooper

Cooper had a hell of a 2011, with The Hangover Part II and Limitless proving him a major box office draw and those dreamy eyes helping him join the ranks of People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive. So what does the New Year have in store for him? No less than four films: David O. Russell’s new comedy The Silver Linings Playbook, in which he works with an eclectic ensemble including Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Chris Tucker, Julia Stiles and more, the action-comedy Outrun, the dramatic thriller The Words (which co-stars Olivia Wilde and his new girlfriend Zoe Saldana) and The Place Beyond the Pines, the new film from Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance. All the while he’ll be shooting Paradise Lost, an epic FX-driven actioner from I, Robot director Alex Proyas.

Chris HemsworthChris Hemsworth

This Aussie became the superhero-du-jour thanks to his breakout role as the God of Thunder in Marvel’s Thor earlier in 2011, and he’s capitalizing on his newfound fame in a big way. He’ll reprise the part in May’s The Avengers, and has one-of-two titular roles in one-of-two anticipated Snow White adaptations (Snow White and the Huntsman) in June. Additionally, a pair of pictures he shot long ago will finally hit theaters – first the horror-thriller Cabin in the Woods, followed by the remake of cult favorite Red Dawn. Add in Ron Howard’s Rush, which he’ll begin shooting this January for an early 2013/late 2012 awards run and you’re looking at one of the most exciting careers to follow!

Channing TatumChanning Tatum

Tatum made our list last year thanks to a packed schedule including The Dilemma, The Eagle, The Son of No One and more, and 2012 is just as busy for the young A-lister. In January, Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire will finally hit multiplexes (in which he has a bit part) and we could see his ensemble drama Ten Year go wide at some point, but even if it doesn’t he’s got plenty of major motion pictures to promote. First will be the romantic drama The Vow opposite Rachel McAdams, followed soon after by Sony’s 21 Jump Street reboot. On June 29th, he’ll release a pair of very different movies – Paramount’s G.I. Joe: Retaliation and his second collaboration with Soderbergh, the male strip flick Magic Mike. But the best is yet to come, as he’ll star in Moneyball director Bennett Miller’s new drama Foxcatcher opposite Steve Carell, due in 2013.

Jessica ChastainJessica Chastain

As stated in the introduction, this list is about both seasoned cinematic figures and rising stars, and was there anyone who had a more impressive year than newcomer Ms. Chastain? I think not. With films as wide ranging as Texas Killing Fields, The Debt, The Help and The Tree of Life (among others) she solidified herself as a dramatic force to be reckoned with in 2011, and the future is bright for the 30-year-old starlet. She’ll reunite with director Terrence Malick for his new, untitled romantic drama and also has a role in John Hillcoat’s anticipated prohibition thriller Wettest County opposite Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy and Gary Oldman. Additionally, she’ll star in a horror flick called Mama and a star-studded drama titled Tar with James Franco, Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams and more.

Bruce WillisBruce Willis

Here’s an example of a longtime film hero hitting it hard in 2012. While this isn’t the first fiscal year in which Willis has released multiple movies, it’s without question the busiest frame in his career. He’s slated to appear or star in no less than seven films, including big-budget blockbusters like G.I. Joe Retaliation and The Expendables 2, smaller action-thrillers Looper and The Cold Light of Day and more artful projects like Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom and Stephen Frears' Lay the Favorite. He’ll also turn up in the 50 Cent-produced thriller Fire with Fire and will shoot the highly-anticipated A Good Day to Die Hard and videogame adaptation Kane & Lynch throughout 2012. Not bad for an elder statesmen.

Bryan CranstonBryan Cranston

Though he’s best known as a modern TV icon thanks to his Emmy-winning role in AMC’s Breaking Bad, Cranston has been incredibly prolific on the big-screen in recent years. He appeared in six films in 2011, including Drive, The Lincoln Lawyer, Contagion and Larry Crowne, and has five major productions on the horizon in 2012. In January he’ll play an authoritative figure in Lucasfilm’s long-gestating wartime action flick Red Tails, followed by a turn in Disney’s mega-budgeted John Carter. He’s also got a part in Adam Shankman’s Rock of Ages adaptation and a villainous role in Sony’s Total Recall remake, and is currently filming Ben Affleck’s CIA drama Argo, set to hit theaters in September.

Zac EfronZac Efron

The former High School Musical star has been trying to establish himself as more than just a pretty face for some time, and 2012 could be a pivotal year in his career. He dabbles in commercial and independent fare next year, with starring roles in Universal’s Dr. Seuss adaptation The Lorax and Warner Bros.’ Nicholas Sparks adaptation The Lucky One as well as parts in Lee Daniels’ The Paperboy and Josh Radnor’s Liberal Arts. He’s also going to appear in an untitled ensemble drama alongside Dennis Quaid, Heather Graham and Clancy Brown.

Alec BaldwinAlec Baldwin

We've had to wait until 2012 to finally see Baldwin's return to TV, and, lucky us - we'll also be treated to about five film roles from the beloved entertainer. He’s got parts in all kinds of movies, from indie comedy AmeriQua to indie drama Lucky Them, and even big studio flicks like Rock of Ages and DreamWorks Animation’s CGI spectacle Rise of the Guardians. But his most interesting project in unquestionably Nero Fiddled, Woody Allen’s new Rome-set romp, which will likely premiere at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival.

Jessica BielJessica Biel

Biel is best known as a maker of mainstream movies (I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, The A-Team, Valentine’s Day), but 2012 will see her release a diverse slate of films. She’s got one of two female lead roles in summer actioner Total Recall, and will play a pivotal part in Gabriele Muccino’s new dramedy Playing the Field. In addition, she’s got a horror thriller titled The Tall Man in the can, and is preparing to film a pair of pictures that could screen next year – The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea and Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes. With any luck, we could also see the long-delayed David O. Russell political rom-com Nailed (in which she plays the female lead) release, but I’m sadly not holding my breath. And if she ends up wedding Justin Timberlake (as engagement rumors started swirling around the web earlier this month), it’s going to be a landmark year for the former 7th Heaven star.

Josh HutchersonJosh Hutcherson

This young talent has been on the rise for awhile, and with a resume that includes work with Robert Zemeckis, Jon Favreau, Paul Weitz and Lisa Cholodenko it’s a wonder he hasn’t been propelled to the spotlight sooner. In 2012 he has five films to release, and by the time the year is over he’ll likely be a household name. First he reprises his role from 2008’s Journey to the Center of the Earth in Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, then appears in an anthology film that sports a directing roster including Benicio del Toro and Gaspar Noe. March sees him starring in one of the most eagerly awaited films of the year – The Hunger Games – while he’ll then appear in the art-house drama Carmel opposite Alfred Molina and Hayden Panettiere. Finally, he’ll star in MGM’s Red Dawn remake in November, and by that point he’ll probably have already cornered several major films for his future.

James FrancoJames Franco

When is Franco NOT one of the busiest entertainers in showbiz? The Oscar-nominated actor and noted workaholic has been laboring at ludicrous speeds as of late, and his 2012 schedule is packed with somewhere between five and seven films that you'll probably never see including drama Maladies (with Catherine Keener and David Strathairn), thriller The Stare (opposite Winona Ryder), the fore mentioned ensemble drama Tar, the Linda Lovelace biopic Lovelace and another porn-centric drama called Cherry. All the while he’ll be shooting a documentary and filming projects for release in 2013. The man is a machine.

John GoodmanJohn Goodman

Finally, here’s yet another example of career resurgence. Goodman’s been working incredibly hard over the past few years and has been a part of some of the most acclaimed pictures of 2011 – Kevin Smith’s Red State and awards’ hopefuls The Artist and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Next year, however, is a whole other animal, as he appears in five movies including indie dramedy Thicker, dark comedy Spring Break ’83, Focus Features animated fantasy ParaNorman, and a pair of important dramas from Ben Affleck (Argo) and Robert Zemeckis (Flight). In between pushing those pics, he'll be shooting the Coen Bros. new flick Inside Llewyn Davis and Pixar's anticipated prequel Monsters University. Walter Sobchak is back in the building people.

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