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Almost A-List: Young Hollywood's Tipping Point

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Feb 03, 2012 | 11:21am EST

When is an actor truly an A-lister? Does membership to that illustrious clique come only after being nominated for an Oscar, or starring in a film that passes the billion-dollar mark? If that is indeed the criteria, then a few of the following youngsters climbing the Hollywood ladder could already be considered part of that pack. But I beg to differ.

A true A-lister is a performer who transcends the films they make. They are the reason a movie gets produced as well as its main selling point, but at the end of the day they’re a bigger story than the one they’re telling. That’s why I believe that, while the actors I’m about to name are undeniably on the cusp of the A-list, they aren’t there yet.

Daniel RadcliffeDaniel Radcliffe

The Boy Who Lived is the perfect example of a successful young actor who’s almost A-List material, but hasn’t made the cut yet. Why? Because even though he played the title character in the world’s biggest film franchise, the Harry Potter movies have always been about Harry Potter – not Daniel Radcliffe. Looking back in retrospect, if a different wide-eyed youngster had won the role way back in 2000 we’d still love the series just as much as we do today. Since he hasn’t yet opened a film outside the Potter brand, we cannot call him a true A-lister.

That could all change this weekend, when he releases his horror flick The Woman in Black. If the film can top another pair of new releases (the star-studded Big Miracle and the buzzworthy Chronicle) as well as holdover The Grey, it’d grant him his ticket into the Big Boys Club.

Jennifer LawrenceJennifer Lawrence

This blonde beauty came out of nowhere at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival with an acclaimed and eventually Oscar-nominated performance in the universally praised Winter’s Bone, and found roles in another Sundance favorite (Like Crazy), a well-regarded ensemble drama (The Beaver) and an all-out blockbuster (X-Men: First Class) soon thereafter. But she has not yet attained the notoriety of a MOVIE STAR despite signing on to what could be the biggest franchise since Twilight. However, by the end of the year she could become the most sought-after actress in the business.

If The Hunger Games is as successful as all the world thinks it’ll be, Lawrence’s face will be plastered on every magazine cover, billboard and television screen from here to Panem. And with two other very different films already in the can and set for release later in 2012 (the horror thriller House at the End of the Street and David O, Russell’s The Silver Linings Playbook), Lawrence’s near-future could have piles of commercial and critical success, as well as a ticket to the A-list.

Jonah HillJonah Hill

Hill made a name for himself playing obnoxious, foul-mouthed man-teens in movies like Superbad, Knocked Up and Funny People as a supporting player. Always a bridesmaid, never the bride – until 2010’s Get Him to the Greek proved that fans of those films would follow him even without a bigger star in the lead.

Another starring role came along with The Sitter, but Hill’s biggest success story to date came in the form of an Oscar nomination for his part opposite Brad Pitt in Moneyball. He won’t win, but his status has officially risen. The A-list is nearly in his grasp as all eyes are now on his future slate, which includes 21 Jump Street (which he co-wrote and produced), Neighborhood Watch and Good Time Gang. If Hill can follow the huge career milestone that is an Academy Award nomination with back to back hits, there’s no stopping him.

Emma StoneEmma Stone

After the release of Easy A, America had found its new sweetheart in this pint-sized red-head. The film was an enormous success and exhibited the young starlet’s penchant for comedic delivery and ability to draw an audience, but rather than following the hit up by snagging the first leading role she could find, she took three supporting roles in three solid films (Friends with Benefits, Crazy, Stupid, Love, The Help) that grossed over $300 million combined. While these movies have certainly helped her gain credibility among moviegoers, what she needs now are some meaty roles to display her range, and I think that one is already on the way.

In The Gangster Squad, she’ll play a femme fatale character at the center of a love triangle between Ryan Gosling and Sean Penn. This is precisely the type of part that will expand on her talents and show the world how sexy she can be. But before that, she’ll play Gwen Stacey in Marc Webb’s ultra-anticipated Amazing Spider-Man. Sounds like an easy way to the A-list to me…

Joseph Gordon-LevittJoseph Gordon-Levitt

There’s not a single task in showbiz that Levitt hasn’t done. TV sitcom? Check. Family film? Check. Romantic lead? You bet’cha. Indie drama? Absolutely. Yet only recently has he become widely known, thanks to the blockbuster Inception and his Golden Globe nominated performance as a twentysomething diagnosed with cancer in 50/50. He’s amassed a cult following thanks to years of high-quality work, but will he be able to make the coveted jump to the A-list? With five films releasing in 2012, including a superhero movie that a few people might see, a Spielberg passion project and the world’s first Southern-friend Western, there’s no reason to believe that he can’t have financial success, the respect of his peers and a reserved seat at the Clooney-DiCaprio-Pitt-table.

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