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The season might be chilly, but these up-and-comers have hot projects coming out.

 

This story first appeared in the December 23, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

MARGARETH MADE

Director Giuseppe Tornatore took a risk when he hand-picked former model Margareth Madè to star in his autobiographical epic, “Baaria.” He was embarking on the most expensive Italian film ever made, and it was her first time speaking in front of a camera.

“I was taken aback when he kept calling me back for auditions,” recalls the 27-year-old, who was overjoyed when she landed the part.

Besides Madè’s innate ability, her Sicilian roots were an added qualification for the film, which is set on the southern Italian island in the director’s hometown of Bagheria.

And Tornatore’s big gamble paid off: “Baaria” is on the Academy Awards short list for Best Foreign Language Film.

BIG BREAK: At 15, Madè won Elite’s Look of the Year competition, which also helped launch the careers of Inès Sastre and Naomi Campbell.

ROLE MODEL: She is filming “La mia casa è piena di specchi” (“My House Is Full of Mirrors”), a TV biopic of Sophia Loren, in which she appears alongside the Italian icon. Madè, who plays Loren ages 16 to 24, says the elder star quickly put her at ease. “It was fascinating to observe her, considering [when she started out] she was just a poor girl from Pozzuoli,” says Madè. “The one thing Loren drilled into me is that determination is key in this business.”

MADE IN ITALY: Normally clad in jeans and a T-shirt, Madè turns to Dolce & Gabbana for red-carpet outings.

— Alessandra Ilari

JON HEDER

Jon Heder earned cult status when he made his film debut as a frizzy-haired misfit in 2004’s “Napoleon Dynamite.” Since then, the 32-year-old has avoided cookie-cutter roles. He was a psychic in “Just Like Heaven,” a 29-year-old living at home in “Mama’s Boy,” and a diva figure skater in “Blades of Glory.” Next month, he’ll play a street magician in “When in Rome,” which costars Kristen Bell, Will Arnett, Josh Duhamel and Anjelica Huston.

“I play a guy [who is like] Criss Angel-meets-David Blaine-meets-David Copperfield, who has fallen under a love spell for Kristen Bell’s character,” he says. “It’s a weird and creepy role in a funny charming way. It’s about his invasion of her personal space….We took that to the umpteenth degree.”

Heder’s commitment to his wacky characters is in direct contrast with his real life: The Mormon, a native of Fort Collins, Co., has been married to his college sweetheart for seven years and has a toddler daughter and a five-month-old son. “I’m really a homebody. I only go to parties now if I have to show my face,” he says. “I just decided from the beginning to stick to who I am. Has it kept me from getting certain jobs? Probably.”

But he’s been hard at work: He founded a production company, Greasy Entertainment, with two of his brothers. They recently inked a deal with Will Ferrell’s company, Gary Sanchez Productions, to develop an as-yet-untitled comedy scheduled to begin shooting in early 2010 in New York. Heder will star as a recently laid off company man who returns home to live with his parents.

“You could say it’s about a loyalist to the old-fashioned principles in life, but it’s also a show about a bunch of losers,” he laughs.

— Marcy Medina


LILY COLE

Best known for working the runways, flame-haired model Lily Cole will have another claim to fame when Terry Gilliam’s fantastical “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” comes out on Christmas Day. She stars as Valentina, the teenage daughter of Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer), who agrees to fulfill his gambling debt with the devil, Mr. Nick (Tom Waits), by giving her up on her 16th birthday. But as the fateful date approaches, Parnassus has a change of heart.

It’s the biggest role to date for Cole, whose projects thus far include “St. Trinian’s,” “Rage” and Marilyn Manson’s highly anticipated “Phantasmagoria: The Visions of Lewis Carroll.”

MODEL BEHAVIOR: The Torquay, U.K., native decided to experiment with acting in order “to gain new experiences and try something new,” and credits modeling with giving her the confidence to do films in the first place. “I got used to the cameras and having lots of people around me, so I’m not self-conscious now,” says Cole. “I also learned how to be part of someone’s creative vision.”

HONORING HEATH: Filming was interrupted by the untimely death of Heath Ledger, who played Cole’s love interest, Tony. His role was taken on by Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell. “Heath was an extraordinary person. Unfortunately, we only get to see half of the performance,” says Cole. “It was a very sad time, but Johnny, Jude and Colin were so tasteful in the way they finished it for him. It was a loving and united tribute.”

FIGHT CLUB: Known for her angelic features, Cole relished showing off her fiercer side in on-screen arguments with Plummer and Farrell. “I really enjoyed the physical and dramatic scenes. I actually got whip lash when Colin hit me,” she says with a laugh. “It was great.”

— Priya Rao

BRYAN GREENBERG

HBO’s new comedy series “How To Make It in America” sounds a lot like a New York fashion industry version of the cable channel’s “Entourage.” Both are executive produced by Mark Wahlberg and feature a young, male cast. But while “Entourage” glorifies the perks of fame, “How To Make It,” which begins airing in February, examines the gritty side of a glamorous field.

“Our show is about people on the grind, trying to pay rent,” says star Bryan Greenberg, who plays Ben, an aspiring fashion designer. “They’re hustling on the ground all day and having fun at night.”

It’s not a far cry from Greenberg’s own experience as a theater student at NYU. Luckily, he’s had a few breaks since then, including roles in “Prime” with Uma Thurman and Meryl Streep, “Bride Wars” with Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson, and a recurring part on the CW’s “One Tree Hill.”

“I’ve had leads before, but this is a show I’m passionate about. It has a realness,” says the actor, 31. “It’s not girls drinking martinis; it’s the New York City I know.”

Indeed, the details will ring true to many in the fashion industry trenches. Greenberg’s character watches his peers succeed while his skateboard venture flops and he’s forced to clock in as a Barneys New York jeans salesman.

But there’s only so far Greenberg will go in the name of his art. “I’m a Levi’s guy, but on the show I wear a lot of A.P.C.,” he says. “I still won’t wear skinny jeans, but I’m not wearing them as baggy as I used to.”

— Jean Scheidnes


CAITLIN FITZGERALD

When it comes to her part in the Nancy Meyers dramedy “It’s Complicated,” Caitlin Fitzgerald is refreshingly self-aware. “It’s a movie full of major stars — and me,” quips the actress, who appears alongside Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin, Rita Wilson and John Krasinski in the film, which opens nationwide on Christmas Day. It’s been a whirlwind for the 26-year-old, whose previous major motion picture credit was a bit part in Ang Lee’s “Taking Woodstock.”

“No one tells you anything about red carpets,” she says. “They just pile you into this car in your dress, which you hope isn’t hideous or see-through.”

SPLIT SCREEN: In the flick, Fitzgerald plays a twentysomething who has to deal with her divorced parents (Baldwin and Streep) rekindling their romance. For the starlet, the subject matter hit close to home — a little too close. “My parents have been divorced for 22 years, and I thought we could all laugh about it now,” she says. “But watching this movie with them was definitely awkward.”

NOT EASY BEING GREEN:
The four-and-a-half months Fitzgerald spent on location in California for “It’s Complicated” weren’t always smooth sailing for the ingenue. “I made a lot of working mistakes,” she admits. “Silly stuff like blocking light, blocking people, not being seen [by the camera]. I was lucky to be working with such generous people like Meryl, who just laughed about it.”

MODEL BEHAVIOR: Discovered by a modeling scout on the street at 15, the striking Fitzgerald declined — only to be approached by the same scout in a Duane Reade five years later. “It was uncanny. I thought ‘Maybe there is something here,’” recalls the actress, who gave modeling a whirl for a few years. “[But] ultimately acting is what I love.”

— Amanda FitzSimons

 

 


RYAN BINGHAM

In an industry that trades in flash, folk singer Ryan Bingham cuts a low-key figure. “You have to let your music speak for itself. You can’t go around tooting your own horn,” says the 28-year-old. Others are doing the tooting for him: Bingham nabbed a Golden Globe nomination for “The Weary Kind,” the theme song he cowrote for “Crazy Heart,” out now. The movie stars Jeff Bridges as Otis “Bad” Blake, an aging, alcoholic country singer who is faltering while his protégé Tommy (Colin Farrell) succeeds.

ROUGH RIDE:
Growing up the son of an oil rig worker in New Mexico and Texas, Bingham didn’t have a musical career in mind. He was too busy riding steers on the junior rodeo circuit. “It’s kind of like Little League baseball,” he recalls, though a little more dangerous. “I broke some ribs, my leg, my wrist, knocked a few teeth out.”

MUSIC AND LYRICS:
At 17, a neighbor taught Bingham to play guitar, and he soon found music eclipsed bull-riding. “I’d sit in the back of the truck and make up songs,” he explains. “It was kind of an accident that I started getting more gigs playing music than I did rodeo.” Five years ago, he moved to Los Angeles to focus on music and has since released two albums with his band, The Dead Horses.

FROM THE HEART: When director Scott Cooper approached him to write for “Crazy Heart” (Farrell is a big fan of the singer), Bingham found it easy to tap into Bad’s character. “I’ve had a lot of friends who were guys like that,” says Bingham, who admits not all films would provide such natural fodder. “If I had to write a song for a movie like ‘Star Wars,’ that would be pretty challenging.”

 

— Vanessa Lawrence

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