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PROFILES OF NINE HOT STARLETS THAT’LL
LIGHT UP THE SEASON:
Just for the record, Krysten Ritter isn’t related to the late John Ritter. “My agent gets that question about once a week,” says the 26-year-old, who was raised far away from Hollywood on a beef farm in rural Pennsylvania. Instead, Ritter has made it all on her own—scoring a coveted role opposite Isla Fisher in Confessions of a Shopaholic, which hits theaters February 13.
Based on Sophie Kinsella’s book series of the same name, Confessions stars Fisher as Becky Bloomwood, a recent college grad with a penchant for overspending. Ritter plays Bloomwood’s pal and roommate, Suze, alongside Hugh Dancy, Joan Cusack and Kristin Scott Thomas.
THE PRICE IS RIGHT: Unlike the main character in Confessions, Ritter claims to be a conservative consumer—except when it comes to beauty products. “I’ll spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars at Sephora,” admits the actress. “I’m not proud of that.”
ON THE BAND WAGON: When she’s not on set, she can be found on stage, playing guitar for pop band Ex Vivian. “I’m always thinking of schemes to make a quick buck,” says Ritter, who has been known to record songs in hotel bathrooms while on location. But the actress doesn’t have plans to quit her day job anytime soon. “My first priority is acting, and that’s where I make my money.”
SEX DRIVE: The actress just finished filming How to Make Love to a Woman, based on a best-selling novel by adult film star Jenna Jameson—someone whom Ritter admires. “It’s not like I’m sitting at home watching porn or anything,” she says. “[But] I have a lot of respect for women who make their own destiny.” That’s not to say Ritter has plans to follow in Jameson’s footsteps: The actress fought to show as little skin as possible in her upcoming film.
In a private salon at the Hôtel Meurice, 19-year-old Nora Arnezeder sits cross-legged on a giant pink sofa cushion she’s dragged onto the floor, eagerly feasting on a slab of foie gras, salad leaves and toast that she’s spread out on the coffee table. It’s been a busy day and the star of Faubourg 36 is famished. Earlier that morning, she had to rush her Jack Russell, Milou (named after the male lead in the film, played by Clovis Cornillac), to the vet after he’d gobbled an entire bottle of sleeping pills. “They have him on a drip. I think he tried to commit suicide, but I’m having none of it,” she declares.
The fresh-faced newcomer plays an amateur singer named Douce (Sweet) in Faubourg 36, a feelgood fantasy underdog drama set around a struggling music hall in Thirties Paris. Blessed with blue eyes, golden Shirley Temple ringlets and a sweet set of pipes, Douce auditions at the beleaguered theater and goes on to steal the show, all the while keeping the baddie bailiffs from the door. While the Parisian press was invited to a screening last June, it will open Stateside in the spring.
Filming with a seasoned cast that includes Gérard Jugnot and Kad Merad was a daunting task, she admits. “I was terrified of disappointing the director [Christophe Barratier],” says Arnezeder, who had to belt out songs in front of hundreds of extras, while suffering from glandular fever. “I had a cold and a fever all the way through filming,” she shrugs with a feisty grin.
Fresh out of stage school, the actress, born to a “vagabond” Austrian father and an Egyptian mother who met in Bali in the Eighties, appears comfortable with her rocketing success, having dreamed of a career in acting since she was knee high. “An actor’s greatest fear is to be out of work. I could have waited five years to land a film. I have to seize the moment,” she says earnestly, adding that, ultimately, she has her sights set on Hollywood, and more importantly, Broadway.
In December, the actress will be off to London’s Actor’s Studio to work on her English. “I’m mad about musicals like Chicago and Moulin Rouge— anything that’s based during Les Années Folles [the Roaring Twenties],” Arnezeder says, adding that she loves dressing up in Thirties-style outfits to go out. Her favorite after-dark haunts in Paris include Le Soir and the Mathis bar, where “it’s very dandy and they play good jazz.” For dinner, she favors Le Villaret, which serves “scrummy” poached eggs. “I do love to throw on a backless dress, say, and pin my hair up, but I can get a bit carried away in the closet,” giggles Arnezeder, adding that her sister is always there to monitor her, advising her to, perhaps, lose the tiara.
Today, Arnezeder, who grew up in Aix-en- Provence, is dressed in a floral Zadig & Voltaire silk frock, a pair of holey black leggings and flat, boyish Prada boots. A fan of fashion, she often likes to indulge in window shopping. In October, she attended Chanel’s ready-to-wear show at the Grand Palais, facing the flashbulbs in a simple gray knitted dress made by the house. And, while she is bound to a confidentiality agreement, the rising star is said to have shot a perfume and a beauty campaign for two separate major houses for spring.
But it is her shy disposition, she believes, that helped enrich her take on Douce in Faubourg 36, partly inspired by Audrey Hepburn’s portrayal of Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. “Douce is a debutante, as am I, but I also wanted there to be something slightly rough, almost tomboyish, about her,” says the actress. “I like the idea that an actress can make people dream.”
Barratier predicts Arnezeder has a huge future. “Like all true artists, she has this mix of self-confidence and doubt. Between takes she appeared to almost be imprisoned by doubt,” he says, likening her, in terms of her capacity for character, fantasy and emotion, to late legends Hepburn and Grace Kelly. “Any doubts would evaporate the moment we would start filming, without mentioning her remarkable photogenic quality,” he adds. “She’s shy in company, but the camera, microphones and lights are her friends.”
Texas native Nora Zehetner earned the ire of Everwood fans when she burst onto the small screen in 2003 and split up the show’s beloved Ephram and Amy. The 27-year-old later vamped it up as a femme fatale in the dark teenage drama Brick, which garnered a prize at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. Next, the Audrey Tatou look-alike, who wielded the power of persuasion for her turn on Heroes, works her magic on Adrien Brody in The Brothers Bloom, which opens in January.
HARD AT WORK: Zehetner says seducing Brody on the Serbian set of The Brothers Bloom—helmed by Brick writer-director Rian Johnson—was no easy task. “I basically traveled for 24 hours to get there, and it was freezing,” she recalls. “At six in the morning, I’m climbing on a table and trying to kiss him and it was a little bit nerve-racking. He’s won an Academy Award!”
FASHIONABLE BEGINNINGS: “My mom was a model, so I grew up watching Style With Elsa Klensch when I was eight and drinking English breakfast tea on Saturday mornings, as opposed to watching cartoons and eating cereal.”
FIRST SPLURGE: The former catalogue model scored $200 for her first photo shoot in the third grade. “I bought a CD player, and that was when they were really expensive. I was so proud of that.” Her next big purchase came several years later, at the age of 21. “I remember the first coat I bought was a Mayle coat that was $1,000 and that was such a big deal,” says Zehetner, who balances out her love of top designers with trips to H&M.
LUNCH LADIES: At the University of North Texas, Zehetner hung out with classmate Norah Jones. “I used to sit at lunch with her every day, and we used to argue over whose name was spelled right,“ she recalls. “Suddenly she’s the hugest thing ever.”
UP NEXT: A role in the romantic comedy Spooner, which should hit the festival circuit in 2009. “It was fun to do something kind of light.” But not too light: The lead character, played by Matthew Lillard, destroys her car so she can’t leave town. “He’s smitten with me. It’s just kind of sweet.”
Over the past 12 months, Carey Mulligan’s career has taken off, and she has had one familiar face to count on. “It’s my year of Peter Sarsgaard,” says the British actress, who coincidentally plays Sarsgaard’s love interest in Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull, now on Broadway, and in the upcoming Nick Hornby-scribed film An Education. “He’s totally like my big brother,” she says. But in the coming months, Mulligan is switching up her onscreen co-stars, and they’ll include Johnny Depp in Public Enemies, Pierce Brosnan in The Greatest and Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire in Jim Sheridan’s Brothers.
NATURAL TALENT: The 23-year-old never trained professionally or even so much as performed outside her British school before landing her very first job at 18, as Kitty Bennet in 2005’s Pride & Prejudice. It was her first break after deciding to forgo college. “I knew I wouldn’t do very well at university because I didn’t want to study anything but drama. I always wanted to do all of the practical stuff, but none of the theory,” she says. “It was like, I’ve got to do it properly or not at all.”
BUSY BEE: “I’ve only been home for three weeks this year,” says Mulligan, the daughter of a London-based hotel manager and a university lecturer. The actress has a few things that go everywhere with her: a travel pillow given to her by The Greatest director Shana Feste, an iTouch and a beaver fur scarf that was a gift from her Pride & Prejudice co-star, Donald Sutherland. “It’s one of the few things I haven’t lost in about five years,” says the actress, who favors vintage looks. “I just wrap it around my neck and I could fall asleep in a men’s toilet because it’s so comfortable.”
WINGING IT: Mulligan has a refreshingly pragmatic attitude about launching her career State-side. “I’ve always had this philosophy that, if it all goes horribly wrong here, I’ll just go home,” she says. “So if I have a disastrous time on Broadway, I’ll just hope that they don’t hear about it in London.”
STARSTRUCK: “I couldn’t do anything to impress my friends for nearly five years, and then I do a film with Johnny Depp and suddenly I got their attention,” says Mulligan, who is still pinching herself about her sudden spate of roles. “The most bizarre thing was going from An Education, which really was a low-budget film, to Public Enemies. I turned up on set in Chicago and there were 250 extras dressed in Thirties clothes, 50 vintage vehicles and Billy Crudup and Christian Bale. I was really jet-lagged and a little bit hungover because I’d been at the [An Education] wrap party in Paris [the night before], so I was like, this isn’t real.”
Sarah Clarke had no idea what she was getting herself into when she took on the role of a divorced parent of a vampire-smitten child in Twilight, the film version of the thriller book series with a cult following. The 34-year-old actress, who also had a supporting role on 24, didn’t know the novel’s status until she started receiving requests from fan clubs to discuss her character. She eventually picked up a copy of the book. “I think if I’d been 13 or 14 when I discovered it, I would’ve been obsessed.”
SMALL BEGINNINGS: After studying in Bologna, Italy, during her senior year in college, Clarke moved to New York to pursue acting. Like other novice thespians, she did her fair share of commercials and NYU student films. “Someone somewhere’s got some really bad tape of me in a back alley being electrocuted with a sponge on a broom,” she says.
FASHION PHILOSOPHY: “Living in Italy, I learned a lot about what it meant to dress like a woman. I started to see the power of a skirt,” says Clarke, who cites Chloé and Zac Posen as two of her favorite designers. But the petite 5-foot, 4-inch actress has to be careful not to get in over her head when she chooses her outfit. “I look at some dresses that are beautiful on the runway but end up being way too much dress for me,” she says. “I look like I’m being engulfed.”
UP NEXT: Spot Clarke in Trust Me, TNT’s new Mad Men–esque series about a struggling Chicago advertising agency, which premieres in January. It wasn’t difficult for the actress to step into the role of a stay-at-home wife and mother. “I understand the juggling act of wanting to be there for your child and also having a sense of yourself,” she says.
“On Entourage, I became a woman,” declares Emmanuelle Chriqui. Thanks to her role as Sloan, an agent’s daughter and sometime girlfriend of wannabe Hollywood power player Eric “E” Murphy on the hit HBO show, she can trace a professional turning point from girlish Canadian import to mature actress. Now Chriqui is aiming for fame on the big screen. She went toe-to-toe with Adam Sandler as his fiery Palestinian love interest in You Don’t Mess With the Zohan, and will appear as Revetta Chess, wife of record company executive Leonard Chess, played by Adrien Brody, in Cadillac Records, a biopic about Muddy Waters opening December 5.
MUSIC NOTE: Although her latest film reverberates with the sounds of classic American blues and jazz, Chriqui confesses to a taste for milder fare. “I love Corinne Bailey Rae. I could listen to her morning, noon and night,” she says.
WANDERLUST WAYS: Chriqui, the daughter of Moroccans who immigrated to Toronto, speaks fluent French. She splits her time between Los Angeles and New York, but is considering a leap to French cinema because she claims to feel most at home in Europe. “If you have the ability to speak another language, I can’t understand why you wouldn’t explore it,” she says. “I am planting the seeds. I have a much more international look than I do a typical American look.”
TRAVEL ITINERARY: Chriqui’s adventures have included stops in South America and Europe, and now she has set her sights on India and Thailand. But don’t expect a postcard from her. “I go, and I am like, peace out—talk to you when I am back,” she says.
GOOD WORKS: Chriqui is active with Enough Project, an organization co-chaired by John Prendergast dedicated to ending genocide and crimes against humanity. “I had been at this point in my life where things were going along beautifully in my career and everything was fine, and it was really unfulfilling,” she explains. “I was invited to this Darfur roundtable, and I wasn’t the same after….I was really moved to the point that this has to be a priority along with everything else.”
FUTURE CREDITS: Chriqui started acting professionally at 16 and was a regular on Canadian television before moving to the U.S. at 20. “Even though I have been doing this for forever, I am Emmanuelle Chriqui from Entourage,” says the 31-year-old. “I am hoping that I will be Emmanuelle Chriqui from an amazing movie I did and people will go, ‘Oh my God, did you see her? She was amazing.’ Like how I talk about Angelina Jolie or Cate Blanchett or Kate Winslet.”
Lakshmi Menon stands out on a runway, and not just because of her russet-colored skin, cascading locks, full lips, arched eyebrows and long limbs. It’s because, at age 26, India’s next major model oozes character and that elusive quality that movie people call “presence.”
“You have to have personality to make clothes shine,” Menon muses in her Paris apartment overlooking the rooftops of the chic 8th arrondissement. Having walked in 29 shows this past runway season, including Carolina Herrera in New York, Alessandro Dell’Acqua in Milan and Hermès, Givenchy and Stella McCartney in Paris, Menon is certainly a hot property. She also has appeared in ads for Givenchy, where she joined fellow top models Maria Carla Boscono, Natasha Poly, Lara Stone and Kirsten Owen, and for Hermès, which used her for fall’s India themed campaign.
Yet Menon is alert to being typecast. “People don’t understand ethnicity, they exoticize it,” she says. “Someone even asked me if I rode to school on an elephant.”
Hailing from Kerala in the southern part of India, she grew up in Bangalore and earned a degree in economics. Her mother is a teacher and her father was in the army, and she has a younger brother who is studying in Australia. “I had a sort of gypsy existence,” she reminisces, but “home is definitely India. Living there is like a big community. That is what India is about—a relationship with a community.”
When she isn’t shooting editorial for French Vogue (she was photographed by Mario Testino for the October issue), she relaxes at home in Bangalore or at the house she shares with her photographer boyfriend in Goa, where she practices Iyengar yoga. “A holistic and meaningful existence is very important,” she says.
While following in the steps of Ujjwala Raut, the first Indian supermodel, Menon also breaks with convention. For one, she isn’t a Bollywood film star, and she’s older than the crop of 14- to 16-year-olds who usually crowd the runways.
Menon believes her maturity, and a down-to-earth and pragmatic view she says is inherent in India’s work culture, is what makes her an in-demand model. She has been on the cover of L’Officiel in India as well as the launch issue of Indian Vogue, and is represented by the agencies Ford, Storm and also Nathalie in France. Menon cites fellow models Savio Jon and Anamika Khanna as ones to watch.
For visitors to India, she recommends the stores Zoha and Trick in Mumbai, and from her hometown of Bangalore, the Grasshopper restaurant is a must. Menon speaks fondly of her home, and her dark eyes light up when she talks about the different places to visit. “It’s not just Rajasthan,” she says. “You know India is more than that.”
Leonor Varela’s childhood gives new meaning to the word wanderlust: By the age of 12, she had lived in Chile, Costa Rica, Germany and Boulder, Colo., where her father, Francesco Varela, a famous scientist and philosopher, was doing research at the University of Denver. She spent the remainder of her childhood in Paris and it was there, at 18, that she found acting when she was transfixed by a production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Varela, whose parents were Buddhists, pursued a history degree for a year before focusing on her dramatic studies at the Conservatoire Superieur de Paris. This December marks the release of Where God Left His Shoes, a small boxer drama starring John Leguizamo and, come March, she’ll costar in The Sleep Dealer, Alex Rivera’s film debut about a technological future in which Mexican labor is outsourced by plugging humans into computers.
GOING GREEN: Varela, 35, balances an acting career with environmental advocacy work. In the U.S., she is a member of the Natural Resources Defense Council, and in her native country, she has spent the past three years pushing the Chilean government to help protect endangered dolphins and natural ocean life and water supply. She soon will begin producing her first documentary, tentatively titled Tortel, set in the fishing region in Southern Chile that is currently being threatened by damming for energy purposes.
GENRE BENDING: Varela has done everything from French television to Mexican indies to lighter popcorn fare, such as Blade II. What’s the common link? “What really motivates me is that perpetual learning and experiencing different things and looking at different human beings. As long as I’m being stimulated and allowed to be creative, then I’m happy. The only thing that is hard for me is when I’m constricted,” she says. “From comedy to drama, from mythological to nerdy teacher, it’s all a fun ride.”
UP NEXT: Varela already has shot Balls Out: The Gary Houseman Story, a tennis comedy with Seann William Scott and Randy Quaid. She’s slated to start production on Love and Virtue, a film with John Malkovich about King Arthur in which she’ll play the mythological fairy-witch Morgana.
Actress Stana Katic has found her niche in Hollywood: the tough chick. The 30-year-old Canadian has honed her skills in shows such as 24, Heroes and Alias, as well as the latest James Bond installment, Quantum of Solace. In December, she appears as a rookie cop on the Gotham police force in Frank Miller’s The Spirit, which is based on the comic book of the same name and costars Eva Mendes and Scarlett Johansson.
PROVENANCE: Born in Toronto to Croatian parents and raised in Chicago, Katic attended the Goodman School of Drama there before moving to Los Angeles.
KARMA CHAMELEON: “I went super blonde and short recently and noticed a change in peoples’ reactions when I walk around the grocery store,” says the natural brunette. “They seem more comfortable saying hello and making jokes. I also really admire the elegant way Carolyn Bessette used to look, and I’d love to grow my hair into that for winter. And I definitely want to try red for a little bit.”
FASHION MUST-HAVE: “I have a one-piece green military jet fighter suit my brother gave me. People see me and they go, ‘Where’s the plane?’”
WANDERLUST: “I just traveled for two months to Yugoslavia, Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia and Montenegro and Turkey and Russia. My friends were like, ‘You can’t go! What if Steven Spielberg calls?’ But you don’t always find inspirations sitting on a set.”
LIFE IMITATES ART: “I like to go to the Getty museum about once a week to get inspired. I saw a Monet the other day that I wouldn’t mind having.”
UP NEXT: Aside from The Spirit, Katic will star in the new ABC crime thriller television series Castle, in which she plays a detective. “It’s a dramedy set with the backdrop of procedure,” she explains. “Like Moonlighting meets Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”