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The Sundance Film Festival is teeming with on-the-rise talent with Hollywood’s next big thing assuredly in the mix. Here are five of the buzziest breakouts from the festival.
Despite his increasing mainstream success, multihypenate renaissance man Mark Duplass works hard to maintain his indie filmmaker street cred. After launching his career with mumblecore films “The Puffy Chair,” “Baghead,” and “Cyrus,” the Sundance Film Festival veteran has moved on, conquering television with his comedic turn in “The League,” a guest-starring role on “The Mindy Project,” and his upcoming HBO show, “Togetherness,” which he begins shooting next week with frequent collaborator and brother Jay Duplass. He returns to the festival this year to mentor young filmmakers, serving as an executive producer on two films: “The Skeleton Twins” and “The One I Love,” the latter of which he stars in alongside Elisabeth Moss as an overly analytical husband trying to save his marriage. “She’s the greatest actress of our generation,” he gushes of his movie wife. The film was just picked up by Radius-TWC.
PROVENANCE: New Orleans
SUNDANCE BUZZ: “I’ve been to the festival 11 times but I’m not an old fart. I think I’m perceived as a veteran because people come to Sundance as a launching pad to get into the Hollywood system. That did work for me, but I’m at my most vital and best when I’m here with people like first-time filmmaker Charlie [MacDowell, who directed ‘The One I Love’] who’s the [same] age [I was] when I made ‘The Puffy Chair.’”
KEEPING IT REEL: “I miss when I was 25, scrapping with my brother, hanging lights myself, making movies that way. I’m also deathly afraid of becoming like some of my favorite filmmakers who have, like, 10 years of vitality and relevance, and then they just start making sh—y stuff.”
AHA MOMENT: “We had a huge sale for ‘The Skeleton Twins,’ which is different for me to be in that stratosphere. That was very exciting. But better than that, I had a moment last night where our after party was too loud, and I walked outside and sat down on a pile of snow by myself, and I was like, ‘I can’t believe I grew up in the suburbs watching movies and never thought I would be able to make a movie, much less come to Sundance and have people watch my stuff.’”
UP NEXT: “‘Togetherness.’ It’s about two couples who live in the same house. The heart of the show is about achieving personal dreams, but at the same time compromising enough to be a good dad and husband and son and best friend. And that seems to be an impossible task, at least in my life.”
— JENNY SUNDEL
“I’m not really interested in playing ‘the girl,’” says ingénue Emily Browning, even though her latest film, a musical, is titled “God Help the Girl.” “I also don’t like the idea of repeating myself, even though I think my characters have been institutionalized in seven films I’ve done,” she says. “I’m kind of OK with that because I think it’s an interesting thing to explore.”
PROVENANCE: Melbourne, Australia
BIG BREAK: A featured role in “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” led to leads in big-budget fare like “Sucker Punch” and Cannes Film Festival art-house entry “Sleeping Beauty.”
SUNDANCE BUZZ: Her character Eve, lead singer-songwriter in a fledgling band, has an angelic voice but is far from perfect. “There is so much emphasis, particularly for women, for their characters to be likeable and charming. I think that’s rubbish, because I’d much rather portray a real girl with real issues,” Browning says. “Even though Eve has moments when she is vulnerable and likeable, she is also self-absorbed and moody.”
UP NEXT: “Summer in February,” a literary love triangle, is in theaters now; the epic “Pompeii” comes in February, and she’s about to start “Shangri-La Sweep” with Luke Grimes, in which they play young lovers in the Seventies who drive cross-country to assassinate Elvis Presley.
— MARCY MEDINA
A longtime fan of the Scottish pop band Belle & Sebastian, Murray jumped at the chance to be in front man Stuart Murdoch’s first film, “God Help the Girl,” also costarring Emily Browning. “His songs are often very narrative and have really strong characters in them so I imagined him being able to write films as well,” she says of Murdoch’s directorial debut. “And I’d always wanted to do a musical but never thought I would get to because I’m not a trained singer. I could never be in ‘Les Misérables.’” Playing ditsy best friend and band mate Cass, though, Murray proved a natural.
PROVENANCE: Bristol, England
BIG BREAK: Murray was cast in the first season of U.K. teen series “Skins.” “I still get recognized for that seven years later,” she says. “Although in the States, I’m more known for ‘Game of Thrones.’”
SUNDANCE BUZZ: “I think when directors come from a different background, often very interesting things happen. When Tom Ford directed ‘A Single Man,’ I’d never seen a movie like that before,” she notes.
UP NEXT: “Lily & Kat,” about two fashion school students and best friends in New York City who savor their last weeks together before one of them returns to the U.K., and an untitled fictional film set against the backdrop of the Bridgend County suicides in Wales.
The star of David and Nathan Zellner’s “Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter” gained U.S. stardom after she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 2007 for “Babel.” The Zellner brothers sent her the script for “Kumiko” in 2008, giving Kikuchi ample time to prepare for the role of a lonely Japanese woman who believes that the treasure she sees in a fictional American movie is real.
PROVENANCE: Hadano, Japan
SUNDANCE BUZZ: “The Sundance audience really loves art-house movies and I loved being onstage and getting an ovation from them.” Of the often comic role, she says, “I was trying to find the reality of [Kumiko’s] feelings. I didn’t think about whether the reactions were funny or not.”
UP NEXT: Last year she wrapped the Italian movie “Last Summer” in which she plays the mother of a nine-year-old son, and she’s about to start filming Isabel Coixet’s “Somebody Wants Tonight” costarring Juliette Binoche.
The young director, who graduated from Harvard with a degree in visual and environmental studies, drew raves for his second feature, “Whiplash,” a fictional story that borrows heavily from Chazelle’s experience as a jazz drummer in a high school band. The film, starring Miles Teller as an ambitious first-year student at a top music conservatory and J.K. Simmons as his exacting and abusive instructor, is nothing short of terrifying, an unusual sensation for a film about jazz.
PROVENANCE: Providence, R.I.
SUNDANCE BUZZ: “Whiplash” was the first major U.S. deal of the festival, acquired by Sony Pictures Classics for a reported $3 million.
KEEPING IT REEL: “I wanted to make a movie about music that felt like a thriller, something where anyone can see how high-octane and anxiety-producing it is for these guys,” Chazelle says. “I had a conductor with the sort of personality that made it feel very life and death. It was thinking back on those experiences and having nightmares to this day about losing the tempo or showing up onstage and not knowing the songs that I drew on. Those fears felt really primal to me even though they are really specific, I think they translate to a lot of fields.”
UP NEXT: Chazelle says he may mine the music world again for his next project but he’s still mulling his next move.