The Sundance Film Festival is a place to spot breakout stars. Here, a look at four of the festival’s standout starlets.
Cobie Smulders made it big on the small screen with a nine-year run as TV reporter Robin Scherbatsky on CBS smash “How I Met Your Mother.” Since the show wrapped last year, she’s had time to branch into indie film, two of which premiered at Sundance. “It’s really fun to play varying characters and not be locked into one thing,” she says. Case in point: In “Results,” she plays a personal trainer alongside Guy Pearce, and in “Unexpected,” she’s a teacher who gets pregnant at the same time as one of her students.
PROVENANCE: Vancouver, British Columbia
WORST JOB: “I was, like, a waitress for forever,” says the former model, 32.
WHAT A GUY: “He was very deeply committed to the role of Trevor, and he was working out constantly,” she says of Pearce, who was a bodybuilder before he started acting.
BUN IN THE OVEN: Smulders, who’s married to “SNL” player Taran Killam, was pregnant with their second child during both shoots. In “Results,” she termed her burgeoning belly a “one-pack” (Smulders was in her first trimester). Though further along, she still donned a cotton-and-silicone bump sewn into her wardrobe to play pregnant in “Unexpected.”
UP NEXT: In May, she will reprise her role as S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Maria Hill in “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” alongside Scarlett Johansson and Elizabeth Olsen. “The comic-book world has a lot of strong female superheroes. It’s nice to see the world is branching out,” she notes.
— JENNY SUNDEL
The 22-year-old Brit made her American film debut at the festival in “The Diary of a Teenage Girl,” bringing to mind other English ingenues who broke out at Sundance: Carey Mulligan, Felicity Jones, etc. Though she’s been busy working the boards for the last four years at the Royal Court Theatre, the West End and on Broadway, she sent an audition tape to “Diary” director Marielle Heller when she heard about the project. “The script came to me from my American agent; I read it and thought, ‘Holy sh-t, I’ve got to be in this movie.’ You usually make a tape against a white wall or something, but I did the scene in bed, then added a bit on the end, talking to the camera as myself,” she says. “Then we met on Skype, and I flew to New York to read with Alexander [Skarsgård, who plays her mother’s boyfriend] and that was it.”
PROVENANCE: West London.
SMALL SCREEN TO BIG TIME: Powley also got her start on television, in the popular English series “M.I. High” when she was 13.
STAGE VS. SCREEN: “In theater, you spend four weeks getting ready and you go onstage and do the same thing every night. Over the course of five weeks, your character might change very slowly, whereas film is more immediate. You get so many different takes and shots, you can develop your character over half an hour.” Powley relied on her theater chops to play Minnie in “Diary,” memorizing the 90-page script, as she’s in nearly every scene.
SARTORIAL STYLE: “I’ve been wearing Burberry the whole festival, and I will when we go to Berlin as well. It’s just so classic and chic.”
UP NEXT: She’s taking pole-dancing lessons for her next film, “Detour,” with Tye Sheridan. “It’s a thriller about some people on a road trip to go murder someone in Las Vegas, and I play a stripper. I’d love to do a period movie next because then I would have the whole spectrum done.”
— MARCY MEDINA
NEXT: MAIKA MONROE >>
The 21-year-old Californian has now tackled two Sundances in a row: last year’s horror thriller “The Guest,” and this year’s equally scary “It Follows.” But the former dancer says, “I had no interest in being an actor when I was younger. A producer-director contacted my company because he needed backup dancers for a horror film called ‘Bad Blood,’ and I was like, ‘Why not?’ But imagine [being] 13 and walking on a movie set. I was in awe.” After earning her SAG card on that film, she booked “At Any Price,” with Zac Efron and Dennis Quaid, when she was 18, followed by “Labor Day,” with Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin.
PROVENANCE: Santa Barbara, Calif.
THE BIG GUNS: She just wrapped the big-budget alien-invasion thriller “The Fifth Wave” with Chloë Grace Moretz. “I play a marksman, so I trained with S.W.A.T. guys to learn how to shoot, take apart and reload a 9-millimeter semiautomatic. Having my athletic side helped a lot because I had to kick big dudes’ asses,” she says.
WORST JOB: “When I was 14, I did a commercial for Pizza Hut, for their fettuccine Alfredo chicken pasta. By the twentieth take, they had buckets where we spit the food out. I didn’t have pasta for four months after that.”
ON-SET ROMANCE: Monroe met her boyfriend, actor Daniel Zovatto, on the “It Follows” set. “We both said, ‘Yeah, I would never date an actor,’ but it just happened. It’s not easy to understand our lifestyles and our jobs, so to have someone who gets it and someone to talk to about it is very nice.”
UP NEXT: “I start ‘Tribes of Palos Verdes’ in March. It’s this really cool, dark drama they compare to ‘American Beauty.’ Jennifer Garner plays my mom. We’re shooting in Malibu, so it’s the first time I’ll be working near home.”
NEXT: INE WILLMAN >>
The Norwegian beauty made her film debut in Anne Sewitsky’s family drama “Homesick,” playing a lonely young woman who falls into a complicated relationship with her long-lost half-brother. While the taboo subject matter made for some uncomfortable moments during the film’s premiere, Willman drew thunderous applause for her emotional performance. “I was drawn to Charlotte’s longing for a sense of belonging. Her behavior was similar to those with eating disorders, where you do something physically concrete to feel a sense of control when everything else is in your life is so chaotic,” she says.
PROVENANCE: Oslo, Norway.
THEATER GEEK: Willman, 29, was one of eight students out of 500 applicants accepted into Norway’s state theater school, at age 22.
THE NATURAL: “This was Ine’s first film, so I planned to give her a lot of direction, but once the cameras started rolling, I didn’t have to do much,” says Sewitsky, whose film “Happy, Happy” won the Sundance Grand Jury prize in 2011. Says Willman, “I fell in love with acting for a camera. I was expecting it to be hard, but when we started shooting, it was just being in the moment and letting the film play itself.”
BRANCHING OUT: “I like the fact that Norway’s cinema has really strong female characters. But when you think about the number of films being made internationally, there’s so much more opportunity to really go for the great ones,” she says. “Who knows where this will lead?”
UP NEXT: She plays a junkie in a Norwegian television series. “It’s going to be fun to play a character so far from myself. I don’t think I’m the first person that comes to mind for that role,” she says. After that, she’ll do a German play called “The Absence.”