Sunny-side Up: Fresh Faces From Sundance

See four emerging actresses whose films stirred buyer buzz in Park City.

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The Sundance Film Festival wrapped up on Sunday, a key step for several new movies — and faces — that will be hitting theaters in the next year. Titles acquired by studios include the Richard Gere-Susan Sarandon finance drama “Arbitrage,” also featuring one of last year’s breakout ingenues, Brit Marling; “Red Lights,” the Sigourney Weaver-Robert De Niro paranormal thriller with past Sundance darling Elizabeth Olsen, and Josh Radnor’s “Liberal Arts,” also co-starring Olsen. Here are four fresh faces whose movies are also stirring up buyer buzz in Park City.


This story first appeared in the January 30, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.


Starring in a gritty, low-budget Sundance film is one way to break out of a mainstream television mold. The tactic seems to have worked for 25-year-old Dreama Walker, who until now was best known for playing mean girl Hazel Williams on two seasons of “Gossip Girl.” In “Compliance,” directed by Craig Zobel, Walker plays a fast-food employee who falls victim to a prank caller. The film, which polarized audiences at the festival — some called it misogynistic and others praised the tension-filled plot, which was based on true events — was acquired by Magnolia Pictures on Saturday.

“I was interested in showing the perspective of a naïve young girl who felt as if she didn’t have a choice,” Walker said. “These people were not idiots. They were put in a horrible situation.” She’ll be switching gears to co-star in ABC’s new comedy, “Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23,” which will follow “Modern Family” in April. “I’m all for proving women can be funny,” said Walker, who plays a small-town girl living in New York City with a manipulative man-eater played by Krysten Ritter. 

Since her first role as a drunken teen on “Law & Order,” Walker has appeared in “Gran Torino” and “The Invention of Lying” and has three more films in the pipeline: the family dramedy “The Discoverers,” the teen coming-out tale “Gay Dude” and the comedy “The Kitchen.” “I am still at a place in my career where nobody sees me in a certain way, so I can do different things,” she said.


NEXT: Eve Hewson >>




To hear any young actress tell it, the dreaded “girlfriend role” is the script most of them try to avoid. So Eve Hewson, the 20-year-old offspring of Bono and Ali Hewson, considers herself lucky to have snagged the plum part of Mary, Sean Penn’s platonic pal in “This Must Be the Place,” which made a stop on the Sundance circuit after premiering in May at Cannes. “It’s rare to have a young female character with so much depth. But the question I get the most is, ‘How was it working with Sean?’ I really love him,” said Hewson. “Our characters have a special relationship in the movie. I would describe them as an old married couple. She’s an old soul.” Hewson says growing up surrounded by her parents’ friends gave her good practice to play a lonely teen who strikes up an unlikely friendship with Penn’s aging-rocker character. It’s only her second movie, and while she’d like to make more, her priority is finishing her studies at New York University, where she’s double-majoring in theater and child psychology. Her advice to other aspiring actresses? “I think it’s really important to study and have something else to offer that is personal to you. I don’t like the idea of molding yourself to what you think a director wants. You should always just be yourself.” She adds, “It’s a lonely road, so naturally my parents were worried about me at first, but they’ve warmed up to it.”


NEXT: Lizzy Caplan >>



From comedies (Lauren Anne Miller and Ari Graynor in “For a Good Time, Call…”) to dramas (Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt in “Your Sister’s Sister”) to thrillers (Katie Aselton, Lake Bell and Kate Bosworth in “Black Rock”), female films took center stage at Sundance. In two of the fest’s buzziest entries, the acerbic “Bachelorette” and the more optimistic “Save the Date,” Lizzy Caplan puts her sharp comedic skills on display as the marriage-phobic wild child, not the bride. And even though men in both films climb onto stages to declare their love for her, Caplan, 29, insists the films are different. “Yes, they’re both wedding movies, and I’m sure there will be tons more, but they’re less about the wedding and more focused on the relationships between the women,” she said.

Thankfully, Caplan shared an instant rapport with her “Save the Date” co-star Alison Brie and fellow “bachelorettes” Kirsten Dunst and Isla Fisher (the three even shared a house at Sundance). “It’s easier to get along with women who also value their girlfriends. Never trust a girl who doesn’t have girlfriends.”


NEXT: Katie Aselton >>



She may be known more for her comedic work on FX’s “The League” and indie movies “The Puffy Chair” and “The Freebie,” but Katie Aselton went out of her comfort zone to direct and star in the thriller “Black Rock,” which was quickly acquired by LD Distribution at the festival.


“I never thought I’d make a scary movie, but I got the idea when I started thinking about what’s the scariest thing that could actually happen in real life. I’d never make a movie about paranormal activity.” Aselton, pal Lake Bell and Kate Bosworth play childhood friends who take a sentimental camping trip only to find that they’re not alone on the tiny island. She developed the story while visiting her hometown of Milbridge, Maine (where the movie was shot), and her husband, Mark Duplass, wrote the script while delayed on an airport layover. “Lake is also known for comedy, but she has a raw, animal quality that I knew would work. I knew Kate socially, and at first thought, She’s so tiny for such a physical role. But she has a huge spirit,” says Aselton, whose next project is a baby due this summer.

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