Year in Review

Rising Stars of 2014: Amy Schumer, Ariana Grande & More (PHOTOS)

A delightfully crass comedienne. Leonardo DiCaprio’s on-screen lover. A mini Mariah Carey. Here’s a look at the stars we’ll be talking about most in 2014.

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AP, Getty

A delightfully crass comedienne. Leonardo DiCaprio’s on-screen lover. A mini Mariah Carey. Here’s a look at the stars we’ll be talking about most in 2014.

Bob D'Amico/ABC, via Getty

Margot Robbie

Margot Robbie makes an impression in Wolf of Wall Street. That much is certain. It’s not because, in one of her first scenes, her fully naked body is framed perfectly in a door frame as Leonardo DiCaprio looks on and salivates. It’s not because, later in the movie, she is filmed having sex with DiCaprio on top of a pile of money, or seen teasing him in their baby’s nursery by pleasuring herself in front of him. It’s because she creates one of the most interesting female characters Martin Scorsese has had in one of his films in years. She’s “Duchess,” DiCaprio’s Bay Ridge-born mistress-turned-second-wife, a bombshell who keeps you guessing: is she in it for the love or the money, and can it actually be a little bit of both? The Australian actress had been best known for starring on the short-lived ABC period soap Pan Am, but has had casting directors buzzing for years, including Warner Bros. casting director Lora Kennedy, who made turning Robbie into a star her personal crusade. It’s Scorsese’s go-to casting director Ellen Lewis who put Robbie in Wall Street, but Kennedy already has her set to star against Will Smith in Focus. She’ll also be seen in the crime drama Violent Talent from World War Z scribe Matthew Michael Carnahan. After making such an impression in Wall Street, that should be just the beginning of what will become a long, long docket.

Laurent Emmanuel/AP

Oscar Isaac

In any other year, Oscar Isaac would be competing for Best Actor at the Oscars. This being one of the competitive years in that category in recent memory, Isaac will probably be passed over, despite giving one of the most intensely quiet, unexpectedly moving performances of the year as a vagabond folk singer in Inside Llewyn Davis. After causing a stir in supporting roles Drive and W.E., Llewyn Davis put him front and center…and handed him a guitar. (His voice, it turns out, is quite lovely.) The conviction he tore into Llewyn Davis with is already paying off. He has five films set for release in 2014, and right before Llewyn Davis hit theaters was cast to replace Javier Bardem opposite Jessica Chastain in J.C. Chandor’s buzzy crime drama A Most Violent Year.

Peter Yang/Comedy Central

Amy Schumer

Comedy Central’s target demographic, it’s presumed and most likely true, is frat boys either post-hangover or pre-keg party as they eat cold pizza, smoke weed, and mess with their fantasy football lineups. How surprising, then, that the biggest breakout star the network’s produced in years is a 32-year-old comedian from Long Island named Amy Schumer. In a class that includes Sarah Silverman, Chelsea Handler, and Whitney Cummings, but with a point of view that speaks directly to and about real women, Schumer’s uniquely feminist brand of comedy lead to Comedy Central gambling on her own sketch show, Inside Amy Schumer. After becoming the network’s most-watched new series last year, Inside Amy Schumer returns for a second season in 2014, this time with Schumer herself having a higher profile. Judd Apatow signed on to direct Train Wreck, which Schumer will write and star in. Not a bad “welcome to the ‘biz.”

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In a pop-rock scene where everything needs to be so pop-oriented it’s almost laughable to call it “rock”—ahem, Imagine Dragons—or fully immerse itself in the apparent folk revival—Mumford and Sons, the Lumineers—in order to gain any traction, Haim is a breath of fresh air. A crisp, refreshing breath of beach air. The sister group from Los Angeles sounds equal parts Fleetwood Mac, TLC, and the Go-Gos, but totally modern, on hits “Falling” and “The Wire” from their debut record. After a year of opening for acts including Mumford, Ke$ha, and Rihanna, and performing on Saturday Night Live, the sisters are embarking on their own massive North American tour in 2014.

Oscar Gonzalez/NurPhoto//REX USA

Adèle Exarchopoulos

For many actresses, it might be difficult to separate yourself from being “that girl who was in that crazy lesbian scene in that French lesbian movie.” (We love to make our brandings of artists woefully derivative, don’t we?) Adèle Exarchopoulos is not most actresses. The Blue Is the Warmest Color star was a revelation in the romantic drama, sharing the Cannes Palme d’Or with co-star Léa Seydoux and director Abdellatif Kechiche and ending up on numerous critics’ short lists for Best Actress. Exarchopoulos has two French films coming in 2014, but delivering a performance so exquisitely lived in and emotionally honest gets you noticed by casting directors lightning quick. Expect her to be the next (extremely welcome) Mélanie Laurent/Marion Cotillard French import.


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Jonathan Groff

Fan bases don’t come as passionate as the ones Jonathan Groff can already count on. A Tony nominee for his vulnerable, heart-wrenching turn in Spring Awakening, Groff already has the rabid support of Broadway’s community of passionate fans. A frequent guest star on Glee, he also is a favorite of the oh-so-powerful—and equally terrifying—tween set. After a supporting role in Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock, a stint on the Starz drama Boss, and voicing the unexpected “one true love” in Disney’s smash hit Frozen, Groff is about to enter a whole new orbit of recognition. He’s the lead in HBO’s much talked about and progressive new series Looking, about a group of gay men navigating love in San Francisco. How bullish is HBO on the series? It’s set to debut in January after Girls. Gross also landed a plumb role in the network’s adaptation of Larry Kramer’s searing play about the AIDS epidemic in New York City. His co-star in that: a little-known actress named Julia Roberts.

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Michael B. Jordan

Michael B. Jordan is one of those actors whose early fans love to brag about “knowing him when.” Fans of The Wire love to tell you that knew him when he starred in one of the drama’s most devastating arcs as Wallace. Fans of Friday Night Lights won’t shut up about crying along with his heart-of-gold football star Vince Jordan. Soon, however, we’re all going to know about Michael B. Jordan. His gutting portrayal of Oscar Grant, the Bay Area resident killed by police on New Year’s Eve 2008, in Fruitvale Station put him atop Oscar shortlists. He’s doing the R-rated college comedy thing in 2014, starring with Zac Efron in That Awkward Moment, and is already seeing his name bandied about for about every major starring role in Hollywood. He’s rumored to play Johnny Storm in the new Fantastic Four and the son of Apollo Creed in the Rocky spinoff Creed. And that’s not to mention the less substantiated rumors of roles in the Star Wars reboot and Independence Day 2.

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Ariana Grande

She’s been called mini Mariah Carey. And, as implausible as a moniker like that is—who could possibly rival Mimi’s golden pipes—Ariana Grande totally lives up to it. The 20-year-old Disney alum—she starred on Victorious and Sam & Cat—stormed the radio with her irresistible R&B-pop hit “The Way,” showing off a vintage Mariah whistle register and flawless pitch. (Not to mention a knack for choosing the kinds of melodies that embed themselves in your head for days at a time…but you don’t mind because they have such a classy groove.) Anyone who knows Grande only from the omnipresence of “The Way” and “Baby I” is in for a treat in 2014, when slower burning tracks from Yours Truly like “Honeymoon Avenue,” “Right There,” and “Tattooed Heart” gain steam.

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Lupita Nyong’o

When critics chant “a star is born,” people usually imagine Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman or Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl, a glamorous role that turns a spunky ingénue into a major A-list entity. After watching 12 Years a Slave there’s no doubt that Lupita Nyong’o is going to be a star. Though Nyong’o has proven herself every bit the red carpet revelation, the character vehicle that will launch her into that echelon of actresses is tortured slave Patsey. The dignity and grace that Nyong'o gave Patsey’s suffering and struggle for survival could win her an Academy Award. She’s the frontrunner right now, despite this being her major film debut. On the docket for 2014, on top of a possible Oscar acceptance speech: a role in Liam Neeson’s next thriller, Non-Stop.

Prashant Gupta

Brenton Thwaites

Ask any member of a certain generation what their favorite book was when growing up, they’d undoubtedly list Lois Lowry’s haunting novel The Giver among them. That means that many, many people have imagined what the novel’s protagonist, Jonas, would look like. It’s unlikely they pictured him with such chiseled abs. Australian actor Brenton Thwaites, until now best known for starring in Blue Lagoon: The Awakening, landed the plumb role in 2014’s film adaptation, alongside, oh, just Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges, and Taylor Swift. As if working with La Streep on an adaptation of one of the most popular books of the past 20 years isn’t enough, he’ll also co-star with Angelina Jolie in Maleficent. Think Brenton Thwaite’s star might just be on the rise?

Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times, via Redux

Danielle Brooks

Danielle Brooks’ first line in Orange Is the New Black was “You got them TV titties!” That’s about when the actress, in her first major TV role, won the hearts of just about everyone in America. That’s partly because just about everyone in America watched—and obsessed over and raved about—Netflix’s breakout prison dramedy. It’s also because Brooks’s performance as inmate Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson provided the series with much-needed lightness, joy, heart, and comedic relief. Brooks is already seeing her breakout moment payoff: she’ll play the first female black character on Girls next season. And, really, is anything more important culturally these days than the Lena Dunham seal of approval?  

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Corey Stoll

When this year’s Golden Globe nominees were announced, one actor in particular’s inclusion on the shortlist garnered a rousing round of cheers from critics: House of Cards star Corey Stoll. For all the icy fabulousness of Robin Wright’s Claire Underwood and the campy ridiculousness of Kevin Spacey’s sinister southern drawl, it’s Stoll’s turn as desperate, ambitious, and, ultimately, defeated congressman Peter Russo that was the Netflix series’ most transfixing. It’s a bit of a spoiler to say that Stoll won’t be back when House of Cards returns for season two in February, but he’ll still be around plenty in 2014. He’ll star with Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore in Non-Stop, is part of the best ensemble ever (Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Timothy Olyphant, and so much more) in This Is Where I Leave You, will star opposite Reese Witherspoon in the political drama The Good Lie, and co-stars with Charlize Theron and Christina Hendricks in Dark Places.

Giles Keyte

Gal Godot

One can only imagine that there’s no higher compliment than someone saying “you could be Wonder Woman.” Imagine how Gal Godot feels: she’s actually going to be her. The Israeli-born actress, until now best known for her role in the Fast and Furious franchise, was just cast to play the iconic superhero in the upcoming mash-up blockbuster Batman vs. Superman. The surefire smash doesn’t hit theaters until 2015, but that leaves a year of anticipation and buzz to build Godot into one of Hollywood’s most in-demand leading ladies. She is Wonder Woman, after all.

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The past year saw its fair share of music groups make their marks on the industry, but none as peculiarly as Pentatonix. The quintet is exciting and energetic, twists beat and melodies in unexpected ways, and creates a wall of a sound with just five members. They’re also an a capella group and do it entirely with their voices. After winning the third season of The Sing-Off, the group became YouTube superstars, with jaw-dropping covers of pop hits racking up as many views as the originals they were interpreting. Now, they’re becoming a phenomenon of sorts. They won a trophy at YouTube’s inaugural YouTube Music Awards for their remix of “Radioactive” (other winners of the night included Eminem and Taylor Swift). They cracked the top 10 of Billboard’s album chart in November, a rare feat of an a capella group, and just saw they’re version of “Little Drummer Boy” debut at No. 13 on Billboard’s Hot 100, the highest ranking holiday song on the chart currently—and one of the highest-charting holiday hits of all time. Could a cameo in the planned Pitch Perfect sequel be in their future?