Over the years we have had numerous generations of actors dating as far as we can remember. From Humphrey Bogart, Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable to Marlon Brando, James Dean and Laurence Olivier. From Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro to Sean Penn, Johnny Depp and Val Kilmer. The list goes on. However, some may debate on who the current generation of actors lies with. The new breed moving in on the acting spotlight. The stand outs that choose fascinating scripts and are in it for the craft and are not in it for the glorified fame. Who have a respect for what they do so well. I have calculated what I think are the top 10 best young actors of our current generation. Please let me know what you think and add any recommendations!
1. JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT
-Now most would recognize this baby faced young actor from his role as Tommy Solomon on the popular cult classic television show, 3rd Rock from the Sun about a group of aliens who come to planet Earth to learn about its population and culture. The show began in 1996 and had a 5 year run all the way to 2001. Or for the young girls, his role as Cameron James in the modern take on The Taming of the Shrew, called 10 Things I Hate About You, also co-starring the late Heath Ledger (who, I think, coincidentally looks very much like JGL. What do you think?). This actor, I assure you, had come quite a ways from these two charming hits. Now in the 90s, JGL had bit parts in plenty of films and other television shows including Quantum Leap, The Outer Limits, The Powers that Be, A River Runs Through It, Halloween: H20, etc. But it was in 2001, when 3rd Rock was coming to a close, when he really did a whole 180 turnaround in his breakthrough dramatic performance as Lyle Jensen in Manic. A disturbed young delinquent who is committed to a juvenile wing of the Northwood Mental Insitution for attacking a kid with a baseball bat. The film is raw, disturbing and very real. Shot in extreme documentary style. A film where you can establish how good an actor really is. No fancy lighting. No fancy camera techniques. From then on, JGL began to receive plenty of dramatic roles in numerous independent sensations. JGL has brought something new to the world of independent cinema and is not afraid to take daring risks and really does not even care if the film doesn't make a dime. He is in it for the art. I admire JGL for the some of the most physically and emotionally draining performances he gives including, what I, and many others, believe is his best performance to date so far. His role of gay rebellious hustler, Neil McCormack in Gregg Araki's masterpiece, Mysterious Skin. JGL brought so much to the table and it shows on screen. He is purely a chameleon who can disappear into any character he takes on. This is why he is a star. Someone who is living and breathing each take, moment by moment, and is not afraid to take risks. Unfortunately JGL does have a 'His and Miss' luck stream with his resume. The story may seem brilliant on the page, but once it's put on screen... not so much. For example, he'll go from a brilliant caper film like Brick and then do The Lookout and Havoc, both major letdowns in my book. Some may disagree, but if you go back and watch them, not too good. Stop-Loss and G.I. Joe are a couple of other major flops that he unfortunately took on. Though, you can't blame him for wanting to have a little fun with some big budget action flick like G.I. Joe. But Stop-Loss? That was just poor direction and an unfortunate disaster when it should not have been. JGL keeps coming back on his mark continuing to surprise us with memorable performances no matter how poor his previous film was. Recently he came out with 500 Days of Summer reuniting with his Manic co-star, the beautiful Zooey Deschanel. This film was a brilliant debut from Marc Webb, who showed us that a love story does not always to be typical. A beautiful poignant tale of confused love. I am very glad he used JGL for his first film. He took the role of greeting card designer, Tom Hansen, and just ran away with it. Made it his own. I was also at Sundance this year and the major hit there was a dark twisted film called Hesher about a lonely 13-year-old boy who, after suffering a major loss, finds hope through another lonely, disturbed rebel named Hesher (played by JGL). I heard nothing but good things about his performance. I have not yet to see it. And what's best to be admired of JGL is that he does not care whatsoever about becoming a movie star. Seems like he does not have a care in the world for that kind of fame. I mean, just watch his short film he made called Pictures of Assholes. It is practically making a mockery out of paparazzi photographers. So in conclusion, no matter how many hit and miss films JGL takes on, his performance will always be something to remember.
2. RYAN GOSLING
-Now I was grateful enough to see Ryan Gosling's new film, Blue Valentine, at Sundance this past January. Once the film wrapped up, I thought to myself, "Wow. This man is really one of the all time best actors of his generation." And trust me, I did not change my mind when I woke up the next morning. Gosling has been improving his craft more and more. Pushing 30-years-old, he already has a list of fascinating films under his belt. I believe, he is one of the most overlooked and underrated actors as well. Not getting the recognition he deserves. Of course he gets enough from young girls after the gigantic success of Nicholas Sparks' film, The Notebook, which eventually caused his future on again, off again, real life romance with Miss Rachel McAdams. Now I have to say I hated all the films that were coming out based on Nicholas Sparks novels. Finding them simply unbearable (A Walk to Remember, Message in a Bottle, etc.). However, when I saw this film, I was absolutely blown away. The performances made this film what it is today. Gosling has been spilling out fantastic and edgy performances even before then. Starting back in 2001 with the dark independent film by Henry Bean, The Believer. Now, Gosling is primarily the only good aspect of this film however. It is extremely slow and boring and just plain old bizarre. Gosling plays Danny Balint, a young Jewish man who is anti-Semitic. It had been based a true story back in the 1960s of a KKK member that was soon revealed to be Jewish by the New York Times. The Believer also co-starred Billy Zane, Summer Phoenix, and A.D. Miles, who is the reporter trying to figure out Balint's methods. From then on, Gosling became an independent household name. Some were soon labeling him "The New Sean Penn." I can see why they would think that, but I feel like Gosling is "The New Ryan Gosling," if that makes any sense at all. He has his own style and own acting method of doing things. Now Gosling sure has come a long way from his work in his teen years. Dating all the way back to 1993 with the Mickey Mouse Club, alongside Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. Gosling beat out 17,00 aspiring actors for a slot. Must be pretty cool when your 13-years-old. Anyway, Gosling also had a short run on the television programs, Breaker High and Young Hercules. Both only lasted 1-2 years. Ever since 2001's The Believer, Gosling has brought us some incredible performances. Ranging all the way from football player, Roy Chutney in 2002's The Slaughter Rule to suicidal patient, Henry Letham in 2005's Stay. From philisophical killer, Leland P. Fitzgerald in 2003's The United States of Leland to dillusional small town man, Lars Lindstrom in 2007's Lars and the Real Girl. A true chameleon who is practicallty never acting. Making you forget your watching a film. Now that's a true actor. All of these films I have mentioned and others I didn't are still fantastic, but once you watch Blue Valentine, I believe you'll change your mind about Half Nelson being his best performance. Ryan Gosling is one to look for.
3. PAUL DANO
-In 2001, a magnificent dark, twisted independent film, directed by and co-written by Michael Cuesta, was released. It was called L.I.E. This film starred a young 17-year-old, almost unrecognizable, Paul Dano in his first lead role as Howie Blitzer. Brian Cox co-starred as a creepy small town pedophile that becomes somewhat of a mentor to Paul Dano's character. Dano, practically upstaging the legendary Brian Cox, took control of the screen like sheer dynamite. It was then and there that the fresh faced Dano starting making a name for himself in plenty of intense, well crafted films. These included The Emperor's Club, Taking Lives, The Ballad of Jack and Rose, The King, Little Miss Sunshine, and many more. Most likely his best and most remembered performance since L.I.E. came with his role as Dwayne Hoover in the cult classic, Little Miss Sunshine. A young teen who refuses to speak for several months until he gets accepted into flight school. Dano, completely silent for the majority of the film, was able to convey emotions so beautifully and internally having saying not one word. It was he, who I believe, was the major stand out in this film. It is the breakdown scene that Dano's character once Steve Carell's character, Frank, explains to him that he can't fly if he is color blind (which Dwayne discovers he is minutes before). Dwayne automatically starts panicking, smacking his arms and legs on the seats and walls of the car. Basically having a panic attack. They finally pull over and he immediately leaps out of the van and runs down a hill and finally begins to express all of his emotions with speech. The scene is very powerful and moving. I also had the pleasure of seeing a film which starred Paul Dano and Kevin Kline, at Sundance this year, called The Extra Man. Which revolved around a young aspiring writer (Dano) who moves to New York and becomes roommates with an eccentric, old fashioned playwright, who is also an escort for rich, elderly women (Kevin Kline). The two spark up an unlikely friendship. Whether it's taking on lead roles in such gems as The Extra Man, Gigantic or L.I.E. Or taking on small supporting or even cameo roles in films such as Where the Wild Things Are, Taking Woodstock, Fast Food Nation, and Little Miss Sunshine. Paul Dano is a true actor who continues to improve his craft.
4. JAMIE BELL-Just recently turned 24-years-old, this UK native has already brought us some fine performances. He is full of raw, dark intensity and chooses his scripts wisely. Barely seen in the tabloids, Jamie Bell maintains his privacy and shines in every performance he takes part in. I think he is rather underrated if you ask me. He is one of those actors that many people know of, but don't really know much of his work. However, if you go back and really watch every single film he was involved in, his performance is incredible. A real actor. We all get caught up in the ridiculous lives of no-talent movie stars like Julia Roberts and Jamie Foxx, that we forget about the true artists who really wish to hone their craft and do it for the film itself, and NOT the paycheck, the porsches, and the mansions (Yes, Mrs. Roberts... I am talking to you...). Now Bell does not have dozens of credits under his belt, but first off he is still very young, and second off, he is clearly particular of what he does. A shade of Mr. Daniel Day-Lewis' film approach, if you ask me. Now most of you most likely know Bell from his breakthrough performance, when he was just 14-years-old, as ballet dancer Billy Elliot in 2000's Billy Elliot (which was just recently made into a Broadway musical by the same director, Stephen Daldry). Beating out 2,000 boys from Northeast England and being put through 7 auditions, Bell finally won the role and the rest is history. But lets talk a little about the history, shall we? Now I have to say, I have not seen ALL of Bell's films, but I feel like I have seen quite enough to speak my mind on his talent. One film that really stands out to me is David Gordon Green's Undertow. Bell plays Chris Munn, a volatile teen who lives with his father, John (played by Dermot Mulraney) and his little brother, Tim (played by Devon Alan). They live in the woods of Rural Georgia. Their lives are changed drastically once their Uncle Deel arrives on their door stop (incredible performance by Josh Lucas). We later discover that Uncle Deel is only out to steal money from John, but when John catches him, Uncle Deel does what he thinks is right, and murders John. This causes Chris and Tim to make a run for it from their home and tries to find refuge as they are being high tailed by their terrifying criminal Uncle. What follows eventually forces Chris in becoming a man. The film is beautifully told and and very intense. The performances are off the hook. Undertow marked the first film that Jamie Bell took on as lead character as an adolescent. Something that, in a way, pushed him into manhood, much like the film does to his character. Chris Munn. Bell followed this film with yet another dark coming of age story called The Chumscrubber. Ariel Posin made his feature film directing debut with this twisted tale of life crumbling in, what seems like, a perfect suburban neighborhood. Jamie Bell stars as Dean, who discovers his friend, Troy (Josh Janowicz), has hung himself at one of his mother's pool parties. Troy sold "feel good" pills to everyone in high school in order to spread happiness. Later teens, Billy, Lee and Chrystal (Justin Chatwin, Camilla Belle, Lou Taylor Pucci) beg Dean to tell them where the rest of the pills are. When Dean refuses, they kidnap his little brother, until they realize they've kidnapped the wrong kid. The film is dark, twisted and fantastic. A dramedy that sets the bar quite high for future suburban tales. The cast is excellent and Bell brings so much angst and realism to the role of Dean. Following The Chumscrubber, Bell took on a few memorable films such as Flags of our Fathers, Dear Wendy and the latest Defiance. We all know that not everyone of his films is excellent, but his performance in them is always something to be recognized. His presence alone is mesmorizing.
5. EMILE HIRSCH
-Now most people probably recognize Emile Hirsch from his most powerful, epic performance as Christopher McCandless in Sean Penn's masterpiece, Into the Wild, about a top student/athlete who abandons his possessions and hitchhikes to Alaska, encountering a series of characters that influence his life. The film is absolutely breathtaking as well are the performances. One of my all time favorite films. However, Hirsch had started choosing fascinating scripts years before Into the Wild was released. Choosing daring and edgy independent roles that might disturb some, but amaze others. The first film that really made him stand out to me was 2003's The Mudge Boy. Hirsch played 14-year-old misfit, Duncan Mudge, who lives on a farm with his father (Richard Jenkins) and tries to cope with his mothers death by mimicking her behavior right down to dressing up in her clothing. The film is not incredible, but the performance is outstanding. Having been played by such a young boy at the time. The film is very emotionally draining and is very rough for any young man to take on. Having his character be raped by another boy, having to cope with cross dressing, and not to mention biting off a chicken's head just so he can impress the bullies. A fascinating, 3-dimensional character. The film is very rough but should be watched by any Emile Hirsh fan. Following that film was another emotionally draining, very similar film called Imaginary Heroes, with an all star cast. This included Hirsch, Jeff Daniels, Kip Pardue, Michelle Williams, and Sigourney Weaver. Hirsch played high school student, Tim Travis, whose all-star swimmer brother, Matt, (Pardue) commits suicide. He and the rest of his family try to cope with the loss, while Tim attempts to break the mold of negligince by his father (Jeff Daniels), who always favored Matt. At this point I was really starting to admire this young actor. He can go from cult classic Risky Business-esque films like The Girl Next Door to art films like Milk. And hey, he can even play Speed Racer! He is a versatile actor who, I think, hasn't even received the ultimate chance to show us what he can really do with his talent. Into the Wild sure was the role of a lifetime, but I deeply think the overall film was even better the performances. But maybe we'll see in 2011 when he reunites with his Lords of Dogtown director, Catherine Hardwicke, with another modern updated take on Shakespeare's Hamlet.
6. JAMES FRANCO
-This edgy, talented young actor, whom will be 32 on April 19th, bursted onto the screen in the hit, cult television show called Freaks and Geeks. It had a rather short run, only running for one season, but that's all it needed to be remembered forever. Franco played Daniel Desario. An 18-year-old high school junior, who is bit of a delinquent and is the leader of the "bad" crowd known to some as the "freaks." He was the rebellious bad boy we all know and love. Who lived by his rules and his rules only. However, he also could barely read and was barely passing in his grades. It was a terrific performance. Both edgy and pure. So much depth and realism. Franco became the first actor, post Freaks and Geeks, to go on to bigger things such as many lead roles in films. Unfortunately the beginning of his career was a bit of a bumpy one with the films he was being thrown into. The media was making him out to be this sex symbol leading man (much like Depp's career beginning on 21 Jump Street). Throwing him into awful films such as Tristan + Isolde, Annapolis and Flyboys. However in the midst of these horrifying productions, Franco was slowly, but surely making a name for himself. Having small parts in fantastic side projects such as City by the Sea, The Company and The Dead Girl. Although the beginning of his career was not the best of times for Franco, he did shock myself, and hopefully others, in a tour de force performance playing the legendary James Dean in the television film of the same name. The resemblance was uncanny. He was practically channeling James Dean. It's unfortunate, though, that the film didn't receive much marketing, because it really was a powerful performance. May not have been the best biopic (most TV biopics aren't), but it sure as hell was a great role for Franco. And of course his classic role as best friend of Peter Parker, Harry Osborn, turned villanous Hob Goblin, seeking revenge on Spider-Man for killing his father (played by Willem Dafoe). It was a great character for Franco to take on and he definitely had that comic book look, however, he still wasn't quite getting his chance in Hollywood. We all were fully aware of who he is and what he is capable of, but he just wasn't being given the chance... Until a little stoner flick called Pineapple Express came around... In 2008, Pineapple Express bursted onto the screens like electric dynamite. Or more like electric cannabis. Franco committed 2000% to his classic role as vulnerable drug dealer, Saul Silver, who teams up with Dale Denton (played by Seth Rogen, also the co-writer of the film) to hide out from criminals who Dale had witnessed commit a murder. The film is dark, twisted and an all around blast. The story and the characters are definitely the strongest point of the film. A friendship that is built between a drug dealer and his client. When the hell do we ever see that? I could not believe how hysterical Franco was in his role and absolutely real he was. I kept thinking to myself while I was watching his performance, "Oh my God! I know a guy who talks just like that!!!" Or, "Holy shit! This dude I knew would say that exact same thing!" We always saw it in Freaks and Geeks, but now he finally received a new shot at showing people what he can really do with a great role. How out of this world hysterical he can be, but also bring so much truth to a character. Now Franco, a couple months ago, hosted an episode of Saturday Night Love. Now, I don't know about you guys, but I cannot STAND SNL anymore. Ever since 2002, it fell off the comedy charts for me. But when I saw the episode he hosted, I was laughing so hard I almost wet myself. Just his opening monologue alone was brilliantly delivered. That he doesn't mind jokes at his own expense. Making fun of his past films. Making fun of his current role as Franco on the cult soap opera, General Hospital! He's a real human being! He's a truly terrific, fearless actor, but he may have just been forced into these past horrible films for financial reasons or God knows what. WE DON'T KNOW THE DETAILS. Now unfortunately Franco still seems to be taking part in some not so appealing flicks such as Date Night, Nights at Rodanthe, and Eat, Pray, Love, but we all know what he is capable of and hopefully he's fully aware of it as well. I mean, take Milk and Howl for example? Brilliant stuff! So as long as he still recognizes his talent and ability, that's good enough for me. Can't blame a guy for also wanting to experiment and have a little fun as well. Look out for Franco in his upcoming Medieval comedy (directed by David Gordon Green), Your Highness, set to be released October 1st of this year!
7. RORY CULKIN
-Now most of you, when you think of Rory Culkin, the youngest of 7 children, automatically think of him as the younger brother of childhood super star, Macaulay Culkin. First off, playing bit parts in his brothers big starring films (i.e. Kid in picture in The Good Son, Young Richie in Richie Rich). However, Rory has sure already made a name for himself as a dramatic, talented, crafted young actor. I believe, Rory first bursted onto the screen as playing the son of Laura Linney in 2000's You Can Count On Me. The story centered on Laura Linney's character and her son whose lives are thrown into turmoil after her barely seen younger brother, Terry (played by an up and coming Mark Ruffalo) comes to stay with her for a little while. The film is beautiful and definitely has some performances to watch for. The main ones being Mark Ruffalo's and Rory Culkin's. From then on, Rory started to really make his own way in acting, and being seperated from being labeled as "Macaulay's kid brother." Having bit parts in episodes of Law & Order, The New Twilight Zone, The Job, and films such as It Runs in the Family, Igby Goes Down, and Signs. Rory's big shot at taking a heavy duty role was in 2004 with the coming of age tragedy, Mean Creek. Rory played Sam Merric, who is the victim of the middle school bully, George Tooney (played surprisingly well by Drake & Josh's Josh Peck). Once Sam's older, tougher brother, Rocky (Trevor Morgan), finds out, he feels something needs to be done. As Sam says so to his girlfriend earlier in the film, "Something's gotta give." Rocky and his best friend Clyde (Ryan Kelley), plan a prank on George, to take him out onto a canoe trip for Sam's "birthday," but then plan on stripping him and throwing him in the water. Of course, nothing goes according to plan and they accidentally kill George. Rory's character, Sam, is by far, the most introvert and fascinating character in the film. The entire film is centered on multiple characters, but Sam Merric is definitely the one that your fascinated by the most. I, myself, used to get bullied from time to time in grammar school and I know that exact feeling of waiting nervously at recess for the bully to come at you. There's barely any acting on Rory's part. He was living that character. He played this young tortured soul so beautifully, you can't help but feel for him. Post-Mean Creek, Rory began really breaking out into greater and greater films of the independent genre. These included The Chumscrubber (also starring previous 'Best Young Actor,' Jamie Bell), Down in the Valley, where he played the confused younger brother of Evan Rachel Wood, who ends up befriending her disturbed boyfriend (played brilliantly by Edward Norton), The Zodiac (the straight-to-dvd version, NOT the Fincher version), and The Night Listener. But it wasn't until 2009, where I think Rory really bursted BACK onto the screen and gave us nothing short of a tour de force performance in yet another coming of age dramedy. This one titled, Lymelife. It was this very film (which I was able to see at Sundance in 2009), where I thought to myself, this kid is truly something great. He really is going to be one of the edgiest, talented actors out there. Rory played 15-year-old Scott Bartlett. A young boy who begins to observe his life around him for the first time. He starts to analyze the people around him who he loves the most, and starts to find out some deep and dark secrets about them, all while a lime disease epidemic is spreading through their town. This being his father (Alec Baldwin), mother (Jill Hennessy), and older soldier brother (played by Rory's real life older brother, Kieran Culkin.). It sure helps to cast real life brothers to play brothers in a film, because the chemistry the two Culkins had in Lymelife was marvelous. Rory's character, Scott, has to deal with the high school bully (played by the fantastic Adam Scarimbolo, who would have been on the list, but needs a wee more memorable performances. Don't worry... he'll get there), and his first love (Emma Roberts). Rory takes on a lot in this film and brings so much truth to his character. The film was a gem in my eyes, not just for the performances, but for the story, the writing and the directing. This all being said, go look back at some of Rory's performances. He has this edgy and raw rear talent and has somewhat overshadowed his other brothers. I feel like he's completely demolished Macaulay's child star status and really made a name for himself as his own man. Much like what Jason Reitman is doing (his father being the great Ivan Reitman). Rory's other older brother, Kieran, is also a hell of an actor. Just look at Igby Goes Down and The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys! However, I chose Rory instead of Kieran, because Rory is just shy of 21-years-old and has already established himself as a true performer. And he has many more intense performances under his belt. Anyway, make sure (and I will too, considering I haven't seen it yet), to look for his new film, Twelve, directed by Joel Schumacher and co-starring his previous co-star, Emma Roberts!
8. JESSIE EISENBERG
-This New York native has slowly but surely defined the term, "Awkward" with his characters he has played. But his acting is so much more than just playing an awkward, confused young teenager. He brings a 3-dimensional angle into it which is somewhat difficult for people to pull off convincingly. Sure, Eisenberg looks the part of most of the characters he plays, but he is also able to carry the weight that comes with his roles. Now Eisenberg first was discovered on the big screen in an independent film called Rodger Dodger. The film starred Campbell Scott, Jesse Eisenberg, and co-starred Isabella Rossellini and Elizabeth Berkeley. It was written and directed by an up and coming filmmaker, Dylan Kidd. It centered on a ladies man "know it all" business man, Roger Swanson (played by Campbell Scott), who is dumped by his lover and boss. After this disappointment, he decides to take his virgin teenaged nephew, Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) out for a night on the town in search of sex. As Roger says in the film, "Sex is everywhere." The performances were great, but Eisenberg was the stand out. From then on, he was to be remembered. Eisenberg truly, in my opinion, came fully into his own as a mature young actor in Noah Baumbach's fantastic dramedy, The Squid and the Whale. Eisenberg starred as Walt Berkman, who, alongside his twisted kid brother, Frank (Owen Kline), struggle to deal with their parents divorce in the 1980s. The film also starred Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney as their parents. Eisenberg commanded the screen with a presence of perfection. This was, in fact, the first picture I saw Eisenberg in. From then on, I had my eye out for him. What I mainly like about this young actor is that he knows his place in the acting world. He is not out there to play big macho guys in big budget action flicks. He has this awkward, real look to him and uses it to his advantage. He doesn't think of himself as an action star (you can learn something from Jesse Eisenberg, Mr. LaBeouf...). He plays characters the way they are meant to be played. He shows us something we can all relate to. A film that I could completely relate to that he starred in was a little dramedy called Adventureland which also took place in the 1980s. Actually took place in the year I was born (1987). I was grateful enough to check this flick out at Sundance in 2009 and it was definitely one of my favorites of the festival. Eisenberg played recent college grad, James Brennan, whose whole summer plan, to go to Europe before grad school, go out the window due to his parents going through a financial crisis. James is then forced to get a summer job at a local crappy amusement park, titled Adventureland, to save money for grad school at Columbia in New York. At first he despises it and treats it like just another shitty job... until he meets Emily, aka Emm (Kristen Stewart), and his whole life turns around for the better. The film is full of ups and downs, as most films are, but Eisenberg's performance is up the entire time. I could relate to his awkwardness 100%. Nervously using the word, Intercourse, instead of Sex. Speaking super fast when your talking to a girl you like. Things like that. All the characteristics he played in the role of James were mindblowing. He was definitely my favorite part of the film, not to mention the great side cameos by Bill Hader, Kristin Wiig, and of course, Martin Starr. I had just recently watched Zombieland, which I think Eisenberg was perfectly cast in, and I have to say, the film was amazing until Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin showed up. THEY WERE SO FUCKING ANNOYING!!! But whenever it was just Eisenberg or Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson, it was truly awesome. I wish the film was only just the two of them. I have so much respect for this actor. He respects New York theatre (saw him at my job once), he's quite humble, and he chooses wise scripts that push the limits. Test the audiences. He's a smart kid and holds his own around some big, big stars. But what I'll always love about him, is that he never gets cocky in interviews and always remembers where he came from. Jesse Eisenberg is not only a great actor, but also a great human being.
9. MICHAEL PITT
-Perhaps one of the most edgiest, darkest character actors of his generation. If not, THE edgiest. Michael Pitt has made a successful career of choosing the most introvert and fascinating roles that only make you wonder, wonder, wonder... Pitt started making a name for himself when he had a recurring role on the hit teen show, Dawson's Creek, as high school football player, Henry Parker. He made it through 15 episodes, spawning from 1999-2000. But we all know, and I think he did too, that deep inside he was not this pretty boy he was being type casted as. Pitt was a character actor with this rear raw acting ability that would shun audiences in the future. Once his role on Creek ended, he took on bit parts in indy films such as Finding Forrester, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and The Yellow Bird. It was not until 2001, when Pitt was 20-years-old, that he received the character role of a lifetime. The role of loser stoner/killer, Donny Semenec, in Larry Clark's controversial biographic teen drama, Bully. The film was not well received by critics, but one of the major stand out performances, in my opinion, is Mr. Pitt's. He was at such ease with his character and so comfortable that you completely get lost in him. What's fascinating about Michael Pitt, is that he is always in his own little world whenever he's acting. He is always in character, even off camera it seems. Having attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, it was Michael Pitt, who was practically the only real classically trained actor on the set of Bully, so hopefully he forced the others to up their game. He's no child actor. Just a true performer willing to hone his craft through schooling and studies. Donny Semenec is just one of many classic characters Michael Pitt has played in the past. It seems like he has made a career out of playing either disturbed killers, suicidal people, or losers. Pitt proceeded to play another killer in Murder by Numbers and Funny Games U.S. Now Murder by Numbers is some piece of work, but lets examine his performance in the Americanized remake, Funny Games. Michael Pitt plays Paul, alongside Brady Corbet, who plays his sensitive brother, Peter. Paul and Peter, one day, decide to take a small family hostage and play sadistic games with them. Betting them that by 9am the next morning they'll be dead, and they make the family bet them that by 9am they'll be alive. Let the games begin. Now Pitt's character, Paul, is the older, wise, more professional brother of Peter. Paul does all the talking and is very straight forward. Peter is the more shy, vulnerable one. This film is by far, one of the most disturbing, terrifying films I have seen in a very long time. Hard to watch at times. I honestly don't know off the top of my head, which actor could have played a better lead killer than Michael Pitt. He was so perfect in the film and brought so much to the table. I get more and more nervous that I keep saying how amazing and real Pitt is at protraying sadistic psychopaths. But hey, it's called acting, right? Right? Anyway, the film is fantastic, but the performances are even better. I have a lot of respect for Michael Pitt. He keeps to his own. He shows up to work, does his job, and goes home. He's an artist. He chooses some of the most artful, fascinating scripts, and goes to town on them. In every single film he has been in, he is an entirely different character. Most of the time, I can't take my eyes off him. He just reels you right onto the screen and doesn't let go until the film ends, or his character dies. Something truly powerful about what he brings. And it's a shame that he is so overlooked, because I think he is just wonderful and very unique. Practically every one of his films is a gem. What, because he isn't in the tabloids 24/7 and because he doesn't go on 5,000 talk shows a month?! The kid is a private person and I respect him for that. He is out there to make good art, not to make shit. This all being said, be sure to look out for Michael Pitt's new television show on HBO, executive produced by Marty Scorsese, set to premiere in fall 2010!
10. LUCAS BLACK
-Most likely the most underrated and overlooked actor of his generation. Probably due to the amount of commercial crap he has been getting thrown into. But I kid you not, this Alabama native is the real deal with that cool, raw Southern accent of his. Having started acting in films as a child (as most big young actors do), Black first appeared on the silver screen in a fantastic coming of age film entitled, The War. The film centered on Elijah Wood's character, Stu Simmons, who, alongside his confused, Vietnam war veteran father, Stephen Simmons (played by Kevin Costner) must battle somewhat of a different kind of war against a rival group of children. Black played the younger, little brother, Ebb, of the "rival kid" leader. Though it was not a very big part, you could already tell Black had something magical to deliver. This raw, exciting talent that would only get better as he grew into a man. Oh, and did it get better. Black had a short co-starring role as Caleb Temple on the short lived horror/drama/thriller television series, American Gothic, alongside the brilliant Gary Cole. But it wasn't until 1996 when a terrifyingly disturbing film called Sling Blade, was released to audiences. I was absolutely blown away by not just Billy Bob Thornton's electrifying performance as mentally challenged local man, Karl Childers, but Lucas Black's performance as local boy, Frank Wheatley. It was something beautiful. His character, Frank Wheatley, ends up befriending Karl, when everyone else looked at him as a crazy man. The film is a fantastic tour de force project from writer/director/star Billy Bob Thornton and the acting is nothing short of excellent. From then on, Lucas Black had supporting parts in little films like The X-Files, Flash, Our Friend, Martin, and of course, Crazy in Alabama. However, the next role of his that would shun not only myself, but audiences everywhere was another film that co-starred Billy Bob Thornton, entitled, Friday Night Lights. Black played the high school star quarterback, Mike Winchell, who in 1988 in the depressed town of Odessa, Texas, lead his team, the Permian Panthers, to the State semi-Finals against Carter High School from Dallas. The Panthers ended up losing, but the film is about more than just the climactic game itself. It also touches on several political issues occurring in Odessa, Texas. Oh yeah, and did I mention it's a true story? It was also based on a novel by H.D. Bissinger. The film also co-starred Derek Luke, Garret Hedlund, Jay Hernandez, and a surprisingly good, Tim McGraw as Hedlund's abusive father. Black has so much to take on for this film to make it as real as possible, and he did just that. There's a certain ease about Black's acting that is not too easy to pull off. He just kind of kicks back and does what he does. He doesn't think about it, he just DOES. And I admire that truly. Black, unfortunately, went on to star in the God awful third installment of the Fast and the Furious franchise, in 2006, with Justin Lin's The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. If your going to watch it (I pray that you don't!), watch it only for Lucas Black. It's not a very complex character, but he just yanks you on the screen with any character he takes on. He has this cool presence about him. Thankfully before Tokyo Drift, Black did squeeze in another role in a somewhat memorable film called Jarhead, which was released in 2005. He had a very minor role as soldier, Chris Kruger. He had some good material here and there, but unfortunately it was hack, Jake Gyllenhaal's film and Mendes wanted to keep it that way. Gyllenhaal unfortunately takes up the majority of the film. It's unfortunate that Black has started making a career out of lame films, but were grateful enough that he at least still maintains bit parts in some outstanding pictures. Recently he nagged a co-starring role in his latest film, Get Low, which was at Sundance this year and is now currently playing at Tribeca as well. It stars Bill Murray and Robert Duvall (whom was also in Sling Blade). I still have yet to see it. It is expected to be released nationwide in late July of this year. Very excited. So no matter how lame a film might be that Black takes on, he always give 2000% and it certainly shows, because even with a shitty film like Legion or Tokyo Drift, Black's presence is still something enlightening.
Well, that's my top ten of what I think are the best young actors out there currently. Remember, these actors are only going to get better as they hone their craft further and further. I also give a shout to the late Brad Renfro and Heath Ledger. Their talents will also be remembered as they were two of the rawest, most talented young actors I ever knew. God Bless to both of you.
FILMBOY - Chris von Hoffmann
"If I wasn't an actor, I'd be a secret agent." - Elijah Wood
HEATH LEDGER (1979-2008)
BRAD RENFRO (1982-2008)