In an effort to denote “underrated” or “hidden gem” actors I almost excluded Ezra Miller from this collection, however when curating list of future Oscar winners I simply could not leave him out. Many are familiar with the talent that is Miller, but in truth some of his most astounding work is buried in festivals and never celebrated. One may dub him “The Flash,” or the true star of Perks of Being a Wallflower, but his career is much more abstract and impressive than those titles at only 24 years old. A previous review on this blog proves that Miller’s work in We Need to Talk About Kevin, alongside Tilda Swinton, is strikingly captivating, yet largely hidden. The Stanford Prison Experiment, a fantastic indie film starring another gem of an actor we will arrive to later on, shines with a strong ensemble led largely in part by Ezra Miller’s unabashed ferocity and commitment to passion. Miller is one of those rare actors whose screaming sounds nearly harmonic, his rage and ability to access it so freely being such a strength to his creative palette. One of the most eccentric and passionate young actors on the screen, his addition to the Justice League in Fall 2017 will likely only further elevate the superhero genre to a more cinematic and sophisticated level of drama.
As a routine MTV viewer and faithful Teen Wolf fan, I have long been aware of the fierce talent that is Dylan O’Brien. Through years of work as Stiles Stilinski on Jeff Davis’ hit show, and hidden indie films like The First Time and High Road, O’Brien has been crafting his once goofy comedic typecast into an impressive talent. The young actor has seen mild recognition from his roles in The Maze Runner and Deepwater Horizon, but with his newest film is where he will truly strike gold. The teaser trailer for American Assassin, which garnered several million views in just a couple of days, shows O’Brien in a leading action role looking darker, broodier, and more aggressive than ever. Action roles are only the beginning of his success, as his emotional depth and ability to tap into it is so easily palpable. Dylan O’Brien is the kind of actor who can deliver a range of emotions through seconds of facial expression. The skill with which he can physically deliver emotion in a role is a facet that simply cannot be taught. Could he be the next Matt Damon or Casey Affleck? This actors progression from comedic teen roles to emotional mastery is something I am intrigued to follow.
When I envision the future of Anya Taylor-Joy’s career, it is one of Oscar nominations and cutting edge films. One of the most genuinely talented young actresses Hollywood has to offer, Taylor-Joy initially turned heads in The Witch, a quiet horror film with an underlying feminine motif. In Luke Scott’s Morgan, the ingenue plays a sci-fi “humanoid” character, allowing her adept ability to adapt to difficult roles to reflect on screen. M. Night Shyamalan’s Split was not particularly memorable in any way other than the performances by James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy. Taylor-Joy played an outcast who proved to be the only person able to understand the demented mind of her kidnapper, all to deliver the message that “the broken are more evolved.” Her performance as a victim of sexual assault, a sufferer of depression and anxiety, and an inflicter of self harm, was executed so naturally and flawlessly that it injected some emotion and drama into the thriller. When watching a young actress, it is instinctual to attempt to compare and typecast, to line her up with an Emma Stone or a Jennifer Lawrence. While any actress would be lucky to follow in the footsteps of their careers, Anya Taylor-Joy is unique in her ability to access a captivating darkness. The actress’ ability to hold raw emotion in her hands is why I am absolutely sure that she will be one of the future faces of film.
A truly hidden gem of an actor, Johnny Simmons has had multiple small supporting roles in indie fringe films and can most recently be seen playing Shane on Netflix’s Girlboss. Simmons is the type of actor whose face instills a feeling of deja-vu, a feeling of “where have I seen him before?” He has stretched his legs in films such as Perks of Being a Wallflower, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, 21 Jump Street, and The To Do List. If you really want to see what put Johnny Simmons on this list, add The Stanford Prison Experiment and The Late Bloomer to your watchlists immediately. In the former, Simmons works in an ensemble as one of the college students recruited as part of Philip Zimbardo’s infamous psychological experiment. His emotional performance during his “parole board” scene is chilling and heartbreaking, and proves the ability and talent that lies within this underrated actor. One of my personal Netflix favorites, The Late Bloomer, stars Simmons as a man who undergoes puberty during adulthood. In this comedic role, the rising talent shows his capability to move between roles of laughter and authenticity. Netflix’s Girlboss, with Simmons costarring the electric Britt Robertson, has garnered some attention and will likely draw gaze to his beaming talent.