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The independent film breakout stars of 2012

Among those poised for bigger things are actors Emayatzy Corinealdi, Ezra Miller, Zoe Kazan, Mark Duplass and Craig Zobel.

January 03, 2013|By Mark Olsen, Los Angeles Times
  • Logan Lerman, left, Ezra Miller and Emma Watson in a scene from "The Perks of Being a Wallflower."
Logan Lerman, left, Ezra Miller and Emma Watson in a scene from "The… (John Bramley, Summit Entertainment )

Independent filmmaking often acts as a farm team of sorts for Hollywood, a showcase for performers and filmmakers who go on to bigger, if not always necessarily better, things.

The following is a look at some of the people — and some of the films — that made a splash in the indie waters in 2012 that are likely to have a ripple effect in Hollywood. As a writer and critic with a focus on independent cinema, it's gratifying to watch emerging talents as they make their way into the mainstream.

GRAPHIC: Faces to watch 2013

Here are a few names and films to keep on your radar:

Emayatzy Corinealdi

In writer-director Ava DuVernay's vibrant, rich "Middle of Nowhere," 32-year-old actress Emayatzy Corinealdi (pronounced Emma-yahtzee Core-naldee) brings to life the film's emotional center often without doing much at all. Her ability to convey inner feelings while just riding a bus or staring out a window is testament to the quiet strength of her performance. Playing a woman who puts her life on hold while waiting for her husband to finish out a prison term, Corinealdi captures a mix of conflict, confusion and self-discovery, holding it all together with a sense of understated resolve.

What's next: Corinealdi won a Gotham Award for her "Middle of Nowhere" performance and has been nominated for an Independent Spirit Award and an NAACP Image Award, with a few more roles in smaller films already on the way.

Ezra Miller

In 2011's "We Need to Talk About Kevin," Ezra Miller was an intensely ferocious little monster, which made the wide-open, free-spirited exuberance, albeit touched by sadness, of his performance in "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" that much more of a surprise. Only 20, Miller has a compulsively watchable presence and draws from a deep core of emotion on screen, as well as a lovably kooky persona in media appearances. Hollywood could use more unpredictable live wires like him, both on screen and off.

What's next: Miller is due to appear alongside Mia Wasikowska and Paul Giamatti in an adaptation of "Madame Bovary."

Mark Duplass

As an actor, writer, director and producer, 36-year-old Mark Duplass has fashioned himself into a newfangled DIY impresario, with his name as actor and producer on some of the freshest films of 2012, including "Your Sister's Sister" and "Safety Not Guaranteed." He also had a small, but key, part in "Zero Dark Thirty" and an ongoing role on FX's "The League." On top of that, he saw the release of two films co-directed with his bother Jay, "Jeff, Who Lives at Home" and "The Do-Deca-Pentathlon" and also collaborated on "Black Rock," a horror film directed by his wife, Katie Aselton. Across all these projects, Duplass brings a shaggy, open-hearted sincerity both in front of and behind the camera.

What's next: Duplass, along with brother Jay, recently began a recurring role on TV's "The Mindy Project." The duo also have a number of writing, directing and producing projects in the works, including a remake of "Same Time, Next Year."

The actress-writer

It can be difficult for younger actresses to find parts that aren't bimbos or second-fiddle significant others, so an increasing number are simply writing their own roles. Both "Ruby Sparks," written by its star Zoe Kazan, and "Celeste and Jesse Forever," co-written by star Rashida Jones, explicitly took on the conventions of the romantic comedy to reinvent the world for their female leads. Brit Marling, among the vanguard of the actress-writer wave, will be back at Sundance starring in her co-written "The East." Greta Gerwig stars in the upcoming "Frances Ha," which she co-wrote with director Noah Baumbach and is being released later this year.

What's next: Kazan recently shot four more feature acting roles. Jones has continued to appear on TV's "Parks and Recreation." Their screenplays for "Ruby Sparks" and "Celeste and Jesse Forever" each received an Independent Spirit Award nomination.

Child performers

In 2012, any number of performances by underage actors moved well beyond stereotypical cute-kid mugging. Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward in "Moonrise Kingdom," Quvenzhané Wallis from "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and Pierce Gagnon in "Looper" all seemed wise well beyond their years. Kacey Mottet Klein brought gravity to the Swiss film "Sister."

What's next: Wallis has been in the thick of awards season conversations. Hayward is set to film a role in the upcoming "The Sisterhood Of Night."

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