Special Feature

The best breakout actors of 2017

Daniel Kaluuya

Twenty-eight-year-old Daniel Kaluuya—born in London to Ugandan immigrant parents—has been working for years in British theater and television roles, as well as in films including Kick-Ass 2 and Sicario. In 2017, however, Jordan Peele’s groundbreaking horror film Get Out made Kaluuya a movie star. He plays Chris Washington, a black American photographer who travels to meet his white girlfriend’s family and finds himself trapped in a nightmare that threatens his very identity. Kaluuya’s American accent is flawless, and his ability to display terror is unmatched, as displayed in the frequently seen promotional image of Chris immobilized with tears streaming down his face. Get Out was a smash hit that also drew critical acclaim, cementing Kaluuya as a star going forward. In 2018, he joins the Marvel Cinematic Universe as W’Kabi in Black Panther and will be appearing in director Steve McQueen’s heist film, Widows.

Gal Gadot

Image result for Gal Gadot

Wonder Woman saved the world from destruction at the hands of the war god Ares, but Gal Gadot (along with an excellent supporting cast and director Patty Jenkins) saved the DC Movie Universe from its own destruction at the hands of critics and moviegoers. The 32-year-old Israeli actress had previously stood out as Wonder Woman, albeit briefly, in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and played Gisele Yashar in the Fast and Furious films, but she’d never had a lead role in an American film. As such, nobody was sure what to expect from Wonder Woman. Turns out, Gadot was absolutely perfect in the role. She found the necessary balance between wisdom and naivety, and her warm smile made as much of an impression as her physical prowess. Wonder Woman was a record-breaking success, providing a path for the DC Comics movies going forward. Gadot will continue to play the character in that franchise, but she’s also appearing in the thriller Deeper, and more exciting roles will surely come her way.

Tom Holland

Like Gadot, Tom Holland first appeared onscreen as a famous superhero in 2016 before starring in that hero’s solo movie in 2017. In Holland’s case, he debuted as Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War before playing the lead in Spider-Man: Homecoming. The 21-year-old from London first got noticed as a preteen stage actor, playing first a supporting part and then the lead in Billy Elliott the Musical on London’s West End. He moved on to roles in movies like The Impossible, How I Live Now, and In the Heart of the Sea before being cast as Spider-Man.

Barely out of his teens, Holland makes for a much younger Spider-Man than previous big-screen versions. Toby Maguire was in his mid 20s when he first played the part, while Andrew Garfield was almost 30. Holland believably plays a 15-year-old who uses his costumed identity to attempt (with varying success) to pass as an adult hero, which makes his Spider-Man much closer to the comic book version. Holland’s dance background also gives his wall-crawler a physicality that others have lacked. In short, he might be the best Spider-Man yet, and it’s exciting to imagine what he’ll do both inside and outside the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Timothée Chalamet

Timothée Chalamet—a 22-year-old American actor with a very French name—made his breakthrough this year not in big-budget blockbusters, but in a pair of critically acclaimed indie films. In Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird, he plays Kyle Scheible, a musician love interest to the title character played by Saoirse Ronan. More notably, he also plays Elio Perlman, the lead character in Luca Guadagnino’s gay romance Call Me By Your Name. The character of Elio is an American teenager, living with his parents in Italy, where he has a relationship with an older student of his father’s, played by Armie Hammer. Chalamet has been nominated for multiple acting awards for the part, including a SAG Award, a Critics’ Choice Movie Award, and a Golden Globe.

Prior to 2017, Chalamet was a cast member on Showtime’s Homeland and appeared in films including Men, Women & Children, Interstellar, and also The Adderall Diaries, in which he played a younger version of James Franco’s character. Following his memorable appearance in Lady Bird and triumphant performance in Call Me By Your Name, however, Chalamet’s career is likely to be kicked into high gear in 2018. Already on his slate are the drama Beautiful Boy, in which he and Steve Carell play father and son, and A Rainy Day in New York, a Woody Allen film with Selena Gomez and Elle Fanning.

Tiffany Haddish

A 38-year-old Los Angeles native, Tiffany Haddish has been working in film and television since 2005, but 2017 was the year she finally got the recognition she deserves. Haddish had been a regular on NBC’s The Carmichael Show since 2015 and had a supporting role in the first season of OWN’s If Loving You is Wrong before that, but what changed everything was the movie Girls Trip. The comedy was a big financial success, and Haddish was the performer everyone was a talking about, holding her own in a breakout performance that was compared to Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids. She also had a Showtime standup special, Tiffany Haddish: She Ready! From the Hood to Hollywood, in August 2017. In November, Haddish became the first black female stand-up comedian to host Saturday Night Live, and in December she released a memoir titled The Last Black Unicorn.

In the new year, she’s starring with Kevin Hart in Night School, a comedy from Malcolm D. Lee, the director of Girls Trip. She’s also the female lead in The Last OG, a new sitcom starring Tracy Morgan, which premieres on TBS in 2018.

Sofia Boutella

This 35-year-old Algerian hip-hop dancer, Sofia Boutella, broke into movies with 2015’s Kingsman: The Secret Service, in which she played Gazelle, an amputee assassin whose feet have been replaced with deadly blades. She followed that up in 2016 with a major role in Star Trek Beyond as Jaylah, an alien scavenger. In 2017, however, she would get noticed for two extremely different roles in two very different action films. In The Mummy she plays the title role, a resurrected Egyptian Princess who menaces Tom Cruise. In Atomic Blonde she is Delphine Lasalle, a French secret agent who has a lesbian affair with Lorraine Broughton, the MI6 agent played by Charlize Theron. The juxtaposition of the two performances—evil supernatural monster and sympathetic seductress—is what really made Boutella stand out as an actress to be reckoned with.

In 2018, Boutella will play Clarisse, opposite Michael B. Jordan as Guy Montag, in an HBO TV movie of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. This casting implies a loose adaptation since, in Bradbury’s novel, Clarisse is a teenager, whereas Boutella is actually older than Jordan. She also has a major role in the sci-fi thriller Hotel Artemis, about which few details have been released. Sofia Boutella’s roles continue to trend toward the unusual, so it will be that much more interesting to see what the future holds.

Lakeith Stanfield

To be fair, Lakeith Stanfield was already getting noticed in 2016 when he began playing Darius on the FX series Atlanta. In 2015, for that matter, Stanfield appeared as Bug in Dope and Snoop Dogg in Straight Outta Compton. But 2017 feels like the year that the 26-year-old Stanfield reached critical mass as an actor. In Get Out he plays a part that’s essentially two parts, providing a before-and-after illustration of the horrific treatment at the film’s center, and the moment in which the wall between those two parts breaks down violently is particularly unforgettable. Stanfield can also be seen playing Damon in the Netflix-released romantic comedy The Incredible Jessica James and had a supporting part as a disillusioned marine in the Brad Pitt war satire War Machine. Lastly, he played the key role of L, a resourceful FBI agent, in the Netflix live-action manga adaptation Death Note.

Series Atlanta returns in 2018, and Stanfield will also star in the sci-fi film Sorry to Bother You as well as play a supporting part in the church-based drama Come Sunday. Like everyone on this list, his future is going to be exciting to watch, but his work in 2017 is impressive all on its own.

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