(Re-posted from LimitéMagazine.com)
It’s often said that Hollywood is a young person’s game. Although many film and TV veterans are still making waves in the industry, we, at Limité, are taking a look at some of Hollywood’s brightest youth. Our annual “Young Hollywood” feature profiles actors aged 30 and under and filmmakers aged 40 and under. Here’s who we have our eyes on…
J.A. Bayona / filmmaker
by Daniel Quitério
From: Barcelona, Spain
Select Filmography: The Impossible (2012), The Orphanage (2007), Penny Dreadful (TV)
It’s clear upon watching The Orphanage and The Impossible that the man who helmed them is a life-long lover of film. Juan Antonio Bayona’s passion for the medium propelled the Barcelonian through his adolescence and to Spain’s Cinema and Audiovisual School of Catalonia (ESCAC), where he studied directing. But it was a chance encounter with Mexican visionary Guillermo del Toro at the 1993 Sitges Film Festival that provided a turning point in the young filmmaker’s budding career. There, del Toro promised to help Bayona if ever he had the opportunity. That came nearly 14 years later when Bayona was presented with the script for The Orphanage (El orfanato) from screenwriter Sergio G. Sánchez. By then, del Toro’s star had risen with Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) and Hellboy (2004), so it was a coup for Bayona when the Mexican filmmaker offered to co-produce his film about a haunted orphanage. The Orphanagepremiered at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival and was received with a 10-minute standing ovation. The accolades continued when Bayona won the Best New Director Goya Award (Spain’s equivalent of the Academy Awards). The film’s critical acclaim was complimented with commercial success, as it had Spain’s biggest opening of the year and was the second-highest grossing debut in history for a Spanish film.
Bayona’s success continued with his follow-up, the Sánchez-penned true story of a family’s terrifying ordeal during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The Impossible won Bayona the Best Director Goya Award and earned lead actress Naomi Watts an Oscar nomination. Most recently, Bayona has turned to television, directing episodes of Showtime’s 19th-century horror series Penny Dreadful, which was met with positive reviews and a 10-episode second season order.
Whether it be the small screen or silver, Bayona’s stock continues to rise, and will undoubtedly reach new heights as he turns to his latest projects, among them the much-anticipated sequel to the 2013 Brad Pitt starrer, World War Z.
John Boyega / actor
by Stephanie Dawson
From: London, England
Select Filmography: Attack the Block (2011), 24: Live Another Day (TV)
British actor John Boyega burst onto the film scene with an impressive performance in the sleeper hit Attack the Block (2011), in which he played a parent-less teen thug who leads his friends against an alien invasion. His performance earned him a Black Reel Award for Best Actor and a spot on the cover of Screen Internationalin July of that year as one of the “UK Stars of Tomorrow 2011.”
John was born in Peckham, London to Nigerian parents. He started acting at a young age and later studied performing arts at South Thames College and Hackney’s Identity Drama School.
Since Attack the Block, Boyega appeared in Half of a Yellow Sun(2013), which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, opposite Oscar nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave, 2013). In 2014, he starred in Imperial Dreams as a former gangbanger who, after release from jail, returns home to pursue his writing dreams and take care of his young son. The film premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and won the Audience Award for “Best of Next!” Most recently, television audiences saw Boyega play the young Chris Tanner, a computer technician who flies drones for the military in 24: Live Another Day.
Boyega is emerging as the go-to actor for big name biopics. He was associated with a Mike Tyson-inspired story written by Oscar winner John Ridley (12 Years a Slave), but the project was canceled. He is currently linked to Race, the biography of Olympian Jesse Owens. Rumors abound that the young actor may appear in Terminator: Genesis and an upcoming Marvel pic, though neither are confirmed.
What is for sure is that John Boyega is one to watch. He will soon be seen in a leading role in the much-anticipated Star Wars: Episode VII, directed by J.J. Abrams.
Danielle Brooks / actor
by Joy Ganes
From: Greenville, SC
Select Filmography: Orange Is the New Black (TV), Girls (TV)
With a breakout performance in Netflix original dramedy Orange Is the New Black (OITNB), Danielle Brooks is a rising star in Tinseltown. Her characterization of Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson, a street-smart hustler with a light-hearted and open demeanor, is a welcome contrast to a role that could have easily been clichéd. A Juilliard-trained actor, this was one of her first roles out of school. Brooks parlayed her following and likeability to a guest role on HBO’s Girls, a show oft chided for its lack of diversity. Audiences connect to Taystee because she is an “every woman.” Brooks’s OITNB character is an underdog and a misfit who uses the prison as a sense of family, which is (sadly) stronger than anything she had when she was outside.
Brooks’s personality shines through, as she has often been described as joyful, open, and full of life. The daughter of a minister and deacon, her family has been supportive of her acting choices, and Brooks has embraced the complex character whole-heartedly. Her efforts were awarded this year with a Young Hollywood Award nomination for Breakthrough Actress. Brooks’s breakout series is just the first step for her, and it is apparent she has the chops to shine for a long time.
Mike Cahill / filmmaker
by Daniel Quitério
From: New Haven, CT
Select Filmography: I Origins (2014), Another Earth (2011)
Allow me to break this feature’s third-person POV so that I may speak personally about a filmmaking inspiration of mine. Mike Cahill, who is just three years my senior, has profoundly impacted me over the last few years with his two narrative features, Another Earth and I Origins. As a writer, I believe that story is king, and neither film is lacking (to say the least). But it’s not just Cahill’s deeply introspective scripts that grab me (he shared writing credit onAnother Earth with frequent collaborator Brit Marling), it’s also his abilities as director, producer, editor, and cinematographer—all of which he’s displayed over the course of his first three features. Cahill’s films are uniquely his. You know what to expect when you watch one of his movies, and you know you’ll be thinking about it long after the credits roll.
Cahill studied economics at Georgetown University, where he met Marling. The pair would begin their partnership by making short films while still in school. His senior year took him further into the industry when he interned for National Geographic Television and Film before becoming its youngest field producer, editor, and cinematographer—no doubt a breeding ground for the multi-hyphenate filmmaker.
Following his first feature collaboration with Marling, the documentary Boxers and Ballerinas (2004), about the US-Cuba conflict, Cahill knew that he wanted to switch gears to narrative filmmaking, so he turned his focus towards his debut narrative feature Another Earth, about a young woman’s (played by Marling) personal troubles in the midst of the discovery of a second Earth in the solar system. The film debuted at Sundance, where it earned the Alfred P. Sloan and Special Jury Prizes before finding distribution with Fox Searchlight. Cahill’s and Marling’s latest collaboration is I Origins (also the recipient of Sundance’s Alfred P. Sloan Prize), a story that explores the co-existence of science and faith.
This inspiration of mine credits his own inspirations across the fields of filmmaking and astrology, including directors Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, 2007) and Krzystof Kieslowski (The Double Life of Véronique, 1991) and scientist Richard Berendzen. No doubt, as Cahill’s career evolves, he will continue to prove himself as a prime source of creative stimulation for other budding filmmakers.
Diablo Cody / filmmaker
by Saidah Russell
From: Lemont, Illinois
Select Filmography: Juno (2007), Young Adult (2011), United States of Tara (TV)
If her chosen pen name is any indication, Diablo Cody is quite the character. She’s also quite the talent. With just seven years in the business, Cody’s list of film credits and accolades rivals filmmakers with twice her experience.
Cody was born Brooke M. Busey in Lemont, Illinois. She attended Catholic school leading up to college, but after graduation her life took a decidedly less conservative turn. Cody’s writing garnered attention after she began blogging about her experiences stripping and working peep shows at an adult novelty store in Minneapolis. The Pussy Ranch blog turned into a successful memoir, and at the behest of her agent, Cody tried her hand at screenwriting. Her first screenplay became the critically acclaimed and Oscar-winning teen pregnancy comedy Juno.
The stripper-turned-screenwriter’s career exploded and she entered into a rare position in Hollywood—that of the celebrity screenwriter. After Juno, Cody went on to pen the horror movie, Jennifer’s Body (2009) and the Showtime series United States of Tara. But fame took its toll. Cody has admitted that the attention and scrutiny she received after Juno’s release was incredibly uncomfortable. She’s become less visible in subsequent years and even confessed to favoring uncredited script revision work, which allows her to “entertain frat guys without their consent” and ride out the whirlwind of public attention.
Recently, Cody’s career has expanded beyond screenwriting. In 2013, she directed her first film, Paradise, starring Julianne Hough, Russell Brand, and Octavia Spencer. Among a number of film and television credits, Cody is also in talks with TBS for her own talk show. With this rise in activity, it appears that Cody is beginning to embrace her celebrity status.
Sterling Jerins / actor
by Opal H. Bennett
Select Filmography: World War Z (2013), The Conjuring (2013)
At only 10 years old, Sterling Jerins already boasts a list of co-stars that would make Hollywood veterans three times her age green with envy. It includes Brad Pitt (World War Z), Vera Farmiga (The Conjuring), Michael Douglas (And So It Goes, 2014), and Charlize Theron in Dark Places, the upcoming thriller adaptation of a Gillian Flynn novel. Jerins’s impressive string of performances alongside such Tinseltown heavyweights have earned her the distinction of being one of the most in-demand actresses under five feet.
Her first role was a 2011 guest appearance on USA Network dramaRoyal Pains, and it only took two years for Jerins’s star to begin its steady assent. By 2013, she was a cast member on NBC’s Deceptionand had landed roles in three major feature films, including the blockbuster World War Z, in which she played Pitt’s character’s young daughter.
Born into an artistic family, Sterling’s parents are the artist Edgar Jerins and the actress Alana Jerins. Her older sister, Ruby, is also well known to audiences as Grace Peyton, the teenage daughter of Edie Falco’s Jackie Peyton in Showtime drama Nurse Jackie. Ruby, who’s grown up on screen, has played Grace for six seasons to great critical acclaim. Coming from such creative stock would seem to have made the younger Jerins a Hollywood shoe-in, but her work has been praised for possessing a vulnerability that belies her years.
Steven Yeun / actor
by Curtis John
From: Troy, Michigan
Select Filmography: The Walking Dead (TV), I Origins (2014)
Steven Yeun did not have a lifelong dream of becoming an actor. Growing up in suburban Michigan, he was on track to become either a lawyer or doctor, but after seeing and eventually joining an improv group at Kalamazoo College, he decided acting was his passion. After graduation, he moved to Chicago to study his craft. Five years later, he starred as fan-favorite character Glenn Rhee on the hit post-apocalyptic zombie horror drama The Walking Dead. Much more than a gore fest, the television show possesses powerful storylines about morality, despair, hope, and, of course, death—all of which Yeun’s sensitive, yet can-do, character is very much in the middle of. And, yeah, he also gets to hack away at zombies.
Yeun’s profile now rises to the big screen as one of the leads in 2014 summer release I Origins. From Another Earth (2011) director Mike Cahill, Yeun plays Kenny, a lab partner of rigidly atheist scientist Ian (Michael Pitt) and Karen (Brit Marling), who through their studies of the human eye uncover evidence about the universe that may profoundly change how people regard the co-existence of science and faith. The concept is heavy, but Yeun does not shy away from such work, as he is also developing serious projects of his own. Serving as executive producer and star, he is adapting Kang Chol-Hwan’s book The Aquariums of Pyongyang, about the author’s imprisonment in a North Korean concentration camp as a child.