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Hollywood’s New Leaders: Creative

Variety‘s Hollywood’s New Leaders profiles those to look out for in the worlds of film, TV, digital and more. For more of the New Leaders, click here.

Ike Barinholtz, 37
Actor-writer-producer
He plays daffy on “The Mindy Project,” but Barinholtz is a master of multitasking. He writes and produces on “Project,” recurs on HBO’s “Eastbound & Down” and FX’s “The League” and lends his voice on Hulu’s “The Awesomes.” But his recent resume doesn’t end there; the rangy Chicagoan has roles lined up in “The Nest” and “Angry Birds,” and got a thrill out of appearing in “Neighbors” this year because he got to be “in a movie with Zac Efron after being mistaken for him for so many years.” On the set, Barinholtz says he witnesses great leadership every day.

Adam Amengual for Variety

Kenya Barris, 40
Writer-creator-showrunner-producer
Barris sold numerous pilots over the years, but they never went to series. With ABC’s “Black-ish,” he decided to throw off the filters and create his most honest and autobiographical work, and he was rewarded with his biggest success. A native of Inglewood, Calif., Barris was inspired by the works of Spike Lee to pursue a career in filmmaking. In 2003, he teamed up with childhood friend Tyra Banks to develop the long-running hit “America’s Next Top Model,” and in the ensuing years he wrote for such sitcoms as “Girlfriends” and “Are We There Yet?”

Adam Amengual for Variety

Josh Boone, 35
Director-writer-producer
Boone spent years shopping projects he’d written to direct while working at a record store, until he finally made his feature debut in 2012 with his script “Stuck in Love.” Now his career has hit the big time, courtesy of smash “The Fault in Our Stars.” Next, he’s adapting and directing Stephen King’s “The Stand,” and writing “All We Had,” to be produced by Jane Rosenthal and Katie Holmes. “It feels like I pushed a boulder up a hill for 10 years and now it’s finally rolling down the other side. ‘Fault’ opened doorways to worlds I only dreamed of stepping through when I was 12 and reading ‘The Stand.’ ”

Benedict Cumberbatch, 38
Actor-producer
Cumberbatch is a rare find in Hollywood: a sui generis talent. Having cut his teeth on the London stage and in supporting roles in British TV and films such as “Atonement,” “The War Horse” and “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” he’s now a bona fide leading man as actor (and producer) in “The Imitation Game,” while still enjoying his pick of juicy character star turns (“The Hobbit,” “Star Trek”). He also inspires fervent loyalty wherever he goes, including among his affectionate female fans, known as “Cumberbitches.” “He embodies work ethic,” says FilmNation Entertainment exec VP, marketing and distribution, Richard Baker.

Calvin Harris, 30
Music artist
The hot Scottish producer and DJ scored a massive hit this year with “Summer,” which racked up over 310 million combined YouTube video plays and Spotify streams. His fourth studio album, “Motion,” drops Nov. 4 and features tracks with Gwen Stefani, Ellie Goulding, Big Sean, Tinashe and Haim.

Colin Jost, 32
Writer
Following in the tradition of former “Saturday Night Live” head writers Tina Fey and Seth Meyers, the Staten Island native joined the show’s “Weekend Update” segment last season, having been head writer at “SNL” since 2012 and a staff writer since 2006. Now “Update’s” co-anchor alongside new co-host Michael Che, he’s won three Writers Guild awards, a Peabody award and has been nominated for multiple Emmys for his work on the show. He also wrote the upcoming Paramount film “Staten Island Summer,” based on his days as a lifeguard growing up in New York.

Phil Lord, 39, and Chris Miller, 39
Directors-producers-writers
It’s possible that Lord and Miller are so prolific — releasing two major movies back-to-back within five months — because they’ve achieved a kind of mind meld. Directors, writers and producers for $468 million worldwide success story “The Lego Movie” and directors-producers on the $327 million worldwide hit “22
Jump Street,” the pals (who met at Dartmouth) have a unique creative vision and the ability to successfully don multiple hats. No surprise that the pair supports collaboration over direct leadership. “We try to get people to contribute,” they say jointly, adding that their success “is so crazy lucky that we should probably quit the business now before our inevitable Icarus-like crash.”

Scott Neustadter, 37, and Michael H. Weber, 36
Screenwriters-producers
The duo saw their careers turbocharged this year thanks to the $300 million-plus worldwide box office smash “The Fault in Our Stars.” They are now exec-producing a film adaptation of “Paper Towns,” another John Green best-seller, slated for a 2015 release by Fox 2000. The pair, who have collaborated since 1999 when Neustadter hired Weber for an internship at Tribeca Prods., wrote the hit Fox Searchlight comedy-romance, “(500) Days of Summer” and indie “The Spectacular Now.” Current projects include: “Me Before You”; “Rules of Civility” for Lionsgate; “Underage” for Montecito Pictures; “Where’d You Go Bernadette” for Annapurna; and “Rosaline,” which 21 Laps is producing for Universal.

Adam Amengual for Variety

Peter Nowalk, 36
Creator-executive producer
Leadership reveals itself in a number of ways. Nowalk had to deal with a controversy involving Shonda Rhimes, executive producer on his new show, “How to Get Away With Murder,” created by a New York Times article as the show debuted. Yet he kept his cool — proving he had savvy and nerves of steel. But he learned from the best while moving up the ranks through Rhimes’ shows, from “Grey’s Anatomy” to “Private Practice” to “Scandal” and now his own baby, “Murder.” “Shonda is one of the most decisive people I know,” he says.

Adam Amengual for Variety

Nicole Richie, 33
Actress-producer-creative director- entrepreneur-writer
She may be the busiest woman in showbiz. Richie founded her jewelry line, House of Harlow 1960, in 2008, which she expanded into apparel in 2010, the same year she bowed her Winter Kate brand of women’s fashions and published her second novel, “Priceless.” In 2012 she launched her perfume, Nicole. She also curates the Nicole Richie Collection for QVC and Impulse Collection for Macy’s. The celeb appeared on NBC’s “Fashion Star” and last year partnered with Telepictures Prods. on her AOL web series “#Candidly Nicole,” based on her Twitter feed. VH1 turned it into a weekly TV series.

Zoe Saldana, 36
Actress-producer
The versatile actress has the Midas touch when choosing film projects: “Avatar” (she returns in the next three installments), the “Star Trek” franchise and this year’s biggest hit, “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Next up is “Nina,” the Nina Simone biopic slated for a 2015 release, and “Infinitely Polar Bear,” which premiered at Toronto. The busy star also runs — with her two sisters — Cinestar Prods., and starred in the banner’s NBC mini-series “Rosemary’s Baby.” Cinestar is also producing Web series “My Hero” for AOL.

Nicholas Stoller, 38
Director
Stoller may have cut his teeth at the Harvard Lampoon, but he’s a graduate of the Judd Apatow school of yuks. It’s been a 10-year journey from writing on Apatow’s “Undeclared” to directing “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and writing-directing “Get Him to the Greek.” 2014 was his year, with “Neighbors,” which he wrote and directed, hauling in over $268 million worldwide. Just announced: Put pilot at Fox for comedy “The Grinder” as exec-producer and maybe director.

Taylor Swift, 24
Singer-songwriter
The Grammy winner has sold more than 30 million albums and nearly 80 million singles since her 2006 debut. She’s also the best-selling digital music artist of all time, the only female artist in music history (and just the fourth artist ever) to twice have an album hit the 1 million first-week sales figure (2010’s “Speak Now” and 2012’s “Red”). Her new single, “Shake It Off,” from her latest album, “1989,” entered the Billboard Hot 100 chart at No. 1, the first song to achieve that feat in 18 months.

James Wan, 37
Director-writer
The Malaysia-born Australian flew to the U.S. in 2003 armed
with a short film version of “Saw” and a script (written by film school bud Leigh Whannell), and sold Hollywood on a concept that not only launched a seven-film franchise, but also created a new horror subgenre, often called torture porn. Wan then turned quietly creepy with “Insidious” (2010) and “The Conjuring” (2013), setting another trend for horror filmmakers. Now he’s following in the footsteps of others with the upcoming sequel “Fast & Furious 7.”

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