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.
John Boyega, 23
Boyega, who started out in the U.K. with a background in theater rather than film, is about to become a household name on movie marquees, thanks to his starring role in the upcoming “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” The pic will no doubt open many doors for him, and he’s thrilled with the turn of events. “I’ve had this dream for a long time and it feels great to be able to accomplish it and make it a reality,” he says.
Dan Fogelman, 39
ScreeNwriter, producer, director
Known for his writing and producing successes — “Cars,” “Crazy, Stupid, Love” and “Tangled” — Fogelman made his directorial debut this year with “Danny Collins,” a comedy-drama he wrote. Fogelman’s talents span the big and small screens. Last season he produced three pilots; “Grandfathered” went to series on Fox. He also worked on Sundance hit “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” which sold to Fox Searchlight for $12 million. He’ll continue producing ABC’s “Galavant,” recently picked up for a second season.
Cary Joji Fukunaga, 38
Director, producer, writer
Fukunaga went from working on a crew for commercials to getting accepted into film school to being invited to the Sundance Screenwriters Lab. Over his career he’s written and/or directed and/or produced — and even occasionally lensed — such projects as the critically acclaimed “Sin Nombre,” HBO’s “True Detective” and the Netflix-released “Beasts of No Nation.” “We always talked about trying to make movies that were about something, but rather than making them earnest and sentimental, make them in a way that people would actually want to see them,” Fukunaga says.
Greta Gerwig, 32
Actress, writer, director
Gerwig has emerged as one of Hollywood’s most engaging thesps after breaking out in Noah Baumbach’s “Greenberg,” reteaming with the writer-director on “Frances Ha” and the recent “Mistress America” (which she co-wrote with Baumbach). Gerwig stars opposite Ethan Hawke and Julianne Moore in romantic comedy “Maggie’s Plan” from writer-director Rebecca Miller and is filming “20th Century Women” opposite Annette Bening. “I’d like to keep working with people who push me further than I thought I could go,” she says, “and to keep being scared that I’m not up to the task in front of me.”
Drew Goddard, 40 (pictured)
It’s been a great year for Goddard, who wrote/exec-produced Ridley Scott’s “The Martian” and saw his Netflix series “Daredevil” (on which he’s creator and writer) picked up for a second season. Goddard got his start writing for television shows “Lost,” “Alias” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” co-wrote the feature “World War Z,” starring Brad Pitt, and penned sci-fi hit “Cloverfield.” Goddard made his directorial debut in 2012 with “The Cabin in the Woods.” “I plan to keep writing and directing. I’m currently finishing a spec script I hope to direct.”
Tom Hardy, 38
Actor, director, producer
Since making his feature debut in Ridley Scott’s 2001 war drama “Black Hawk Down,” the versatile English actor has steadily moved from supporting roles (“Layer Cake,” “RocknRolla”) to leading ones (“Warrior,” ITV’s “Wuthering Heights”) and racked up scores of film, TV and theater credits, including “Inception,” “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Band of Brothers.” Hardy helped drive the testosterone-fueled “Mad Max: Fury Road” to a stellar global box office, impressively played both Kray brothers in the U.K. gangster pic “Legend,” and stars opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in the upcoming “The Revenant” from “Birdman” Oscar winner Alejandro G. Inarritu.
Lily James, 26
Known for playing Lady Rose in “Downton Abbey,” James scored a hit in Disney’s live-action remake of “Cinderella.” With credits that include “Fast Girls” and “Clash of the Titans 2,” she will next appear opposite Bradley Cooper in “Burnt” and as lead Elizabeth Bennet in “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” She’s also filming “Baby Driver” opposite Ansel Elgort and “The Kaiser’s Last Kiss” alongside Christopher Plummer. “I want to keep doing film and stage work, and I’d like to learn more about cinematography, directing and editing to gain more confidence and control over my work.”
Zoe Kravitz, 26
Thanks to parents Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet, acting and music were always in the DNA of the multi-talented star who scored her first two movies — 2007’s romance “No Reservations” and thriller “The Brave One” — while still in high school. Kravitz subsequently racked up credits in global blockbusters (“Mad Max: Fury Road,” “X-Men: First Class,” the “Divergent” franchise), indies (upcoming “Viena and the Fantomes,” “Vincent-N-Roxxy”), TV (“Californication”) and music videos (for Jay Z, will.i.am). She also fronts band Lolawolf and is the face of Vera Wang’s Princess perfume. “I want to keep doing music and movies — and I’d love to produce projects and eventually direct.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda, 35
Actor, composer, writer
Though he already earned a Tony Award in 2008 for “In the Heights,” Miranda is the hottest thing on Broadway for his creation “Hamilton.” He not only stars in, but also wrote the music, lyrics and book to the musical that tells the story of the founding father through numbers with a rap and hip-hop blend. Countless raves include Variety’s Marilyn Stasio: “Miranda’s impassioned narrative of one man’s story becomes the collective narrative of a nation, a nation built by immigrants who occasionally need to be reminded where they came from.”
Jordan Peele, 36
Actor, comedian, writer
The co-star/co-creator (with comedy partner Keegan-Michael Key) of Comedy Central’s hit series “Key & Peele” had another excellent year. The edgy show’s run scored a 2014 Peabody Award, 12 Emmy noms and over 900 million online hits. Peele had multi-episode arcs on “Fargo” and “Bob’s Burgers,” and just shot New Line’s “Keanu” with Key. In development: Paramount’s “Substitute Teacher,” New Line’s “Police Academy” and a Fox comedy starring Vine star Andrew Bachelor. Peele wrote and will direct his debut feature “Get Out,” with Blumhouse and QC Entertainment producing. “It’s a social thriller. My dream job is to write and direct movies.”
Kristen Schaal, 37
Actress, comedian, writer
The versatile talent who stars in Fox’s “The Last Man on Earth” began in standup, played a stalker-fan in HBO’s “Flight of the Conchords” and has appeared in dozens of films (“A Walk in the Woods,” upcoming comedies “The Boss” and “The Runaround”), and TV shows (“30 Rock,” “Mad Men,” “The Daily Show”). Schaal continues to host weekly stand-up show “Hot Tub” alongside comedy partner Kurt Braunohler, and co-authored “The Sexy Book of Sexy Sex” with husband Rich Blomquist. “I’d love to give you a quote about why I’m a leader, but I should probably run it by several people first.”
Ed Sheeran, 24
At the 57th annual Grammy Awards, Sheeran’s performance of “Thinking Out Loud” appeared to cement the notion that even in the rough-and-tumble music biz, nice guys can finish first. The 24-year-old U.K. singer-songwriter sensation told Variety that “the most successful artists I know have three things: they’re talented, they work very hard at their craft, and they’re nice.” Sheeran’s well-scrubbed persona certainly hasn’t hurt business, with “Thinking Out Loud” having reached more than 5 million sales in the U.S. alone, and become the first single to surpass more than 500 million streams on Spotify.
Sam Smith, 23
Smith was first noticed for his vocals on Disclosure’s breakthrough single “Latch” in 2012. He has since won over music lovers across the globe with his emotional ballads. His “Stay With Me” and debut album “Lay Me Down” helped him nab four Grammys, including for new artist. The Brit recently lent his sultry falsetto to 007 with the “Spectre” theme song “Writing’s on the Wall.” Smith’s highly anticipated second album is expected to come out next year.
Jessica Williams, 26
Actress, writer, comedian
The Upright Citizens Brigade performer made her TV debut as a teen in Nickelodeon’s “Just for Kicks.” Then she landed as a correspondent on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” making her the first black woman in the role. Williams also recurred in the third season of HBO’s “Girls,” appeared in the Sundance comedy “People Places Things” and continued on “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah.” With comedian Phoebe Robinson she performs as 2 Dope Queens and hosts a standup/storytelling show in New York. “I’d love to write and direct movies, have my own television show, and see more funny women of color represented in all artistic media,” she says.